Jesuit High School photo
A sign urges motorists to cut engines while waiting to pick up students at Jesuit High.
Jesuit High School photo
A sign urges motorists to cut engines while waiting to pick up students at Jesuit High.
Jesuit High School has begun an anti-idling campaign on campus. Idling, or keeping a car running while the vehicle is stationary, creates air pollutants that pose health and environmental concerns.

“We are surrounded by pollutants in our everyday life, but we all have the power to do little things to lessen our negative impact on the environment,” says Jennie Cournia, Jesuit's environmental science teacher and chair of the school's sustainability committee.“Jesuit High School is making a concerted effort to reduce air pollutants on campus, specifically those found in the form of automobile exhaust.”

The school recently purchased six “No Idling; Young Lungs at Work” signs to be posted around campus drop-off and pick-up areas as a reminder to turn off engines while waiting.

Jesuit’s January Principal’s Newsletter also informed parents of the campaign, saying the signs are "a reminder that idling is bad for the environment, expensive, and most importantly, very unhealthy for the thousands of young lungs at Jesuit.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, idling vehicles emit toxins suspected of causing cancer or other serious health effects.

Nationwide monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children. Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory problems. Limiting a vehicle’s idling time can dramatically reduce the pollutants.

“We are all working together to try to nurture healthy, happy and intelligent young adults and such a little gesture as turning off a car while waiting in the parking lot sends the message that our children come first,” says Cournia.

In addition to its ill effects on the health of students waiting for parents to pick them up, idling affects the environment and costs the driver money.  For every 10 minutes an engine idles, a car releases approximately one pound of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming.

Jesuit officials are asking parents and students to take steps to reduce idling. They suggest that drivers turn off the car when waiting more than 10 seconds. Contrary to popular belief, restarting a car does not burn more fuel than leaving it idling. Idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine.

Parents are asked to communicate with students about what time he or she will be waiting so that the car will not need to wait.

To help reduce concentrations, officials also are asking parents to meet students at safe places off campus.

The writer is an English teacher at Jesuit High School.