Turn the Key on Vehicle Idling for a Healthier School Environment

Posted on Categories Blog

While many students across the region will experience virtual learning this fall due to concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, thousands of area schoolchildren are back in the classroom or soon will be. Though the start of the upcoming school year comes with many unanswered questions, one thing we know for certain is that idling engines are one of the main contributors to air pollution, with schools across the nation being identified as hot spots for unhealthy air.

Each year, idling engines produce thousands of tons of toxic pollution, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that are found in vehicle exhaust and contribute to the formation of ozone smog and particulate matter. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other harmful air toxins during the early morning and late afternoon hours, coinciding with parents picking up and dropping off their children. Therefore, it’s especially important to remember to avoid vehicle idling in school zones as children with developing lungs are more susceptible to air pollution, which poses a greater risk for acquiring asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects.

You might also be surprised to learn that:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, eliminating personal vehicle idling would be equivalent to taking 5 million vehicles off the road.
  • Idling for longer than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine.
  • Two minutes of idling uses that same amount of fuel as driving one mile.
  • Every gallon of gas wasted produces over 20 pounds of air pollution.
  • Idling vehicles emit 20 times more pollution than a car traveling at 30 mph.
  • Many buildings have fresh air intake systems to pull outdoor air into the indoor environment. If vehicles are idling alongside or near the building, indoor air can become polluted with exhaust.

In an effort to curb the amount of vehicle idling in the St. Louis metropolitan region, the Clean Air Partnership’s “Turn Your Key, Be Idle-Free” campaign helps encourage area businesses, schools, governmental entities and other organizations to implement No Idling Policies and post No Idling signs, demonstrating their continued commitment to helping our community “Be Idle-Free.” The Partnership also provides customized bookmarks and rack cards at no charge for organizations to put on display for informational purposes.

If you represent a business, government entity, school or other organization, consider engaging your constituents in making the pledge to “Turn Your Key and Be Idle-Free” by placing no-idling signs in your parking lots, near bus and carpool lanes, passenger drop-off lanes, delivery areas or any other location where idling is an issue. By working together, we can help eliminate unnecessary idling to improve overall lung health in the region!

To request a no-idling sign, contact Susannah Fuchs of the Clean Air Partnership at 314-449-9149, or via email at [email protected]. For more information on other anti-idling initiatives and additional steps you can take to do your share for cleaner air, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.