The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, drew attention to the injurious practice of school vehicle drivers as well as parent or family drivers to idle when waiting for their student passengers or waiting for their turn to park.
“We need to eliminate needless idling by the school buses and jeepneys as well as family cars if we want to save our children from air toxics, or chemicals in the air that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects,” said Sonia Mendoza, chair of the Mother Earth Foundation, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition.
Also known as hazardous air pollutants, air toxics such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter have been linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, respiratory ailments, heart conditions, and cancers. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that air toxics from motor vehicles account for half of all cancers due to air pollution.
“We urge the school authorities, the parent-teacher associations and the concerned groups in transportation sector to actively promote idle-free driving to improve the air quality and protect our children from harmful fumes,” added Mendoza, who has grandchildren going every weekday to schools.
Latest available data from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) website show that there are 5,331,574 registered motor vehicles in the country. Out of the 886,978 registered motor vehicles for hire, some 721 school jeepneys and 1,288 school buses are used to transport students with permits issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
The EcoWaste Coalition advises school bus, school jeepney and family car drivers to turn off the engine if they are going to park for more than 10 seconds. This will reduce the release of air toxics and minimize the combustion of fossil fuels, which is driving global climate change.
To support its call for idling-free driving as one solution against toxic pollution and climate change, the group cited information from Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency estimating that if every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada stopped idling for just five minutes a day‚ together Canadians would save 680 million liters of fuel per year, and also avoid more than 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere annually.
The EcoWaste Coalition noted that diesel-powered buses and jeepneys are known to spew out toxic air contaminants.
Referring to information from the US EPA, the group said that diesel fumes contain 40 toxic chemicals, including 15 carcinogens. EPA studies have linked diesel exhaust to the development of asthma and cancer in children.
The EcoWaste Coalition likewise cited efforts in Canada and the USA to protect the health and safety of children from harmful diesel bus emissions by enacting laws and ordinances calling for the reduction of the unnecessary idling of school buses in front of schools.
“Proactively preventing the idling of vehicles at schools is a good start to improve the air quality within the school vicinity. As a long-term measure, the authorities should also look into the unchecked idling of government cars, tourist buses, delivery trucks and other mobile sources of air pollution and launch an idle-free campaign for all vehicles nationwide,” concluded Mendoza.
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