Cutting engines is cutting pollution at some GarCo schools

A new program that is enlisting students to protect their lungs from their parents’ idling vehicles at schools is showing promise, including during a trial run this year in Garfield County.

The program encourages parents to turn off vehicles while waiting to pick up their children at the end of the school day.

CASEO, which stands for Clean Air at Schools ­- Engines Off, had been rolled out at several Denver-area schools, and this year it was expanded to St John Elementary School in Battlement Mesa, Kathryn Senor Elementary School in New Castle and Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

The three schools showed “great reductions” in idling and pollution, similar to those experienced in the Denver-area schools, Sabrina Williams, air quality specialist with the Colorado Department of Transportation, told Garfield County commissioners Monday.

In fact, Kathryn Senor recorded a 93 percent drop in idling-related air pollution as measured by weight, the largest of any of the 17 Colorado schools to participate in the program so far. Williams said Kathryn Senor benefited from a “really dynamic community” that showed a lot of buy-in for the program.

Theresa Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Garfield Re-2 School District, which includes New Castle schools, said the district has been working to reduce vehicle idling by parents districtwide, including by posting signs in student pick-up areas.

CDOT and the American Lung Association of Colorado help fund the CASEO program. Encana USA donated $18,000 to help implement it in seven schools, including the three in Garfield County, Encana spokesman Doug Hock said. Garfield County’s Environmental Health office helped bring the program to the local schools.

The program includes heavy involvement from students. They help measure idling levels before and after anti-idling efforts. They seek parents’ pledges not to idle vehicles at schools. And they hand out key chains, brochures and other promotional items.

Idling a vehicle for a minute produces as much carbon monoxide as smoking three packs of cigarettes, those involved with the program say.

Natalia Swalnick, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association of Colorado, said children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are still developing until about age 18. Pollution can stunt lung development and leave them predisposed to infection and more sensitive to ozone and particulates. They’re more likely to be among those who wheeze, cough and end up in emergency rooms during times of poor air quality, she said.

The program will continue in Garfield County next year.


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