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School Bus Diesel Retrofits Approved by Legislature

Jun 05, 2009

SALEM, Ore.—June 5, 2009—The Oregon Senate today approved a bill mandating that all diesel school buses in Oregon be retrofitted by 2017, or those that are too old to be retrofitted be replaced by 2025. The bill was already passed by the House of Representatives and now goes to Governor Ted Kulongoski for signing into law. The bill will impose no additional fiscal impact for Oregon schools.

‘Retrofit’ means to upgrade currently operating diesel engines with new advanced exhaust controls to reduce the most harmful pollutants with the greatest impact to public health and the environment. Reducing diesel emissions from school buses represents one of the most important opportunities to achieve rapid and cost-effective health and environmental benefits in Oregon.

"Diesel exhaust contains high levels of particulate matter, other air toxics, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons,” said Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis MPH, PhD. "Even at relatively low levels, these contaminants can cause or make worse asthma and other respiratory ailments, in addition to many other problems such as increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and impaired neurological development."

Diesel pollution and asthma rates among children have some of the strongest associations in clinical studies, and Oregon’s asthma rates are among the worst in the nation. One of the most prominent and preventable sources of exposure to diesel pollution for Oregon’s children is through the exhaust of school buses. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, asthma rates for Oregon’s children approaches 8.5 per cent, which is close to 73,000 children. Currently there are more than 3,700 diesel-powered school buses in Oregon and approximately 70% of these buses are unnecessarily emitting hazardous diesel exhaust.  School districts in Washington state that have cleaned up their diesel school buses have demonstrated 23-31% reductions in child hospital admissions due to asthma and bronchitis post-retrofit as compared to pre-retrofit years.

"The pollution students and drivers breathe inside a school bus is at higher levels than directly outside the school bus," said Tricia Smith with the Oregon School Employees Association. "Recent research found that within-bus concentrations of diesel particulate matter and air toxics were 4 to 12 times higher than ambient pollution levels."

The Oregon Environmental Council championed this bill and was joined by a diverse group of organizations to support HB 2795:  American Lung Association in Oregon, Oregon School Employees Association, Oregon Public Health Association, Oregon Nurses Association, Community Health Partnership, and others.

About the Oregon Environmental Council

The Oregon Environmental Council safeguards what Oregonians love about Oregon – clean air and water, an unpolluted landscape and healthy food produced by local farmers. For 40 years we’ve been a champion for solutions to protect the health of every Oregonian and the health of the place we call home. Our vision for Oregon includes solving global warming, protecting kids from toxics, cleaning up our rivers, building sustainable economies, and ensuring healthy food and local farms. Find out more at www.oeconline.org.

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