Skip to main content
Diesel emissions and lung health

The electrification of school buses

Children are particularly vulnerable to diesel emission exposure. We are calling for action at all levels of government to accelerate the electrification of school buses to achieve 100% by 2040.

Diesel emissions can cause serious health problems

In Canada, more than 15,000 premature deaths each year are linked to air pollution. The transportation sector is a leading source of harmful air pollution, accounting for 25% of our greenhouse gas emissions.

Diesel exhaust (DE) is a human carcinogen (which means it can cause cancer). DE can contain carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and more. Some contaminants in diesel have no safe level of exposure.

The short-term and long-term respiratory impacts of exposure to DE are significant, ranging from reduced lung capacity, increased inflammation, increased risk of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

DE has been linked to cancers, cognitive and developmental delays in children, reproductive impacts, as well as impacts to the cardiovascular, immunological, and central nervous system. 

DE alone are estimated to cause 2,200,000 acute respiratory symptom days, 170,000 asthma symptoms days and 3,000 acute child bronchitis episodes annually in Canada.


Children and diesel emissions

More than 2 million Canadian children ride the bus to and from school. Seventy percent of these buses are diesel powered. School buses, especially when idling outside a school, can be a significant source of DE exposure for children, whose lungs are not yet fully developed.

In 2021, the Government of Canada launched the Zero Emission Transit Fund, investing $2.75 billion to support public transit and school bus operators to transition to zero emission vehicles, from planning to purchasing vehicles and building infrastructure.

The federal government has also committed to support transit agencies and school boards in transitioning their bus fleets to zero-emission technology through the planning and the purchasing of at least 5,000 zero-emission buses along with the necessary supporting infrastructure.

The Canadian Lung Association is a proud signatory to the Collective Call for Action to Accelerate School Bus Electrification, led by the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and the Environment. You can learn more about the issues and what action you can take on their website.