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A community campaign in which bus drivers and parents turned off their
vehicles while waiting to drop off and pick up kids at school resulted in
significant reductions in traffic-related air pollution.
The anti-idling campaign was conducted during the fall and winter of
2010-2011 and led by Cincinnati Children’s researcher Patrick Ryan, PhD, of the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. Ryan and his colleagues
studied outdoor air quality at four Cincinnati Public Schools before and after
initiating the anti-idling campaign. They sampled pollutants before buses and
automobiles arrived in the morning and again after they left in the
afternoon. The researchers also took samples of air at four sites in the
communities surrounding the schools.
Prior to the campaign, the air quality measurements exceeded community
background levels at three of four schools. The differences were greatest
at the school with the most buses.
Following the campaign, the researchers again measured air
quality. At the school with the most buses (39), background levels of
particulate matter had decreased 76 percent and elemental carbon decreased 63
The campaign included:
The study involved Cincinnati Children’s, Cincinnati Public Schools,
the Cincinnati Health Department and the University of Cincinnati Department of
A full report of the project can be found online in the journal Environmental
Science Processes and Impacts, published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.
“Anti-idling campaigns are frequently attempted to improve air
quality, but until now, no one has evaluated how effective they are,” says
Ryan, lead author on the study. “The results of this study demonstrate, for the
first time, that not idling is a simple and effective policy that can improve
air quality at schools, especially schools with a large number of buses.”
* 3 pounds of pollution per month is put into the air for one
vehicle drop off and pick up at a school.
* 19 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced for every gallon of gas used.
* 30 seconds of idling can use more fuel than turning off the engine and
* 20,000 breaths are taken by the average American each day. Children
breathe 50 percent more air per pound than adults.
* Fine particles, such as those found in smoke and haze, are 2.5
micrometers in diameter and smaller. The size of particles is directly linked
to their potential for causing health problems; smaller particles have greater
potential to be inhaled into the lungs and can cause serious health
Statistics from from Hamilton County Environmental Services and Air Watch Northwest
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