Moms Clean Air Force, a national organization of parents dedicated to fighting air pollution, held a press conference to call on state and federal officials to fight climate change by taking steps to convert school buses from traditional diesel to electric.
Almeta Cooper, Moms Clean Air Force’s Georgia field organizer had speakers from private industry and the public sector speak at the event.
According to Cooper, in Fulton County alone 78 thousand students and bus drivers ride on diesel buses twice daily. She added that inside a school bus the diesel fumes can be 5-10 times higher than outside the bus.
Dr. Yolanda Whyte spoke about how diesel fumes can cause and exacerbate asthma in children.
Whyte is a pediatrician and member of The Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee under the Environmental Protection Agency. She also sits on the executive committee for the Georgia Clinicians for Climate Action.
“Because of the inflammation that’s caused by many of the air pollutants,” said Whyte. “It damages the mucociliary clearance— the superficial layer of our lungs and it has a similar effect as cigarette smoking, so we have to take it just as seriously.”
Asthma is diagnosed in about 7 percent of all kids but 12 to 13 percent in African American kids said Whyte. She added that asthma affects minorities at a higher rate regardless of income level.
In a 2020 report, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), published that Black people are three times as likely to die from asthma than white people.
Dr. Whyte’s support for electric zero-emission buses is due to her understanding that early intervention is very important when it comes to addressing respiratory issues.
This April, Fulton County became the first district in Ga. to add an electric bus to its fleet of school buses.
The electric buses are made by the Blue Bird Corporation at their manufacturing plant in Fort Valley, Georgia.
Andy Moore, the Director of Electrification at Blue Bird said Ga. is poised to become a hub of electric vehicle commerce. He added that Blue Bird wants to expand electric bus manufacturing so they can bring more jobs to Fort Valley.
Moms Clean Air Force wants investment at the federal level to support school districts switching from diesel to electric-powered school buses.
Both of Georgia’s senators expressed support for converting to zero-emission buses. Andrew Heaton, Senator Rafael Warnock’s Northwest Georgia Outreach Director spoke at the event backing the initiative.
In April Sen. Warnock was one of 8 original co-sponsors on the Clean Commute for Kids Act.
“It would provide billions of dollars in grants, if passed, to allowing schools to transition from the current diesel bus to green electrified buses,” Heaton said.
Ga. State Representative Teri Anulewicz also attended the event in support of an electric school bus initiative.
“Georgians deserve safe, clean, efficient ways to get to work, to school and to get home to their families,” Anulewicz said.
On June 24, President Biden announced his support for the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework Plan.
The plan includes electrifying school and transit buses across the country while also building a network of half a million Electric Vehicle chargers along highways.
This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Atlanta Voice through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.