School drop-off zones expose kids to high levels of pollution

There are a lot worse things than cooties floating around the kiss-and-ride area at most schools, according to a new study.

University of Toronto researchers have found that students who spend time around designated pick-up zones end up breathing elevated levels of pollution from idling cars nearby. The halo of air pollution around these zones even extends to playground areas situated close by, regardless of whether the school is in a rural, urban or suburban area.

“The use of private vehicles can significantly increase local concentrations (of air pollution), regardless of background conditions,” study co-authors Matthew D. Adams and Weeberb J Requia say in the abstract for their paper. They say the worst times of the year for students to be exposed are typically in the winter, when parents are more likely to hole up in their vehicles with the heater cranked.

The authors add that the pollution concentration is of particular concern for kindergarten students, whose play areas are often located closest to the school drop-off zone.

They point out that elevated levels of air pollution can contribute to a respiratory health issues, poor school performance and poor well-being later in life.

The study was conducted using vehicle surveys and a microsimulation traffic model.
By Josh Elliott,

Their findings are published in the September edition of the journal Atmospheric Environment.

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