When picking up children at school, make a turn toward cleaner air

For parents who drive a child to school, back to school is a great time to start a new habit and shut off the engine while waiting. Protecting children’s lungs is as easy as turning the key. It will also save money on wasted fuel, and it’s the law. Minneapolis ordinance limits most idling to three minutes.

Children are especially vulnerable to vehicle air pollution because their lungs are still developing, and they inhale more pounds of pollution per pound of body weight than adults do. Vehicle motors release particulate matter, dirt, nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. Chemicals in vehicle exhaust are linked to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease and asthma and are the major source of human-caused global warming. Exhaust from an idling car carries a higher load of pollutants than a moving car, so reducing unnecessary idling is one easy way all drivers can do their part to improve air quality.

Air quality in Minneapolis is among the best of large metropolitan areas in the U.S. Still, the area has air quality issues that contribute to health problems such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease. Most air pollution comes from cars and trucks releasing fossil fuel exhaust.

While most folks are already turning off their cars when they’re not on the move, they sometimes let their cars idle by habit, especially when waiting to pick someone up or dropping something off. If breathing cleaner air isn’t incentive enough, consider that an idling car is getting zero miles to the gallon. Turning off the engine in these situations will save money. In general, 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the car.

The Citys website has more information about sustainability in Minneapolis and what we can all do to protect our quality of life.

Published Aug. 31, 2011