Older school buses bad for kids: Green party

Older vehicles in P.E.I.'s fleet of school buses could be hurting the health of school children, says the Island's Green party, and the Ontario Public Health Association agrees.

Older vehicles in P.E.I.'s fleet of school buses could be hurting the health of school children, says the Island's Green party.

Green party Leader Sharon Labchuk has sent letters to the provincial transportation and education ministers outlining her concerns about diesel fumes coming from older school buses. Labchuk told CBC News Monday diesel exhaust has high levels of particulate matter and can cause a wide range of health problems, as well as trigger asthma attacks. The problem is worse, she said, in older models.

"The older buses, it's just inherent in the type of gas they use, and the kind of engines they've got, that the diesel exhaust is sucked into the bus as it's driving," she said.

Last week, the age of the P.E.I. school fleet made big news when all buses were pulled off the road while 76 vehicles built before 1995 were examined for corrosion. Twenty-one of those buses were returned to service Monday.

Labchuk wants those older buses taken off the road, and for newer buses to be retrofitted with technology to reduce pollution.

Ontario report supports concerns

Emissions from new buses are up to 60 times cleaner than those built before 1994, the Ontario Public Health Association report says. ((CBC))

A report from the Ontario Public Health Association made the same recommendations a few years ago.

The 2005 report looked at emissions from school buses of a variety of ages. It found buses built before 1994 have emissions up to six times higher than buses built between 1994 and 2003. Standards set for the model year 2007 further reduced those emissions to a tenth of the 1994 to 2003 vehicles.

The report noted children are particularly sensitive to air pollution, and said even a few hours a week on a school bus can add significantly to a child's annual exposure to fine particulate matter.

"[Replacing older school buses] is a really great way to really target kids for improvements in their environmental health," study author Kim Perrotta said.

"This is a very direct exposure for kids and it's a very direct way of reducing that exposure."

Health Canada stops short of recommending pulling older buses off the road, but it does say bus idling should be eliminated, the number of bus stops reduced, and retrofitting with pollution-reducing technology should be given a high priority.

The Department of Transportation didn't respond to CBC's request about whether any Island school buses had had that type of work done.