Project at a Glance

Title: Characterizing the range of children's pollutant exposure during school bus commutes.

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Fitz, Dennis R

Contractor: UC Riverside

Contract Number: 00-322

Research Program Area: Health & Exposure

Topic Areas: Environmental Justice, Health Effects of Air Pollution, Indoor Air Quality, Monitoring, Vulnerable Populations


To determine the range of children's exposures during their bus commutes, especially those conditions leading to high exposures, real-time and integrated measurements of pollutant concentrations were conducted inside five conventional diesel school buses, as well as a diesel bus outfitted with a particulate trap and a bus powered by natural gas. Measurements were made during 20 bus commutes on a Los Angeles Unified School District bus route from South Central Los Angeles to the west side of LA, with additional runs on a second urban route, a rural/suburban route, and to test the effect of window position. Children's school bus commutes in Los Angeles appear to expose them to significantly higher concentrations of vehicle-related pollutants than ambient air concentrations and frequently higher concentrations than those measured on roadways. Concentrations of diesel vehicle-related pollutants such as black carbon and particle-bound PAHs were significantly higher on board conventional diesel buses when windows were closed. This was due to the intrusion of the bus's own exhaust, as demonstrated through the use of a tracer gas added to each bus's exhaust. When windows were open, increased ventilation rates markedly reduced this effect, although high peak concentrations were then observed when following other diesel vehicles. On-board concentrations of vehicle-related pollutants were also significantly higher on the urban routes compared to the rural/suburban route, indicating the importance of surrounding traffic density. Other related exposure scenarios such as bus loading and unloading, and time spent waiting at bus stops, were shown to make relatively insignificant contributions to children's exposure, due to the generally lower concentrations and the short times spent at those activities compared to bus commutes. Results from this study show that minimizing commute times, using the cleanest buses for the longest routes, and reducing bus caravanning and idling time will reduce children's exposure to bus-related pollutants.

For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

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