Organizations Team Up to Reduce Vehicle Idling at Local Child Care Centers

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The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC), and Tender Care Learning Center have teamed up to discourage vehicle idling. Earlier this year GASP received a grant from the Grable Foundation to develop the NO Idling! Young Lungs at Work program, in partnership with PAEYC. The goals of the project are to increase awareness among Allegheny County child care providers about air pollution’s negative impact on children’s health and to empower them to reduce pollution from idling cars by giving them the tools necessary to discourage this polluting behavior on their property.

“Young children are particularly susceptible to diesel exhaust fumes,” said Cara Ciminillo, Executive Director for PAEYC. “By partnering together with GASP and Tender Care Learning Center, we’ve been able to offer professional growth opportunities to early care and education providers in our region to educate them about this health-based quality issue impacting early learners.”

While there is a law in Pennsylvania limiting the idling of heavy duty diesel vehicles such as school and transit buses and delivery trucks, there are no laws to prohibit the idling of gasoline or diesel powered cars. The idling tailpipes of cars spew out pollutants linked to serious illnesses including asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and cancer.

Idling is a common occurrence at childcare centers. Many parents may think they are saving money by letting their car idle, when in fact an idling car wastes fuel and is more damaging to a car’s engine. Some parents may also not be aware that the pollution exiting the tailpipe of their vehicles is damaging to health and the environment. “Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to suffer from high amounts of air pollution, from both stationary and mobile sources, that affect health and quality of life,” said Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of GASP. “Shutting off the engine is one simple thing parents can do to minimize the amount of pollution their children and the community is exposed to.”

Through the NO Idling! Young Lungs at Work program, child care center staff learn about air quality and anti-idling issues by participating in a one-hour, online professional development course. Staff are able to earn continuing education credits by participating. Those child care centers are then eligible to receive free materials for their centers, including a weather resistant sign to be placed outside the facility, and educational materials for distribution to parents. Ciminillo says the program extends beyond staff to the children and families the centers serve, and the community. “Thanks to the NO Idling! Young Lungs At Work program, early childhood caregivers now have the knowledge and resources to work together with the families they serve and the larger community to reduce vehicle idling.”

To date more than 24 childcare facilities have participated in the program and/or have received signage and educational materials for their center. This includes all eighteen Tender Care Learning Centers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“The safety of our children, families, and teachers is our number one priority,” said Megan Bindas, Director of the Tender Care Learning Center in Jefferson. “That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to participate in the NO Idling! Young Lungs at Work program that reminds parents and others not to idle their vehicles when picking up their kids.”

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