Call to accelerate replacement of diesel school buses
New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Health and environmental advocates have called on communities, school boards and governments at every level to accelerate the electrification of school buses, replacing tens of thousands of diesel-powered school buses spewing toxic fumes that can seriously harm child health and interfere with learning.
Led by the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment (CPCHE), a coalition of 34 organisations made the goal of all-electric school bus fleets in Canada the central focus of this year's national Healthy Environments for Learning Day (April 27).
The joint call for urgent action by relevant decision-makers nationwide closely follows the publication in January of new scientific evidence from British Columbia that even "brief diesel exhaust exposure acutely impairs functional brain connectivity".
While adult subjects were studied, the new research raises further concerns about impaired brain function and learning ability of children breathing diesel fumes.
Other research has warned that diesel exhaust may impede child neurodevelopment, spatial learning, attention and memory, and contributes to a myriad other physical and mental health problems, as well as climate change.
"Faced with the existential threat posed by climate change and mounting scientific evidence of the harm to children caused by traffic-related air pollution, including diesel exhaust, more comprehensive and urgent action is needed to bring electric school bus transportation to all communities across Canada," the declaration says.
It underlines that "electric school buses are a viable solution that eliminates diesel bus emissions and exemplifies local action on climate change".
The majority of Canada's 50,000 school buses use diesel fuel. Each year, school buses make 792 million trips to carry roughly 2.2 million children to and from school.
CPCHE Executive Director Erica Phipps said: "Buses operating close to schools mean that all children, not just those riding the buses, can be exposed to and affected by diesel exhaust.
"The financial savings achieved over time by switching to cleaner, more sustainable school transportation more than make up for the initial cost of an electric bus. By switching to electric school buses, we can help our children thrive physically and intellectually while protecting the environment for generations to come with a tangible, visible action on climate change."
CPCHE and its collaborators have called on all levels of government to: Accelerate the shift to all electric school bus fleets across Canada, through policy and funding measures that support electric bus procurement, operation and infrastructure; Prioritise electric school bus adoption in communities facing disproportionate exposure to traffic-related air pollution; and Promote and celebrate the electric school bus as a way for children, families and communities to learn about and participate in climate action through the transition to zero-emission transportation in Canada.
Says Phipps: "Given what we know about the child health effects of diesel exhaust and the risks posed by climate change, switching to an all electric school bus fleet should be an obvious choice nationwide to protect the health of children, now and into the future."
Along with the call for government action, the campaign is promoting videos and other educational resources to catalyse and inform local efforts to support the shift.