Children do not have fully developed immune systems so are much more vulnerable to cancer causing compounds. Children respire at a rate twice that of adults, and are thus more susceptible to the toxicity of airborne diesel particles, vapors and gases.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has estimated that school bus diesel exposures to children pose as much as 23 to 46 times the cancer risk considered significant under federal law.
A recent study found that children on diesel school buses are exposed to 5 to 15 times more air toxins than the rest of the population. 24 million children travel on 454,000 school buses nationwide. Those buses travel more than four billion miles each year and these kids spend 3 billion hours on these busses. About 90 percent of these busses run on diesel fuel, annually emitting 3,000 tons of cancer-causing soot and 95,000 tons of smog-causing compounds.
"Each year, one school bus in Texas emits the equivalent of 114 cars," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman at a press conference at Pin Oak Middle School in Bellaire. While school buses are the safest mode of transportation, "we want to make it the healthiest way to get to school, too," she said.