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Exploring the Effects of Diesel Exposure on School Children
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How much can a student's school bus ride to and from school affect his or her developing cardiopulmonary system?
Millions of children rely on school buses for transportation. According to Clarkson University researcher Peter Jaques, "Those who commute in non-retrofitted, diesel-operated buses can be exposed to potentially harmful agents emitted from the exhaust, including carbonaceous ultrafine particles and diesel particulate matter (DPM), which have been linked to increases in upper-respiratory illnesses."
Jaques, assistant professor of biology; Alan Rossner, assistant professor and director of Clarkson's Environmental Health Science Program; Andrea Ferro, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Stephanie Schuckers, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, are working to characterize diesel exposure in school buses and develop methods for measuring lung function and cardiopulmonary effects in children. Their pilot study, led by Jaques, is being funded with a grant from the Collaborative Activities for Research and Technology Information (CARTI) of the Center of Excellence (CoE) at Syracuse University.
Additionally, the team is measuring the heart rate and respiration of 20 different third- and fourth- grade students on school buses throughout the day. Each student wears a LifeShirt, an elastic shirt worn under clothing that measures heart and respiratory rates and breathes into respiratory monitors that indicate lung inflammation.
"This gives us data we can later organize and analyze computationally," Rossner said. "We evaluate respiratory inflammation by measuring nitric oxide from exhaled breath at specific intervals, including before and after bus rides. Students also wear personal exposure monitors the size of a small backpack throughout the day."
The goal of this study is to develop techniques and a sufficient exposure database to use later in a more extensive study. The researchers hope their work will improve understanding of diesel exposure-related effects in children. They also hope to strengthen knowledge of the risks associated with exposure to DPM in buses, especially for children with asthma.