With fans and fliers in hand, the 13-year-old approached the cars waiting in their middle school parking lot.
After some formalities -- excuse me, ma'am; pardon me, sir -- they pulled out their prepared message: Could you turn off your car? It's hurting us kids.
Students on the leadership council of Pleasanton Middle School shared information Wednesday afternoon with waiting parents on how letting a car idle in a parking lot can lead to poor air quality around a school, impacting vulnerable children and adults.
The awareness event was organized through the Bay Area Air District's Spare the Air program.
Car exhaust can exacerbate asthma, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland nurse Mary Frazier said, which is of particular concern because 20 percent of emergency room visits at that hospital are related to asthma, she said.
"The emissions from the exhaust of the cars gets into the lungs of the children," she said. This can lead to a child missing school because they have to go to a hospital for treatment.
Sitting in one's car and running the engine causes benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics to be released in a contained area, which children breathe in as they make their way to the carpool area. Children who has asthma are particularly sensitive to car exhaust, Flannigan said.
"Air quality around schools during the pickup hours is a public health concern," Bay Area Air District spokesman Tom Flannigan said as he stood in front of Pleasanton Middle, watching as students encouraged waiting parents to turn off their cars.
"Idling is really unnecessary, and it can get the air really polluted and stuffy," said Pleasanton Middle eighth-grader Ishana Ram. "A lot of times, they don't know what they're doing by not stopping their cars."
Ram walked around the parking lot with her peers, gently knocking on car windows and asking parents to consider turning off their cars while they wait. Ram handed them a small fan to keep themselves cool, rather than relying on the car's air conditioning.
"It's a chance for everyone to be so much healthier when they grow up if they can just turn their car off," said 13-year-old Zoe Whelan, who has asthma. "It's something so simple."