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Clarkson Studies Health Effect of Diesel School Buses on Children

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Previous studies have shown that diesel exhaust produces adverse health effects in children, particularly for those living within short distances from major highways. Although studies also show that diesel exhaust exposures are high in school buses, limited research has been performed directly measuring breathing and heart rate changes in children during exposure to diesel exhaust while riding these buses.

All of this is about to change thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency distributed through the Collaborative Activities for Research and Technology Innovation program of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems. Clarkson University professors Peter A. Jaques, Biology; Stephanie A. Schuckers, Electrical & Computer Engineering; Alan Rossner, director of Environmental /Occupational Health; and Andrea R. Ferro, Civil & Environmental Engineering, have been awarded the grant to assess the personal exposures and heart and lung responses of children riding diesel buses in the Potsdam Central School District. biodiesel

The pilot study, to be completed over the current school year, will measure personal exposure of children to diesel exhaust particles (DEP) and associated breathing and heart rate changes resulting from time spent on and near the school buses, as well as during the school day. The Clarkson researchers will develop a set of measurements to better estimate the exposure of the children while in the bus. In addition, to begin the study empty buses will be used to test exposure to DEP and its constituents based on seating location in the bus when the windows are closed. When children are not present, the research team will use a tracer gas and known diesel constituents to spatially measure the self-pollution of buses inside the empty vehicles.

The researchers are all associated with Clarkson's Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science (CARES). This world-class center for air quality research receives capital funding and grants from both private industry and federal agencies to conduct interdisciplinary research on the health and ecological effects of air pollution. The $100,000 which EPA distributed through the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems will support the diesel admission study for one year and will add to a general body of knowledge in the field of pollution's impact on children.

"We are excited to collaborate with Clarkson University on a project which will focus on student health and safety," states Patrick Brady, Superintendent of Schools. "This is an excellent opportunity for our students to be involved with cutting-edge research while providing information about an important environmental issue."

The EPA Science Advisory Board has identified both indoor and outdoor air pollutants as among the top five environmental risks to the public. Considering that the nation's 440,000 school buses spew out 3,000 tons of toxic soot, 95,000 tons of smog-forming pollutants and 11 million tons of global warming gases into the atmosphere each year, the problem extends into virtually every community. The Potsdam Central School District currently operates 21 buses, all of them diesel powered.

Although the research being conducted by Clarkson will not offer environmental solutions, continued reduction of diesel emissions may well be the next step for the school district. Some communities across the country, including Potsdam Central School District, have enacted "no idling" programs. Potsdam Central School District buses are also running on a low sulfur diesel which produces fewer exhaust pollutants. Sophisticated mufflers and particulate filters are being used in some school district fleets to reduce emissions even further.

PHOTO CAPTION: Clarkson University professors (L-R) Stephanie A. Schuckers, Alan Rossner, Peter A. Jaques and Andrea R. Ferro have received a $100,000 grant from the EPA to assess effects of diesel emissions on children riding diesel buses in the Potsdam Central School District.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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