Primary school children are declared to be at the highest risk of respiratory disorders due to the massively growing air pollution. According to a study, these children when traveling to school and then back home are subjected to severe air pollutants which may potentially destroy the functioning of their respiratory organs.
The respective study was carried out by a team of researchers from Hong Kong Community College. They evaluated and studied the impacts of air pollution on the respiratory health of primary school children who have to travel daily. 850 primary school children, aged 10 to 12 years, were employed for the study and analysis. All of them were randomly selected from 12 different schools in Hong Kong.
All of the participants were instructed to record their daily activities during their travel to and from their schools. In addition, they were given questionnaires in order to evaluate their indoor living conditions and respiratory health conditions. Moreover, a pulmonary function test was also conducted on the participants of the study.
Air pollutants found on the routes to and from the school of the children were also measured by the researchers. It was found that particulate matters PM10 and PM2.5, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds constituted the ways to the respective schools. A statistical analysis was also conducted in order to determine if there was a significant link between the participants’ health and his/her modes of transportation.
The results revealed that about 54 percent of the children traveled by foot to go to school. Around 28 percent of them travel by school bus. More than 25 percent of the participants were found to have smoking family members within the house thus they were said to be exposed to a secondhand smoke. In addition, about 3.2 percent of the participants were reported to be suffering from asthma.
The research team discovered that the level of PM10 in school buses is 20 percent higher than any of the other modes of transportation opted by the children. Moreover, traveling by school buses showed the largest value of all the six air pollutants. Thus, the researchers suggested that the school buses have the worst quality of air among all other modes of transportation. In contrast, railways were asserted to have the best quality air because of the low levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds.
The final conclusion drawn was that the quality of the air of the different modes of transportation and the indoor living conditions of the children affected their lung functions greatly. Students who travel by school buses were said to have the worst pulmonary function because of their exposure to the poorest quality of air. On the other hand, those traveling by railways to school were claimed to have the best lung functioning because the quality of air in railways was reported to be the highest of all, among the other transportation modes.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the exhausted diesel from the buses had adversely impacted the general human health. Children are said to be at higher risks because they have a fast breathing rate and their lungs are not yet fully developed. Buses that are idle at schools are supposed to emit concentrated diesel exhaust both inside and outside the schools. It can consequently, lead to lung damage and cancer.
In addition, the dust and gases emitted by diesel engines can also cause,
- Acute eye disorders
- Throat infections
- Bronchial irritation
- Worst conditions of asthma
- Disruption of lung development
Along with this, environmental health is also deteriorated by the toxic emissions of the engines. They may contribute to ozone pollution, climate change, and acid rain.
Although buses are possibly the safest mean of transport the EPA suggests to minimize bus idling and replace old buses to reduce the emissions of diesel that not only pollute the air but also harm the human and environmental health.