The University of California, Riverside earned a $450,000 grant from the California Air Resources Board to measure the pollutants children breathe while they wait at bus stops or ride on school buses.
Researchers from the Bourns College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) will sample air quality on buses and at bus stops to better understand how children are exposed to polluted air during their daily commute. Measurements will be made using diesel and alternative-fuel buses, some equipped with new emission control technologies. Researchers from UCLA's Department of Environmental Health Sciences will collaborate with the CE-CERT researchers.
The results, expected in 2003, will estimate children's exposure to toxic diesel exhaust particles and other bus-related pollutants. They will guide future air quality rules with regard to children's health and serve as a basis for evaluating the benefits of alternative fuels and emission control technologies for buses.
This study is a follow-up to a two-year, in-car study conducted by the ARB and South Coast Air Quality Management District that found exposure to some air pollutants and toxic compounds may be 10 times higher inside vehicles than in ambient air.
The lead investigator on the project is Dennis Fitz, manager of atmospheric processes research at CE-CERT, an academic center at UCR that specializes in environmental research. "Because children's lungs are still developing, they are more susceptible to the health effects of air pollutants," said Fitz. "It will be important to know which sources of pollution have the greatest impact on children's health."
Fitz said the first measurements would be taken in the Los Angeles Unified School District this fall. "We intend to use actual bus stop locations with emphasis on conditions where traffic is greatest, bus idle time is longest, or where children may be waiting for long periods of time to be picked up."
About 70 percent of the school buses in California are powered by diesel engines, and the ARB recently declared diesel exhaust particulate a toxic air contaminant.
Senate Bill 25 requires the ARB to identify areas where exposure of infants and children to air pollutants is not adequately measured by the current monitoring instruments and to conduct enhanced monitoring.
The Air Resources Board, a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.