Healthy Schools PA, a program of Women for a Healthy Environment, has had a busy 2015! As the end of the year approaches, we are taking a look back and highlighting two of our flagship initiatives that help reduce environmental pollution, resulting in healthier children: our Anti-Idling Awareness campaign and our School Mapping Project.
In 2009, the Pennsylvania Diesel Powered Motor Vehicle Idling Act was passed, which prohibits bus idling for longer than five minutes per hour. To raise awareness around law, which includes school buses, Healthy Schools PA produced an anti-idling awareness decal that can be affixed to the window of a school bus that reminds school bus operators, teachers, parents, students, and the community to turn off the engine to protect growing lungs. The decal is perforated to aid the bus driver with visibility. In an effort to reach the most school districts and transportation companies, Healthy Schools PA provides the decals to all interested companies and schools at no cost. The decals have been approved by PennDOT and the PA State Police. Both recognized the value of this decal as an educational tool and awareness building campaign in regards to bus idling. Our goal is to have a window decal on every school bus in the state to continue spreading awareness about the 2009 Anti-Idling Act.
Why did Healthy Schools PA choose bus idling as an important issue to tackle? The EPA finds diesel exhaust among the most dangerous forms of air pollution. While developing, children and teens are especially vulnerable to environmental pollution. Children’s bodies are different than adults, their organs and systems are still developing. Pound for pound, children breathe more air, consume more food and drink more water than adults. There are especially important and vulnerable times during a child’s development when we need to think of potential exposures to environmental hazards, and the cumulative effects those exposures can have on a child’s growth and well-being. The timing of exposure, size of the person, amount of exposure and cumulative effects from exposures are all influencing factors on a child’s health.
A child’s vulnerability to environmental pollution motivated Healthy Schools PA to create an interactive tool that mapped the following potential environmental hazards within a one-mile radius of a public school building in southwestern PA: air emission sources, gas wells (unconventional also known as Marcellus wells, as well as compressor stations), mining operations, and active rail lines. The first phase reviewed public schools, charter schools and technical schools. Data was collected from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (captive hazardous waste hazards, gas wells, mining hazards); the PAMAP program (rail lines); and the Environmental Protection Agency (air emission sources).
Because outdoor contaminants have the ability to impact indoor spaces, many of these hazards have the potential to impact children’s health, as well as the health of anyone in the school setting. Many of these sources release known or probable carcinogens, pollutants that are linked with increased risk of lung or hear disease, and chemicals that can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
Through these two initiatives, Healthy Schools PA believes that it has positively impacted the health of our children in Pennsylvania. For any questions, or to order anti-idling bus decals for your school’s fleet, please contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.