An urgent message to parents: stop idling your cars


By Ian Bernstein ’18


As anxious moms tap on their steering wheels and wait in the pick-up line for their precious children to exit the school building, they can’t help but leave their car engines running, polluting the environment by the millisecond. Yes, I’m scolding the parents; car idling is harmful to not only the immediate environment, but to the individuals inhaling the exhaust fumes. Please, turn off your cars.  

According to Nation Swell, half of all toxic air pollutants stem from petroleum fumes emitted by motor vehicles. Moreover, an idling car lets out just as many harmful emissions as a moving car, and these pollutants have been linked to asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and cancer, among other life-threatening illnesses. So, when moms are reclining and talking on speakerphone with their best girlfriends in their giant SUVs lined up in the parking lot, they’re inflicting serious damage on the local air quality and students’ health without even moving. Way to go, Mom.   

Let’s talk about the fumes themselves. Car exhaust contains carbon monoxide (CO), which is produced by combustion inside the engine. This harmful chemical is commonly referred to as the “silent killer,” and long-term exposure to said chemical can cause lung damage, according to Occupational Health and Safety. As soon as the clock strikes 2:15, I, along with numerous other students, must walk through and breathe in clouds of CO-filled exhaust fumes from idling vehicles to access my car. Considering I can’t hold my breath for that long, I’m forced to inhale the toxic air created by oblivious parents every day, and that’s messed up.  

So, what should parents with this hazardous habit do instead? They should go idle-free, meaning they’ll not only spare the local air quality and kids’ lungs, but save gas and money. As reported by the Environmental Defense Fund, an idling car uses between one-fifth to seven-tenths of a gallon of fuel an hour. That’s about $2 an hour wasted, with the average U.S. gas price at $2 per gallon . Go ahead, keep blasting your heat and jamming out to Madonna’s greatest hits; just know you’re wasting gas and losing your hard-earned coins in the process.  

Even if it’s cold out, refrain from tossing tons of pollutants and money out the window; keep a warm blanket and a pair of earmuffs in the back seat. It’s either your comfort or children’s increased risk of emissions-related illness, so which one is it, Linda?