Ana Ibarra Health

August 12, 2014

Back to school traffic triggers higher emissions and respiratory problems

Classes are back in session, and with them the good old morning traffic near school zones.

Classes are back in session, and with them the good old morning traffic near school zones.

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, the rise in traffic combined with the current hot and dry temperatures is not good news for our health.

A common oversight during the beginning of the school year is idling in pick-up zones. The heat discourages parents from turning off their car while they wait for their children to come out of school. However, idling cars are a potential source of direct emissions exposure and poor air quality. According to the Valley Air District, vehicle idling has shown to be a major contributor to ozone pollution in August and September.

In the past, air officials have had to issue air alerts during these months because back to school traffic triggers higher emission levels that come close to violating federal air quality standards.

Poor air quality can trigger long term health effects such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other respiratory problems.

In a recent conversation I had with a health services coordinator at Le Grand Elementary School, she explained that the main concerns during this time of year are, in fact, breathing problems. Most of the student visits to the school nurse’s office are asthma-related, she said.

Valley air officials ask residents to reduce idling, especially in areas where children are present. Some options to decreasing the amount of emissions is walking your child to school, riding a bike or carpooling with neighbors. If you live less than a mile from school, encouraging your child to walk and a ride a bike, is probably the best idea--not only will this benefit the air, but some light morning exercise can be beneficial to your child’s overall health.

Besides health concerns, ozone violations can also result in fines for Central Valley residents and businesses.

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