Is The School Bus Ride Making Your Kid Sick?

A group of yellow school buses; air quality is just as important in school buses where kids are in close proximity to one another and can spread germs. ActivePure has an innovative solution.

Most parents of school-aged children are familiar with the age-old struggle of keeping their kids healthy throughout the school year. Relentless efforts to safeguard children’s health through balanced diets, physical activity, yearly vaccinations, and good hygiene are often not enough to prevent them bringing home sore throats, fevers, runny noses, and all sorts of germs and viruses that spread through indoor air. School classrooms, gym class, and cafeterias may be the first places you think of when considering where viruses and germs may be able to spread easily in close quarters. But a silent threat lurks in a place often overlooked: the air quality inside school buses.

Understanding the Causes & Risks

Schoolchildren spend a significant amount of time commuting to and from school each day, often on crowded school buses. This exposes them to poor air quality, which puts them at increased risk of viral infection, respiratory issues, and cognitive impairment due to several factors:

  1. Proximity & Density: School bus density tends to be significantly higher than classroom density in elementary schools, with standard buses seating anywhere from 50 to 90 or more students. This leaves each passenger with very little personal space and minimal room to move around, increasing the risk of transmission.
  2. Airborne Transmission: many viruses, including Influenza (Flu), the common cold, RSV, and COVID-19 are spread through respiratory droplets and aerosols. Take, for example, a sneeze that can travel as far as 27 feet and stay suspended in the air for as long as 10 minutes. In a school bus that averages 40 feet in length, a significant percentage of riders may face exposure to these harmful pathogens.
  3. Poor Ventilation: Many school districts rely on older school buses that lack adequate ventilation systems. Additionally, older school buses predominantly run on diesel fuel. Diesel exhaust contains harmful pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter. This exhaust, having reentered the bus’ ventilation system, can exacerbate asthma symptoms, impair cognitive function, and lead to short- and long-term respiratory issues.

Improving Indoor Air Quality on Buses: Solutions

Traditional methods of cleaning, such as frequent sanitizing of surfaces and opening windows for fresh air flow, fall short of truly mitigating the health risks of virus transmission and air pollution on school buses. Now that we understand the causes and risks of poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) on school buses, we can begin to address them with a number of tools already available.

When it comes to mitigating exposure to diesel exhaust and its harmful pollutants, retrofitting buses with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valves may help reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions. Retrofitting buses can be labor and time intensive and require regular cleaning and maintenance once installed.

Replacing diesel buses with electric ones is an ideal long-term solution to address the issue of tailpipe emissions and the inevitable exposure to diesel exhaust on the vehicle. While electric buses would improve air quality inside and around the bus, they can cost 4-6 times that of a diesel bus and securing funding is difficult for most school districts.

Retrofitting and replacing diesel buses does little to effectively reduce and control the indoor pathogens that circulate throughout the buses’ air and surfaces and lead to respiratory and viral illness in children. Luckily, there are innovative technologies that can address viral spread in confined spaces. The ActivePure Transit Guardian promises cleaner air for students on school buses. Harnessing ActivePure Technology that is proven to reduce over 99.9% of many common airborne and surface contaminants, this unit has a small footprint that can be easily installed to the wall, ceiling, or floor of public transportation vehicles. The unit can be run during the daily commute, and addresses not only organic pathogens spread between passengers, but also VOC gases like those found in diesel exhaust. By actively targeting these airborne threats, the ActivePure Transit Guardian can help students breathe easier between their homes and school.

Clean air is an integral part of our children’s education, and at ActivePure we believe that there is no greater investment we can make. The road to cleaner air on school buses is paved with challenges, but together we can work to improve our children’s daily commute one bus at a time.

ActivePure Technology is being used in hundreds of schools and school systems across the country and is a cornerstone of a well-rounded IAQ improvement plan. For more information on the ActivePure Transit Guardian and improving air quality on buses, connect with our team below.

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