The impact of an anti-idling campaign on outdoor air quality at four urban schools
Idling school buses may increase concentrations of air pollutants including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and elemental carbon (EC) near schools. Efforts to reduce vehicle idling near schools have rarely included air sampling to objectively assess changes in concentrations of air pollutants. The objective was to determine the impact of an anti-idling campaign on outdoor air quality at four schools with varying exposure to bus and automobile traffic. Outdoor air sampling for PM2.5, EC and particle number concentration (PNC) was conducted at four schools for five days before and after an anti-idling campaign. Sampling began before the morning arrival of buses and concluded after their afternoon departure. Sampling was simultaneously conducted at four corresponding community sites. Differences in PM2.5, EC, and PNC measured at school and community sites for each sampling day were calculated before and after the campaign. Before the campaign, the average outdoor concentration of PM2.5 during the school day at three of the four schools exceeded community background levels and the difference was greatest (4.11 μg m−3, p < 0.01) at the school with the most buses (n = 39). The largest difference in EC between school and community sites was also observed at the school with the greatest number of buses (0.40 μg m−3, p < 0.01). Following the anti-idling campaign, the average difference in PM2.5 at the school with the most buses decreased from 4.11 μg m−3 to 0.99 μg m−3 (p < 0.05). Similarly, at this school, the difference in the EC level decreased from 0.40 μg m−3 to 0.15 μg m−3 and PNC decreased from 11 560 to 1690 particles per cm3 (p < 0.05). The outdoor concentrations of pollutants at schools with fewer buses (n = 5–11) were not significantly reduced. The concentration of air pollutants near schools may significantly exceed community background levels, particularly in the presence of idling school buses. Anti-idling campaigns are effective in reducing PM2.5, EC and PNC at schools with significant amounts of buses and passenger cars.