According to a new study, electric school buses — along with others that burn cleaner or less fossil fuel — have such a positive impact on student health that they can actually increase attendance.
Older fuel-burning vehicles, like the diesel buses used by most schools, produce fumes as they run. These toxic compounds are up to 10 times more concentrated inside the school bus than outside, according to Electrek. Diesel exhaust has been linked to a range of serious health effects, including asthma, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and premature death.
But aside from the long-term risks, this new study also reveals the immediate impact of old diesel buses on students. “I think everybody recognizes that those fumes make people sick,” Dr. Lisa Patel, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and Climate Change, told Electrek. “This study drew a really clear line between exposure to that pollution and the impact on children.”
Electrek reports that from 2012 to 2017, the EPA gave over $7 million to school districts to upgrade from diesel buses to buses that produce fewer to no toxic fumes (including hybrid and electric buses). The new study examined attendance in those districts afterward, finding that attendance increased significantly.
For every 10,000 students in each district, there were about six more students at school on average each and every day, leading to a total of 350,000 additional student days across the participating districts. If every pre-2000 diesel bus across America were replaced, the study estimates that attendance would rise by more than 1.3 million student days per year.
The Biden administration backs this change. The recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes $5 billion earmarked for districts that want to upgrade their fleets over the next five years. Each qualifying district can claim up to $375,000 for certain bus upgrades and up to another $20,000 per vehicle to install charging infrastructure.
Electrek also notes that the EPA has released new guidelines regarding air pollution. By 2032, the agency will require organizations that use “vocational vehicles,” including school buses, to decrease the amount of air pollution they’re producing per mile.
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