Diesel, people and the environment

Photo from Children's Clean Air Network

by Leslie Adams, SCO Executive Committee member

I hope that parents, school principal, and school board representatives in fact everyone!  read this. This year April 4, 2019, is Healthy Schools Day (HSD) in Canada, every year Annually HSD highlights an important challenge to children’s health and the environment.  Recognizing that awareness of an issue does not go far enough, HSD also outlines actions to take. The 2019 campaign focus is on the health impacts of diesel engine exhaust emissions and ways to reduce risk through exposure for the health of all. 

The impacts of exposure to diesel exhaust are legion and impact all life, from plant to bird to frog to people.  Disease and health impacts are many and include lung cancer, asthma, lung and heart problems, reproductive and developmental effects, allergy symptoms, the list goes on.  From a human perspective, the elderly and the young are more vulnerable. It is highly probable that the health impacts are the same for other species but the research focus is on human health.  Want to dive a bit deeper?  See https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/fuels-air-pollution.html

Environmentally, diesel is a fossil fuel, and of course, is a contributor to carbon emissions. Diesel’s emissions create up to 100 times more particles than gasoline-powered engines, making it one of the highest contributors to particulate matter in the air, on the ground and in the water. There are also numerous other chemicals created through its’ burning. In general, the impacts of both producing and burning diesel include pollution of air, water, and soil; reductions in visibility; and global climate change. Put another way, on the burning/use side, pollutants caused by fuel combustion include particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, benzene, metals, and sulfur dioxide, among others; many of these contribute to the creation of smog.

Getting back to Healthy Schools days, just how are people are exposed to diesel emissions? An obvious source is the emissions exposure inside and outside the big yellow school buses Canadian children ride to school each day.  Children, parents and school staff standing beside those idling schools buses waiting to load or unload, or even people in the nearby playground or soccer field, are all potentially exposed to the pollution.  Enforcing anti-idling and shifting to electric buses is both possible and good for our health.

Even inside the school may be exposed to diesel exhaust. Idling school buses can create the circumstances that allow heating and ventilation system intake fans to inhale polluted outside air, circulating diesel emissions particulates throughout the indoor air.    Homeowners and businesses close to these loading and idling zones are also susceptible to the diesel exposure and nuisance.

HSD is a project of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment and supported by numerous organizations across Canada.  More information can be found at www. https://healthyschoolsday.ca/

Please think about the impacts of using diesel around children and vulnerable adults.

Local Chapter: