Bus fumes add to pollution at schools

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Fumes from buses did raise levels of a certain type of air pollution outside Richmond County schools, Medical College of Georgia researchers found. But other vehicles, particularly older cars, and mowing the grass around the time school was letting out exacerbated the problem. Richmond County is addressing the matter by enforcing a no-idling policy for school buses, getting new buses in and retrofitting some of the older ones, an official said.

Using an instrument to measure fine particles -- those about 2 microns in size -- outside schools as buses dropped off students, the researcher found elevated levels from the exhaust. Fine particles are a concern because of the impact they can have on young lungs, said Randy Baker, chair of the Department of Respiratory Therapy at MCG and one of those conducting the research.

"The diesel fumes and particulates cannot only worsen asthma, it can actually lead to the development of asthma," he said. "So that's a problem."

They also found unexpected contributing problems at some schools, particularly when the grass was mowed during or just before the buses arrived, which really increased the particle count, said Kitty Hernlen, assistant professor in the MCG respiratory therapy program.

"We never really thought about when the grass is cut," she said. And that grass blast -- from dust, grass particles and grass pollen, presents an additional problem when combined with diesel fumes, Dr. Baker said.

"The diesel exhaust is kind of sticky, so actually grass pollens can stick to it," he said. "Those fine particles become sort of a perfect delivery vehicle as well."

School board member Jack Padgett, who also sits on the Richmond County Board of Health, said he planned to talk with maintenance about mowing at a different time.

"I really think we can clear a lot of that up," he said.

Richmond County has been using funds from the special purpose local option sales tax to update its fleet, adding 28 buses since 2006, said Director of Transportation Mike Shinn. It also got $154,000 from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to retrofit 19 buses and is working to replace the oldest of its 220-bus fleet, Mr. Shinn said.

"We want to take advantage of all of these and make sure we're doing our part to clean up," he said. "We have done pretty well with the buses over the years."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

What's next?

Medical College of Georgia researchers are hoping to return to Richmond County schools next week to do follow-up testing of air quality outside schools. The MCG team also has an $8,000 grant from East Central Health District to do inside air quality testing, including inside school buses.

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MJ
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MJ 03/19/09 - 03:23 am
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It's called common sense, not

It's called common sense, not research.

NEone
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NEone 03/19/09 - 03:45 am
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Common sense would be to shut

Common sense would be to shut the engines off while loading/unloading the students. There's no point in letting them idle for several minutes.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 03/19/09 - 04:21 am
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Hybrid buses would also help

Hybrid buses would also help reduce the particulates. The buses could go electric every time the driver sees a lawnmower. And what about doggie flatulence? Wouldn't reducing the number of dogs in Richmond county help, too?

joebowles
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joebowles 03/19/09 - 09:16 am
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Why not have parents be

Why not have parents be responsible for having children. Have them drive the children they made to school and save 10 million a year????????

NEone
6
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NEone 03/19/09 - 09:36 am
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Joe: You probably don't want

Joe: You probably don't want them getting their free breakfast either, do you? tsk tsk.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 03/19/09 - 10:49 am
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why worry about bus fumes

why worry about bus fumes polluting the outside air, what about getting rid of all of the walking pollutants that are taking up desk space in the classrooms this will allow the children who want to learn to do so uninterrupted

aaa
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aaa 03/19/09 - 11:08 am
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Thank goodness for those

Thank goodness for those oh-so-smart researchers from MCG. Folks, we now have amazing evidence that has eluded all of us for the past six decades - or more. What's even more amazing is this: How in the world did we, our parents, and our grandparents survive all of this school bus and lawn mower pollution over all of these years? I mean, we should all have asthma, emphysema, or worse! This is hogwash! Once again we have an example of two things: 1) Junk Science, and 2) If you create a program (social program, research project, nurses in schools, etc), then the illusion of the need for that program soon follows. Patricia is right! We can take all of this to it's ultimate absurd conclusion: Get rid of all causes of carbon dioxide and "particulates" in our air: gasoline automobile engines, dogs, cows, lawn mowers, and pine trees. Folks, they are using our tax money to fund this ridiculous "study"! I could have written the results for them without all of that wasted human energy, time, and money - after all, it's the end result that is used to support requests for more money or social engineering that counts, not the practicality or applicability of a solution.

AJ1
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AJ1 03/19/09 - 11:23 am
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No mention of the thousands

No mention of the thousands of cars that drop off and pick up their kids each day! I know, I know, "my child has music lessons", etc. Sure, there are exceptions where it is necessary, but it's the same cars every, single, day. Cut the stings, folks, put your kid on the bus. Let them learn some coping skills. Yes, I understand that your child is special and I'm a cretin for being so insensitive. Yes, your child may get bullied on the bus. Those problems can be dealt with... just as they have been for decades. Leave the parking lot for the buses, the daycare vans and special cases!

MyTake
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MyTake 03/19/09 - 11:27 am
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Once upon a time the idea of

Once upon a time the idea of collecting kids and busing them to large schools made sense. That gave them a chance at the best education and exposed them to ideas well beyond the three Rs. But with the Internet and computer based training kids have much better access to whatever they need or want to learn. So now the only reason to bus kids is that a few large factories are cheaper than many small ones. But guess what, the fuel and machinery cost money too, more all the time. It's time to take a different look.

Unforgiven
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Unforgiven 03/19/09 - 12:39 pm
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After all these years, they

After all these years, they finnally figured this out. Way to go.

iletuknow
8
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iletuknow 03/19/09 - 04:21 pm
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You can see the major

You can see the major polluters,way more than any vehicle exhaust, from MCG. Hint: They are beside the river.

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