Fighting for Clean Air in Connecticut

CLF’s campaign to stem tailpipe pollution expands to Connecticut school buses

Photo: Oliver Foerstner via Shutterstock

If you live anywhere near a school, you have likely seen school buses idling while waiting for students to board or exit during the morning or afternoon rush. Unfortunately, what might seem like a routine practice can translate to serious health problems for kids and adults, including asthma, emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease. Regulators also estimate that diesel exhaust is responsible for 125,000 cancer cases nationwide, and 23 to 46 of every one million children could develop cancer from the exhaust they inhale just traveling on school buses.

There is a solution: holding school bus companies accountable to laws that prohibit excessive idling. We aim to protect our children by getting bus companies back in line and putting an end to threat they pose to communities.

Why Tailpipe Pollution is a Serious Problem

Tailpipe pollution from idling cars, trucks, and buses endangers human health more than exhaust from moving vehicles. This is because when a vehicle is stopped, polluted air congregates in a small area, creating a “hotspot” of contaminants. These hotspots can even occur inside a car, truck, or bus.

When it comes to school buses, exposure to these hotspots plagues the lungs of one of our most vulnerable populations: our kids. Students boarding a bus that has been idling could be exposed to a high level of toxic diesel exhaust. Almost all school buses across the country still run on diesel, so many of our children likely inhale these noxious fumes every school day.

What’s more, school buses often idle in large lots, which are often located in communities with low incomes and communities of color. Those of us living in these neighborhoods are no strangers to environmental burdens, and residents are already at higher risk for respiratory diseases like asthma. The contaminants released by an entire fleet of buses idling near homes, schools, and parks only worsen these risks.

Protecting Our Kids’ Health in Connecticut

CLF is committed to stopping excessive idling to ensure healthy air for all, particularly for those most defenseless against tailpipe pollution. Building on prior cases against Transdev Services, Encore Boston Harbor, and Academy Express, we recently announced a lawsuit against DATTCO, Inc., in Connecticut to force them to stop allowing their bus fleet to idle their engines unnecessarily.

DATTCO services more than 30 school districts across the state and provides private coach buses. Connecticut law restricts unnecessary idling beyond three minutes, but it is clear that this law is rarely enforced. What’s more, our investigators observed DATTCO routinely breaking the law in neighborhoods in New Haven, Bridgeport, New Canaan, and Cheshire. The company’s violations result in toxic exhaust concentrating in these neighborhoods and around schools and playgrounds.

As a Connecticut resident, I vividly recall loving to ride the school bus in elementary school, especially since mine was one of the first stops on the morning route. Even when I stopped riding the bus as a high schooler, I remember the long lines of idling buses waiting to take students home at the end of the day. Like so many others, school buses were staples of my childhood, yet my friends and I never thought about the dangers of stepping onto a bus filled with invisible exhaust fumes that could damage our health. The very ubiquity of school buses makes their idling such a pervasive problem.

What’s next?

CLF aims to protect our children by getting DATTCO and companies like it back in line and putting an end to their endangerment of Connecticut communities.

We shouldn’t have to worry about our children getting sick simply by riding the bus to school or playing outside. It’s time for DATTCO to prove that it cares about the neighborhoods in which it operates and put an end to this unlawful and dangerous practice once and for all.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.