Air pollution

Electric School Buses – Limiting Children’s Exposure to Air Pollution

Hannah Wu

“When we invest in children, we invest in the future.” Vice President Harris, 2022

Over the course of the past year, the United States of America has introduced a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Investment in Electric School Buses, investing in electric and reduced carbon buses. This has become the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program, which received 5 billion USD in funding. The aim of this funding is to increase the number of electric buses in the US, reducing air pollution that the nation’s children are exposed to.

Specifically, the aim of this course of action is to reduce tailpipe emissions from diesel-powered buses. Tailpipe emissions are caused by the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons in fuels, and contain air pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM). In addition, diesel fumes have proven to be incredibly harmful to both the environment and human health, causing asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease.

Government policies centered around regulating idle engines are aimed towards reducing diesel fumes and reducing citizens’ exposure to harmful fumes as well. In some places, idle engines are allowed up to a short amount of time, and are enforced with steep penalties. However, these policies are very difficult to enforce, and do little to limit the diesel fumes that are still emitted while engines are running.

So where do children come in? Every day in the US, 25 million children ride to and from school on school buses. 95% of these school buses run on diesel, and contribute to tailpipe emissions that many children are exposed to. As Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, put it “If your child rides the bus half an hour to school and half an hour back every day from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation, they will experience the equivalent of 90 full days of exposure to diesel exhaust.”

Children are particularly susceptible to air pollution and exhaust, because they are shorter in height. Studies show that children are exposed to 30% more car fumes than adults, which can lead to chronic health problems due to air pollution. Hence, it is vital to cut down on tailpipe emissions as a whole to ensure that children are not exposed to fumes.

With the new electric buses in the US, less diesel fumes will be produced, as electric buses do not run on diesel. Moreover, these new electric school buses run much more quietly than diesel-fueled buses, and do not carry the diesel smell that other buses do. Students will no longer have to worry about being exposed to harmful fumes that could impact their long term health.


Tailpipe Pollution is Harming Our Children’s Health