NYC is stepping up its commitment to reducing kids’ exposure to pollutants by implementing a “Stop Idling” campaign at some of the city’s most trafficked schools. Commissioner Carter Strickland of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced the new plan to crack down on idling buses and cars in school areas known to have the highest asthma rates. Drivers found parked with their engines on for more than one minute will be warned, but if they’re caught a second time they’ll be slapped with a $350 fine.

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“Stop Idling” builds on the 2009 “Turn it Off” campaign launched after Mayor Bloomberg’s Local Law 5 was enforced to limit idling in school zones to one minute. Illegal idling wastes gas and emits harmful pollutants that contribute to ozone pollution into the air. Nearly 400,000 New Yorkers are affected by asthma—many of whom are children. Research has also shown that poorer neighborhoods are the most afflicted by these environmental pollutants and residents are twice as likely to ever be diagnosed with asthma compared to wealthier neighborhoods.

“Although air quality is improving, air pollution still aggravates heart and lung disease, contributing to thousands of avoidable deaths and serious illnesses in New York City each year,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley in a press statement. “Air pollution affects New Yorkers in all neighborhoods, but those most burdened with asthma and other chronic health problems are especially vulnerable. Traffic remains a major contributor to harmful air pollution, especially in our most congested neighborhoods. DEP’s “Stop Idling” campaign is a good way to remind all New Yorkers of the need to help clean the air by driving less and using greener and healthier ways to get around, like biking, walking, or public transit.”

To support the campaign, city officials distributed informational letters and “Stop Idling” flyers to more than 1,400 Department of Education parent coordinators citywide. Not only is idling particularly bad for the environment and human health, it wastes gasoline and shortens engine life. The DEP’s action towards reducing illegal idling coincides with the air quality initiatives set out in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC.

Via NYC Gov