Richard Gregg, Operating Director of Healthcare Programs in the Sawyer Business School, is spearheading a campaign that would prohibit vehicles from idling on any school property in Massachusetts.
“Years ago, we banned the use of tobacco products and eliminated secondhand smoke from all school properties in Massachusetts,” said Gregg. “Now it’s time to ban unnecessary engine idling. This is the best way to ensure clean and healthy air for our schoolchildren, teachers, staff and school bus drivers.”
Sen. Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and Rep. Stephen R. Canessa (D-New Bedford), a Suffolk alumnus who had Gregg as a professor, recently filed a bill, “An Act to Improve School Campus Air Quality,” with 48 cosponsors.
Gregg’s mission began one day in 2001 in Lenox while he was waiting for his daughter and son outside of their school. His vehicle was shut off, but other parents sat in their cars with the engines running. Gregg soon noticed that people all over town were idling their cars for long periods.
“What comes out of that is highly toxic for both human health and the environment," said Gregg. "Motor vehicle exhaust can cause a variety of respiratory ailments, and exhaust from diesel vehicles has been linked to lung cancer.”
A 35-year-old Massachusetts law prohibits idling a vehicle in excess of five minutes. It is estimated that more than 1 million people would be protected by the proposed legislation banning all unnecessary idling on school grounds. Violators would face a $100 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses.
“The goal of our “idle-free” efforts is to raise awareness for people of all ages and from all walks of life about the need to keep our air clean and healthy. And it’s working.” said Gregg, chairman of the American Lung Association of Massachusetts’ “Idle-Free” Massachusetts Campaign.