Use of clean fuels and updated pollution control measures in the school buses 25 million children ride every day could result in 14 million fewer absences from school a year, based on a study by the University of Michigan and the University of Washington.
In research believed to be the first to measure the individual impact on children of the federal mandate to reduce diesel emissions, researchers found improved health and less absenteeism, especially among asthmatic children.
A change to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel reduced a marker for inflammation in the lungs by 16 percent over the whole group, and 20-31 percent among children with asthma, depending on the severity of their disease.
“The national switch to cleaner diesel fuel and the adoption of clean air technologies on school buses lowered concentrations of airborne particles on buses by as much as 50 percent,” said Dr. Sara Adar, the study’s lead author and the John Searle Assistant Professor of Public Health at the U-M School of Public Health. “Importantly, our study now shows measurable health improvements from these interventions, too.
Although the study focused only on school children, Adar said it is easy to imagine similar benefits for other groups of people such as commuters, occupational drivers and people living in communities impacted by heavy diesel traffic.
The team’s research appears online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Campaign required the production of cleaner fuel and set stricter emissions standards for diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.
It also provided EPA-administered grant-based funding to retrofit, replace or repower older diesel engines, ranging from farm equipment to consumer haulers, and school buses to public transit vehicles. From 2008 to 2010, nearly 20,000 school buses were altered or replaced in effort to reduce the amount of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide released into the air.
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