Background Information Sheet
One place air pollution comes from is cars, trucks, and buses that operate on diesel or gasoline. The tailpipes on these vehicles release tiny particulate matter (PM 2.5) that gets into our air and lungs. Over time, the fine particulate matter builds up and causes breathing problems and decreased lung function.
- 25 million kids in the U.S. ride a school bus on their way to get an education. About 90% of school buses in the U.S. are run on diesel.
- Diesel exposure from school buses has reportedly been found to pose as much as 23 to 46 times the cancer risk considered significant for children under federal law. Children on diesel school buses are also exposed to 5 to 15 times more air toxins than the rest of the population.
- Approximately 60-65% of public transit buses also operate on diesel.
Diesel exhaust is produced when vehicles burn diesel fuel. It includes many cancer-causing substances, such as arsenic and formaldehyde. The particulate matter in these emissions is so tiny that it is easily inhaled and gets deeply embedded in our lungs forever. As it accumulates it can cause serious respiratory issues like asthma and other pollution-related disease.
- Whether vehicles are powered by gasoline or diesel, the pollution that comes out of the tailpipes is bad for our health. Tailpipes on cars and trucks could be compared to cigarettes, with all of us forced to breathe in the second-hand smoke.
The health impacts of transportation emissions include: asthma, cancer, pneumonia, childhood leukemia, decreased lung function, heart attack, and hospitalization for pollution-related diseases. It can even lead to problems focusing and lower test scores in children.
- There are now more premature deaths from traffic-related pollution than traffic accidents.
- People of color are at greatest risk. They are 50% more likely to live near busy roads, freeways and highways, or diesel truck and bus routes.
- Communities of color have the highest rates of asthma and hospitalization for pollution-related disease as a result. Kids and seniors are the most vulnerable.
Transportation pollution is also the #1 source of the U.S.’s carbon emissions, which causes climate change.
- By harnessing the power of clean technologies (like electric vehicles), we can replace dirty cars, trucks, and buses with zero-emission alternatives. This would remove TONS of toxic emissions from the air, to help curb climate change and improve our health.