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Your Environment. Your Health.

Impact of Traffic-Related Particles on Asthma for Students in an Urban School District

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

NIEHS Grant: R21ES017957

Community-Academic Partners
University of Cincinnati: Patrick H. Ryan, Ph.D.
Cincinnati Public Schools: www.cps-k12.org/
Cincinnati Health Department: www.cincinnati-oh.gov/health/pages/-5092-/

image of school bus

New research in Cincinnati aims to uncover and reduce the impact of air pollution from idling school buses and other vehicles on childhood asthma. The prevalence of asthma in children has more than doubled in the past two decades, with urban populations experiencing the highest increase in disease prevalence and severity. Schools, parents, and public health officials are concerned that children are exposed to high levels of traffic-related particulate matter (PM), including diesel exhaust particulates (DEP), around schools and that this exposure may aggravate asthma symptoms in susceptible children. These exposures occur not only as children are transported to/from school, but, because schools are often located in close proximity to major roadways, they may be exposed during the school day.

Anti-idling campaigns have been conducted around the country, with limited success, and without studies to assess their effect on traffic-related PM levels. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and two community organizations — Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Health Department — are collaborating to gather more data about the risks and to develop strategies to reduce the exposure.

To answer the question "Does traffic near schools, including school buses, affect the health of school children?", the partners will:

  • Conduct indoor, outdoor, and community air sampling to determine if children are exposed to increased levels of traffic-related PM at school compared to levels in their home communities.
  • Develop and implement an anti-idling campaign to reduce children's exposure to traffic pollution on school grounds.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the anti-idling campaign by measuring the reduction of particulate matter at schools and assessing the health of children with asthma who attend these schools.

The research knowledge and subsequent evaluation will not only provide technical data for the scientific community but will also guide future efforts by public health officials, parents, school administrators, and community members on a broad scale to reduce environmental exposures to children while attending school.

The partnership will communicate objective health data to families of children with asthma, school administrators, public health officials, as well as bus drivers. An evaluation will determine whether this collaborative process reached the education and research objectives.

This partnership seeks to determine the extent of traffic exposure and to reduce children's exposure to traffic-related air pollution.

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