Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education
Is Your Bus Exhausting? Stevens Institute of Technology


ONLINE COURSE: 8th Grade -> Diesel Exhaust & Diesel Bus Case Study in Connecticut (Week 4)

Part 1. Review the Background Information

Diesel particulate matter is part of a complex mixture that makes up diesel exhaust. Diesel exhaust is commonly found throughout the environment and is estimated by EPA's National Scale Assessment to contribute to the human health risk in New England. Diesel particulates that are of greatest health concern are fine, and ultra fine particles. Diesel exhaust is emitted from a broad range of diesel engines; on road diesel engines of trucks, buses and cars and off road diesel engines including locomotives, marine vessels and heavy duty equipment. School buses are a significant contributor to the overall emissions.

Diesel exhaust causes health effects from both short and long term chronic exposures. The type and severity of health effects depends upon several factors including the amount of chemical you are exposed to and the length of time exposure. Individuals also react differently to different levels of exposure. There is limited information on exposure to just diesel particulate matter but there is enough evidence to indicate that inhalation exposure to diesel exhaust causes acute and chronic health effects. Acute exposure to diesel exhaust may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, some neurological effects such as lightheadedness. Acute exposure may also elicit a cough or nausea as well as exacerbate asthma.

A glossary of the other compounds listed on the TTN Air Toxins web site has been compiled in case your students would like to use the site more extensively.

In particular, Diesel engines emit high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and in addition, a complex mixture of gases, many of which are known or suspected cancer causing agents. Diesel exhaust from idling school buses can accumulate on and around the bus and pose a health risk, particularly to children. When buses idle in the school yard, the exhaust also can pollute the air inside the school building and pose a health risk to children throughout the day. Numerous scientific studies indicate that exposure to diesel exhaust can cause lung damage, respiratory problems, premature death, and lung cancer. However, there are some simple steps that schools can take to reduce idling time and air pollution.

Recommended actions to reduce diesel pollution:

  • Establish the mechanism for continued use ultra low sulfur diesel fuel in the public schools
  • Perform mechanical modification to school buses to enable the use of oxidation catalyst and filter retrofits
  • Evaluate the emission reductions achieved through the project
  • Oversee emissions testing and possible personal monitoring of students in the school district


Part 2: Follow the Instructions Below:

  1. Access the Project web site select CT, New Haven, Grade 8, and then select the Diesel Exhaust activity in the left-hand navigation bar.
  2. Scroll down and select the "Teachers" icon Teachers icon. A pop-up teacher lesson plan will appear. Review each of the sections, access and/or print all of the required materials, and return to the student activity.
    • NOTE: It is recommended that you PRINT this Teacher lesson plan so you can refer back to it as you complete the activity and to take notes on it in preparation for when you will use this lesson with your students.
  3. Access the Connecticut Diesel Particulate Matter map from US EPA's Technology Transfer Network National Air Toxics Assessment web page and review the questions in the student worksheet.
    • NOTE: It is NOT required for you to complete or submit the Student Worksheet for the Diesel Exhaust activity; just be familiar with the activity.

Assignment A - Diesel Bus Case Study in Connecticut

  1. Use the links on the Diesel Bus Case Study in Connecticut and any other materials to collaboratively create a persuasive argument defending your stance on the following questions
    1. Is retro-fitting worth the expense?
    2. What are the alternatives?
  2. Send your persuasive argument to the Course Instructors OR post them to the Discussion Board (see Instructions) by Thursday, 4/14/2005.
  3. Once you've finished the activity, please kindly access and complete the following online lesson evaluation. This will help us improve the lesson:




Copyright all rights reserved 2005. Stevens Institute of Technology. The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education