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Turn The Key To Be Idle Free

Originally appears in the Summer 2017 issue

Cars produce 12% more emissions when idling than they do while driving, thus releasing toxic chemicals into the air that are especially harmful to children. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of air toxics such as benzene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde during school pick-up time, when parents and school buses wait for students while leaving their engines running.  Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of toxic pollutants, they have an increased risk of developing asthma and other chronic respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. In addition to being the largest cause of school absences, asthma is also the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under 15[1].

Fortunately, educators, students and parents are working to address this dangerous and unnecessary air pollution, creating a healthier environment by implementing No Idle Zones on school campuses. Such zones encourage parents to turn off their parked car engines while waiting for their kids in afterschool pick-up lines, resulting in lower emissions and a less toxic school environment. Establishing a No Idle Zone not only benefits air quality, but it is also a great way to involve students in environmental protection and to instill environmental values in their broader school communities. There are many student leaders who have already shown extraordinary initiative by bringing these zones to their school communities.

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Emily Gee helps oversee the School Engagement Program at Grades of Green in El Segundo, California. Her background is in environmental science and advocacy communication. Emily Stewart is an intern and Program Advisor at Grades of Green, and has a degree in Environmental Studies and Government from Bowdoin College.