Sustainable America Blog

Video: How Idling at School Affects Kids’ Health

cars idling exhaust fumes while kids play on playground

There’s an invisible threat to kids’ health happening at U.S. schools every day.

Air monitoring at schools typically finds elevated levels of toxins during pick-up times. One of the main sources is exhaust from idling vehicles as parents wait to pick up their kids.

Vehicle exhaust is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and even cancer. Children are especially at risk because their lungs are still developing and they inhale more air per pound of body weight than adults.

There’s a simple way to help keep your kids and their classmates healthy: If you’ll be waiting more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. This easy step can dramatically reduce children’s exposure to pollutants, save a little money, and help the environment.

When most parents or caregivers learn these facts, they take it to heart and stop idling. That’s why we created the video above — to help spread the message about vehicle idling.

Here’s What You Can Do About It
As part of our I Turn It Off campaign, we’re asking parents to sign a pledge to “turn it off” if they’ll be waiting more than 10 seconds. And we have free, downloadable signs and toolkits that parents, students and staff can use to get an anti-idling campaign going in their community. It’s a perfect issue for a school environmental club to take on! (Here’s how a student in Connecticut tackled idling.)

If you need more reasons to convince your school community to reducing idling, here are a few: Unnecessary idling adds needless pollution that contributes to climate change. (Surprise, it’s not good for your health either. Studies have shown that places where vehicles idle have much higher concentrations of harmful particulate matter than open roads, resulting in increased pollution inside your car.) Idling is also a waste of gas money — just two minutes of idling uses enough gas to drive one mile!

Are you ready to clear the air? Visit to take the pledge, share the video and download more resources.

If your school starts an anti-idling program, tell us about it on Twitter or Instagram, or email

Sources: U.S. EPA, Environmental Defense Fund

Teen Activist Pushes Town to Go Idle-Free
Student Group Takes Action on Idling
Logan High School Clean Air Poster Contest

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Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

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The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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