Leaf Blower Warfare All Year Long

 

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I just opened my back door to let my dog out on a beautiful, crisp autumn morning and what do I hear? Birds chirping? My fountain gently gurgling?  No. I hear the menacing roar of backpack leaf blowers destroying the potential beauty of a fall morning.  In a more rational world, I could stand outside sip my cup of coffee, soak up a little vitamin D, watch my dog sniff around and listen to the birds.  These are reasonable expectations that most people have when they buy a house with a yard. These are simple everyday pleasures that research tells us are vital to our health. Encounters with a peaceful natural setting bring down your blood pressure and your cortisol level.  A brief communing with nature before heading off to the roadways and highways to work would be beneficial to anyone’s health. This is what our tiny intown yards were meant to be, a respite from the noise and chaos of the city, but now our yards are the cause of the noise and chaos in the city.  It’s a leaf blower warzone.  Our neighborhoods have become uninhabitable for humans and birds alike.

The good news is gas leaf blowers have been banned or restricted in more than 170 municipalities in 31 states across the U.S. and the landscaping industry has adjusted with more environmentally friendly practices using brooms, rakes and electric blowers.  Where these bans are in place, landscaping companies are still in business and prices haven’t gone up.

 

 

If Leaf Blowers Are Destroying Your Quality of Life, Please Write a Letter And Get This Issue On Lawmakers’ Radar

It makes a difference when lawmakers hear from you. Whenever a new leaf blower ban is put in place, the mayor or city council person interviewed says emails flooded their offices with leaf blower complaints and that’s why changes, bans, and restrictions were made.  Your email matters.

 Along with that, we need to educate journalists and lawmakers about the extreme downside of gas leaf blowers. Many people who would care about the leaf blower problem, are unaware. Share your personal story of dealing with the noise and toxic exhaust from leaf blowers and then add few facts. You’re done!  Now send that one letter to every lawmaker and journalist you can find an email address for.  If you don’t, then my email is the only one they’ll receive. If they receive 100+ emails about this issue, then it becomes something they’ll pay attention to.  Here’s my letter:

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Dear Senator Lewis;

Please take a moment to read about a significant neighborhood problem affecting many of us on a daily basis: The Ubiquitous Leaf Blower Landscaping Crew.

Gas Leaf Blowers have been banned or restricted in more than 170 municipalities in 31 states across the U.S. and the landscaping industry has adjusted with more environmentally friendly practices using brooms, rakes and electric blowers.  Where these bans are in place, landscaping companies are still in business and prices haven’t gone up.

Many people don’t realize how toxic conventional landscaping practices are for our health and the environment.   Noisy, polluting leaf blowers are destroying the quality of life in our neighborhoods.  When I arrive home from work to the revving and blaring of these engines I wonder what happened to my once peaceful neighborhood.   By demanding an unreasonable overly-manicured pristine golf course landscape the peace of our neighborhood is destroyed and that lowers value of our homes.  The #1 thing most homebuyers look for is a quiet neighborhood.  We’re polluting like mad, to “clean up”? Those leaves are precious and just need to be raked into the backyard compost for next years soil.  

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When homeowners expect these ultra-manicured landscapes, that necessitates a constant leaf blower battle in the neighborhood.  Landscapers claim their equipment is faster but doesn’t explain why they blast away hours on end.  Meanwhile, the rest of us can’t work from home, we can’t open windows, we can’t relax in our garden, we can’t use our screened-in porch, and we can’t enjoy a healthy walk.  You would think law-abiding, tax-paying citizens would have the right to peace on their own property.  Leaf blowers are a public nuisance that substantially interfere with the enjoyment and use of one’s own private property.  

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Leaf blower crews now operate year-round blowing dust on the hottest summer Code Red days and ruining the most beautiful autumn days.  They show up while the homeowner who hired them is at work. Those of us who work from home are left to endure it.  The landscaping company wants to keep a year-round contract even though there is very little to do most months of the year. They seem to want their crews to look busy by making a ton of noise to prove they showed up.  Meanwhile, they’re spewing dangerous pollutants into our air for no reason!  There are no leaves to blow for 9 months of the year, but they blast away at 185 mph whipping up hazardous particles and contaminants at ground speeds greater than a Category 5 hurricane.  (The Husqvarna company claims its Leaf Blower model 580BTS pumps out an airspeed of 206.2 MPH) Epidemiological studies have long recognized stirring up tiny dust particles causes damage to respiratory systems. What’s in this dust and particulate matter? A myriad of unpleasant things such as animal droppings, spores, fungi, pollen, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, brake-lining dust, tire-residue, and heavy metals. 

We’ve banned tiny cigarettes in parks and other outdoor areas because we know how toxic second-hand smoke is, but leaf blower ‘second-hand smoke’ is a thousand times worse and I see them blowing away on every green space in town.  Gas leaf blower exhaust contains many of the same carcinogens found in second-hand cigarette smoke such as Benzene, 1-3 Butadiene, Toluene, and Formaldehyde and these pollutants are discharged into our neighborhood yards and parks in concentrated form.   These are known carcinogens recognized by the World Health Organization.

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The rest of us pay too high a price for someone’s else’s perceived “convenience” and the desire for overly-manicured yards.

