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EPA, AQMD address air pollution impact on children by retrofitting and replacing hundreds of diesel school buses

Release Date: 12/2/2004
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, (213) 244-1815

Fifth grade science students tour air quality lab and learn importance of clean air school buses

DIAMOND BAR -- Addressing recent health studies showing that children likely suffer permanent health damage from air pollution, representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the South Coast Air Quality Management District detailed plans today to replace and retrofit hundreds of dirty diesel school buses across Southern California.

Plans were shared with a class of fifth-grade students from Plasencia Math/Science Magnet School in Echo Park. Students traveled from their school to AQMD headquarters on a compressed natural gas (CNG) bus to tour the agency's state-of-the-art laboratory and hydrogen fueling station. During the tour, students learned about the magnitude of the region's air quality problem and explored forward- thinking solutions to air pollution control.

Angelica Roque, the 17-year old president of El Segundo-based Tree Musketeers, encouraged the students to take a leadership role in environmental issues. "Children should be seen and heard," she said.

Eight-year-old Jonah Ramirez of San Bernardino -- representing the American Lung Association of the Inland Counties -- spoke of the effects of air pollution on his asthma.

Photo of a typical school bus "Diesel particulate pollution from school buses has serious health impacts, especially for children," said Bea LaPisto-Kirtley, an AQMD Governing Board member and school administrator. "We are determined to replace each and every one of these dirty diesel school buses with cleaner technology. "

"EPA studies show that diesel exhaust can cause lung damage, respiratory problems, worsen asthma, and may even cause cancer. By working together to reduce children's exposure to diesel pollution now, the EPA and the AQMD are ensuring that future generations become healthier adults," said Wayne Nastri, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco.

The AQMD's Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study (MATES II), completed in 2000, showed that approximately 70 percent of the cancer risk from air toxics in the South Coast Air Basin is due to diesel particulate.

CNG-powered buses have less smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions than new diesel buses and equivalent or lower toxic emissions.

AQMD's Governing Board awarded funding this month for 70 new CNG school buses, 830 retrofit devices that will reduce particulate emissions from existing diesel school buses and CNG fueling infrastructure. The awards were funded with $7.2 million from the AQMD Chairman's School Bus Initiative and $2 million from the state's Lower Emission School Bus program.

The EPA contributed $495,000 for the purchase of new CNG school buses as well as retrofit devices for existing school buses through its Clean School Bus USA program, which seeks to reduce both children's exposure to diesel exhaust and the amount of air pollution created by diesel school buses. Clean School Bus USA brings together partners from business, education, transportation, and public health organizations to work toward these goals.

"Thanks to the AQMD Board's long-standing commitment to clean up diesel-powered school buses, Southern California now has the largest fleet of clean school buses in the state," LaPisto-Kirtley said.

Since 2000, the AQMD has approved more than $55 million for 271 new CNG buses, 86 new lower-emitting diesel buses, 2,102 particulate retrofit traps and 49 diesel oxidation catalysts.

Particulate traps reduce particulate emissions by about 85 percent, but are only available for post-1994 model year buses. Diesel oxidation catalysts are available for 1991-1993 model year buses and can reduce about 25 percent of particulate emissions and hydrocarbon emissions.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.