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Children with Asthma Breathe Easier With Electric School Buses

Take a deep breath. For the one in 10 Mississippi schoolchildren who suffer from asthma, that’s not always an easy thing to do. But new federal funding for electric school buses could help them breathe easier—if our school districts choose to accept it.

Asthma, the most common chronic health condition in children, causes “flare-ups” of wheezing and difficulty breathing. Students with asthma are absent from school more than twice as often as their classmates, due to doctors/clinic visits, trips to the emergency department and hospitalizations.

One of the best ways to prevent asthma flare-ups is to avoid triggers such as pollen, dust, cigarette smoke and air pollution. And the buses that carry kids to and from school are a major source of the latter. The vast majority of school buses (95%) are powered by diesel engines that spew pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. These pollutants are linked to asthma and other respiratory problems as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Children who ride school buses are especially vulnerable. Breathing in diesel exhaust from idling buses or riding inside older, poorly ventilated buses can trigger lung irritation and/or allergic reactions that cause asthma or make pre-existing asthma worse. Long-term exposures can increase the frequency and severity of asthma flare-ups.

Clean Electric Buses Make Economic Sense

One effective solution to this problem is to increase the number of clean, electric school buses. Last month, the Biden-Harris administration’s Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to do just that—by allotting almost $1 billion to the Clean School Bus Program, which will help 389 school districts across the country purchase more than 2,400 clean school buses. Rural, low-income and tribal school districts are prioritized for funding. The EPA is also partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Transportation to provide technical assistance to districts that want to switch from diesel to electric. 

[embedded content] With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the EPA is investing $5 billion in low and zero-emission school buses over the next five years. Video courtesy U.S.

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