Ny's High Child Asthma Rates Demand Ban On School Bus Idling On School Grounds

Andrew J Lanza

May 06, 2008

To commemorate May 2008 as National Asthma Awareness Month, group students, parents, clean air advocates and lawmakers call on New York State Board of Regents to adopt their proposed rules to completely ban school bus idling due to their toxic and asthma causing exhausts

ALBANY, NEW YORK (05/6/08) – New York State Assembly Mental Health Committee Chair Peter M. Rivera and State Senator Andrew Lanza, member of the Senate Transportation and Education Committees, were joined by elementary school students, their parents, school health experts and clean air advocates to call on the New York State Board of Regents to adopt regulations which will completely ban the idling of school buses on the grounds of all 6,455 schools in the state. The group chose today, World Asthma Day, to highlight the need for such regulations.

According to Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, “New York has the highest asthma rates in the nation and the problem is worsening with high rates of pediatric asthma being diagnosed throughout New York. One of the major factors contributing to bad air quality is the exhaust of the 55,000 school buses used to transport 2.2 million children to and from school each day. I commend the Board of Regents for proposing the complete ban and I strongly encourage them not to dilute their proposed regulations because of pressure they are feeling from bus companies.”

The Centers for Disease Control has reported that there are close to 1.8 million New Yorkers suffering from asthma, of which over 400,000 are children. The NYC Health and Hospital Corporation reported last year that 10,000 children were admitted to emergency rooms because of their worsening asthma. “A delay or weakening of the proposed regulations will continue to put 3 million school age children in New York at risk of developing asthma and other respiratory diseases,” added Rivera.

“Diesel fuel and motor vehicle exhausts pose serious health risks to our children,” said Senator Andrew Lanza, “This common sense regulation will go far in improving the air quality in which our school children must walk through on their way into and out of school.” The National Institutes of Health and other major health organizations have called the exhaust from idling buses a danger to human health, especially to children.

New York has over 55,000 school buses transporting over 2.2 million children daily to and from school. The documented respiratory diseases caused by the toxic exhaust of burned diesel fuel are considered by health experts to be major causes of asthma and for asthmatic children, they are the triggers for asthma attacks.

Red Hook School District fifth grade student Annie Sullivan said, "My science project taught me that idling school buses are bad for children's lungs and health. I support the regulations required by Assemblyman Rivera and Senator Lanza, because it will make sure that kids all over New York can breathe cleaner air. And that's a good thing!" The regulations proposed by the Board were required under a 2007 law authored by Rivera and Lanza.

Stephen Boese, director of the New York State Healthy School Network, said, “Children deserve clean air on busses and in their schools. It is immoral that the air inside school busses and classrooms that children are forced to breathe is many times more polluted than outdoors. We thank these lawmakers for leading the Legislature to enact this important new law to stop diesel idling on school grounds, and support the Education Department’s efforts to assure that this law is implemented with the first and foremost goal of reducing children’s exposure to harmful pollutants.”

Bethlehem Central School District fourth grade student Maya Martinez stated, “Banning of all idling makes perfect sense. It protects children, it protects the environment, it conserves energy and it is even good for the bus drivers.” She added, “I am fortunate to attend one of the few schools that have a no-idling zone because my principal and teachers understand the dangers to all of us if buses are allowed to idle near classrooms and school entrances.”

According to Michael Seilback, senior director of Public Policy & Advocacy for the American Lung Association of New York State, “Our recent State of the Air report shows us that almost 50% of New Yorkers live in areas where the air is failing. Today, on World Asthma Day, we commend Assemblyman Rivera for leading the fight to reduce idling at our schools and we call on the State Education Department to pass the most protective regulations possible.”

# # #