Troubled by filth from idling buses, two boys launch blog
Eugene Varnedoe and his friend Muhamed Rahman created a blog. They're environmentally conscious and wanted to let the Internet community know that the idling buses parked in front of their school emit dangerous fumes that can cause asthma.
Eugene and Muhamed are each 10 years old
The best friends helped create the blog, after Muhamed was diagnosed with asthma, a problem that may be connected to the pollution outside the elementary school he attends in Queens.
Tuesday, the two boys and several of their classmates at PS 122 in Astoria took the day off from school today to stand on the steps of City Hall as part of an awareness campaign aimed at getting drivers to turn off their engines instead of allowing them to idle while parked. The event was organized by the Asthma Safe School Zone, a nonprofit organization trying to bring attention to the harmful effects of idling vehicles.Exhaust fumes are a well-documented cause of asthma, and according to the American Lung Association, the asthma rates in the five boroughs are twice as high as the rest of the country. One in eight New Yorkers is diagnosed with asthma in his or her lifetime and in 2008, New York was ranked as the eighth-worst city for smog pollution. Idling also costs money lots of money. According to the Idle-Free NYC campaign, city drivers spend an estimated $30 million a year on fuel wasted while idling.
Representatives of the American Lung Association and the Environmental Defense Fund, as well as Councilwoman Rosie Mendez (D-Lower East Side), also attended the event to bring attention to the need to designate the area surrounding all city schools as asthma-free school zones.
Currently, idle-free zones have been designated outside 60 schools Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. Those schools have seen a dramatic improvement in student attendance, with students taking fewer sick days for all types of illness, said Mendez, adding that "absenteeism went down and grades went up.
Representatives from city Department of Transportation also attended the event, which was held in conjunction with World Asthma Day. "Our goal is to reduce emissions across York City by 9 percent per square mile by 2015 and 39 percent by 2030," said department commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
Muhamed Rahmen said that since his asthma diagnosis, he gets scared when he is near an idling bus or car. "I feel like I can't breathe and I start to panic, " he said. His mother, Hasifa Rahmen, said that while her son has never had a full-blown attack, he must keep his inhaler with him at all times just in case.
Muhamed and his classmates were all smiles as they told the crowd about their blog, and the results it brought about. "My school bus driver stopped idling," Muhamed said, beaming.
-- Martina Guzman