Clean Air at Schools: Engines Off!

Together with the City and County of Denver Environmental Quality Division, Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools, Mothers for Clean Air Colorado, and the Regional Air Quality Council, the Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition is partnering in a tri-county effort to reduce both the volume and duration of idling vehicles at schools through a pilot program entitled Clean Air at Schools: Engines Off (CASEO). EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) is a generous underwriter of this program.

CASEO is a partnership between federal and local governments, schools and non-profits in Colorado. CASEO’s goal is to develop programs that will reduce air toxics exposures at schools in Colorado. This project is a social marketing program to reduce idling of personal vehicles at schools.

CASEO aims to reduce idling at schools because of the health effects that this unnecessary behavior has on our children. Lungs continue to develop until age 18, and when children are exposed to air pollution, it stunts lung growth and can lead to a predisposition to infection later in life. Kids also have a faster rate of respiration, spend more time outdoors, and are more active than their adult counterparts- all reasons why we should do our very best to clean up air around schools.

Vehicle exhaust contains air toxics, such as benzyne and formaldehyde, which are known carcinogens. Acute (short-term) effects include:

  • Developmental delays- manifest in short time frame
  • Reduced immunity- acute, missed days of school, hospital visits
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Eye, skin and respiratory irritation

Chronic effects include:

  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Reproductive effects and challenges

Facts About Idling

Ford Motor Company says: “Avoid idling more than 30 seconds (when not in traffic)—Frequent restarting has little impact on the battery and starter (maybe $10 a year), whereas excessive idling can actually damage important components such as engine cylinders, spark plugs, and the exhaust system.”

For modern cars with fuel injection, idling 10 seconds uses more gas than restarting your engine.

Idling pollutes the air outside and in your vehicle. Pollution from exhaust contributes to lung infections, pneumonia, influenza and asthma.

Most people waste 1-2 entire tanks of gas every year by idling.

Just 1 minute of idling puts more carbon monoxide into the air than three packs of cigarettes.