The health of children should be a priority. Therefore, when we talk about higher prices for zero-emission electric school buses, we should consider zero-pollution school buses as an investment in lifelong health, not as a cost.
Science shows that there is no safe level of contamination by outlet pipes, for both children and adults. One in eight children already lives with asthma and asthma attacks are the number 1 cause of school absences due to chronic illness. The lungs grow to the age of 20 and then decrease with age. Any exposure to pollutants that impedes their growth means a decrease in lung capacity and a higher likelihood of disease later in life.
The limited grant money from a court settlement recently announced by Governor Pritzker that helps with the purchase of electric buses is good, but once gone, it is no longer there. The long-term solution is to get the governor to join Illinois with 15 other states already working to adopt stricter rules for the output of medium and heavy-duty vehicles. This would mean moving towards 30% of new school buses, as well as new trucks and delivery vans, being electric by 2030.
We just spent a year working to protect children and adults from a deadly respiratory threat. But local diesel pollution and growing health threats from global warming cannot be avoided with one shot. The governor took a big step in the right direction, but now he needs to establish Illinois on a long-term clean vehicle path. Joining the other 15 states and accelerating the transition to electric buses and trucks in Illinois from now on is the leadership we need.
Brian P. Urbaszewski, Director, Environmental Health Programs
Respiratory Health Association