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Clean Up Your Back-To-School Routine

There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your kids. You stay up late to check their homework. You wake up early to pack their lunches. You call roll in the car while double checking seat belts before rehearsing the big song for Friday’s school play, chiming in yourself on the chorus. You tie their shoes. You comb their hair. You stick on Band-Aids and peel off mud-caked socks. You want the very best for your kids 100% of the time.

What if you found out that for several minutes per day, they were breathing in concentrated levels of air pollutants, toxins, even carcinogens that could harm their health? If you wait in a long carpool line to drop them off or pick them up from school, chances are good they’re being exposed to high levels of air toxins caused by emissions from idling vehicles.

When lots of cars idle in the same place for several minutes at a time—like they do in school carpool lanes—they release emissions that diminish air quality immediately around schools where children are waiting, walking, and breathing. These “hot spots” of poor air quality peak during hours when parents and buses are dropping off and picking up students.

Some things to think about:

  • Vehicle emissions include toxins that irritate skin and eyes, cause respiratory problems, and even lead to cancer.
  • Children breathe 50% more air than adults and are more susceptible to pollution-related respiratory illnesses, like asthma.
  • Asthma is the most common chronic illness in children, is the leading cause of school absenteeism, and is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15.
  • In addition to negative health consequences, idling causes unnecessary wear and tear on engines and wastes fuel.
Sources and more information:

So what can you do?

  • If you arrive early or are waiting longer than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. It’s as simple as that.
  • Observe No-Idling areas and signs on school campuses. If your children’s school doesn’t have a no-idling policy in place, contact your administration and encourage them to enact one. The EPA has great resources for parents, teachers, and administrators.
  • Carpool with nearby families to reduce the number of vehicles waiting in line.
  • If you live close to school, walk or bike instead of driving. Work with other parents in your neighborhood to start a “walking school bus.” Not only does it reduce vehicle emissions, it’s great exercise for everyone.
  • Take the Kno-Idling Pledge and protect the health of your children and their classmates.

About the Kno-Idling Pledge: You want to keep your kids safe, and so do we. The Kno-Idling pledge encourages parents, caregivers, delivery drivers, and anyone who drives to and from schools to keep the air students breathe clean by shutting off engines when parked or waiting.