An unfortunate myth is that landscaping is a great job for the working man, but on the contrary, the landscaping industry takes advantage of our most vulnerable workers.  Immigrant laborers carry these machines on their backs for up to 12 hours a day.  Given the 115-decibel noise level right at ear level, their hearing will be severely damaged. Only the very best ear protection available would shield them and usually they wear none. They also breathe the toxic exhaust fumes that can lead to COPD or lung cancer.  (Read about one worker here: https://www.fairwarning.org/2017/09/leaf-blower/)

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Another huge disadvantage is the injury done to our bird populations. Studies show birds display PTSD-like symptoms due to the constant din of unnecessary, overly-loud human activity. These birds are unable to successfully raise their young and are driven from their nests. Our songbirds are in decline as the saying goes, “Where birds thrive, people thrive” but birds are being driven out of our yards and neighborhoods.  (Study about birds and noise: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/noise-pollution-makes-birds-so-stressed-they-experience-ptsdlike-symptoms/)

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Don’t underestimate the pollution caused by these machines. Gas Leaf blowers produce 300X more asthma-inducing, smog-causing pollutants than a pickup truck. According to California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) there are 16 million small engines producing 50 MILLION TONS of smog-forming pollutants and in one area of California alone! This is NOT a small problem.

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LINK to California Air Resource Board (CARB)  information. https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/offroad/sore/sm_en_fs.pdf

Here’s information about leaf blower emissions testing: https://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/emissions-test-car-vs-truck-vs-leaf-blower.html

We’ve formed a sustainable yards group and we’re working on educating others about healthier yards and neighborhoods.  Thank you for your consideration of these issues and I hope that our group could meet with you and talk about potential solutions to this problem.

Thank you,

Leslie Nelson Inman

SOURCES:

Study on leaf blower emissions.

LINK: https://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/features/emissions-test-car-vs-truck-vs-leaf-blower.html

California information on small gardening engine pollution. LINK: https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/offroad/sore/sm_en_fs.pdf

Study about Atlanta and Ozone: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935184710218

Atlanta’s Air Quality F for Ozone — Ozone is smog that exacerbates asthma. The report broke down measurements of high ozone days by county. Metro Atlanta, Fulton County earned a score of “F” for ozone pollutions which is basically smog. LINK: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/city-rankings/states/georgia/fulton.html

Georgias’s children’s asthma information 2016: https://dph.georgia.gov/sites/dph.georgia.gov/files/2016%20CHILD%20ASTHMA%20DATA%20SUMMARY%2008.2017.pdf

Landscaping workers suffer ill health.  LINK: https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/02/13/more-pollution-than-cars-gas-powered-gardening-equipment-poses-the-next-air-quality-threat/

 

If You’re Concerned About Migrants and Their Treatment at the Border, What About Those Standing On Your Front Yard?

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Vulnerable workers desperate for jobs who can’t speak English well and most probably have little education are exploited by landscaping companies.  After a period of time in a job like this, is their health intact?   What are we subjecting workers to in order to achieve the wasteful and often toxic “Perfect American Lawn”?

Workers would need the very best hearing protection to save their ears from the onslaught of 90+ decibels at very close range for hours on end, but often they wear none.  The ear’s tiny hair-like cilia are damaged when subjected to noise over 85 dB and once damaged they never regenerate.   “Being around too much loud noise – like using a leaf blower… can cause permanent hearing loss. … And just two hours of operating a leaf blower, which hits 90 decibels, can cause damage and hearing loss.”   LINK: https://www.acsh.org/news/2017/03/21/leaf-blowers-threats-hearing-signal-springs-return-11034

As for the second-hand exhaust from leaf blowers, we recognize the tiny cigarette as a second-hand smoke danger, and yet we allow leaf blower mega-polluters on every campus across the country.  Gas leaf blowers are 1,000Xs worse than the tiny cigarette yet it’s the cigarette we ban because we’ve all had plenty of education about the dangers of 2nd hand cigarette smoke for years.  Harvard and Yale’s campuses have switched to electric landscaping equipment, so they’re living up to their reputation for being ahead of the curve.  They’ve been conscientious enough to read the ample studies easily accessible online and made adjustments to keep their students safe.  Leaf blower exhaust contains many of the same carcinogens as second-hand smoke.  An EPA report about the carcinogens found in the exhaust from leaf blowers and other lawn equipment:  “Adverse health effects from gas lawn and garden equipment emissions are well known. Benzene, 1,3 butadiene, and formaldehyde are listed among the top-ranking cancer-causing compounds. They cause lymphomas, leukemias, and other types of cancer.” (International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization)” SOURCE LINK: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/banks.pdf

LINK: https://www.almanacnews.com/news/2015/08/31/air-district-report-leaf-blowers-present-health-risks

Even the newest models of 4-stroke leaf blowers produce an amazing amount of particulate matter.  These pollution particles are so tiny they enter the lungs and then move into the bloodstream and the brain.  Studies link these particles to the onset of dementia. A recent study published in BMJ Open, found an association between the neurodegenerative condition and exposure to nitrogen dioxide and microscopic particles known as PM2.5. (Particulate Matter)

LINK: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/9/e022404

 

 

 

 

If You Own Even The Smallest Property, You Own Something Magical

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What kind of land stewardship do you believe in?

If you own even the smallest plot of land

You own something awe-inspiring and magical

You can choose to heal our planet

You can grow food for your family

You can plant native plants

You can save birds, bees, and butterflies

There’s so much potential

Or

You hand your incredible resource over to

The leaf blower crews

Who also routinely spray herbicides and other pesticides

As regular “gardening practices”

Which further add to our environmental degradation

We’re all hoping you’ll make the right choice for the planet.

What If You’re Trying to Save Pollinators, But Others Around You Are Spraying To Kill Them

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Some of us spend money, time and effort planting to help birds and pollinators survive, and yet those who live around us undermine our efforts at every turn!  The unnecessary lawn chemicals and mosquito spraying decimate the pollinators we’re trying to save. Those of us who are planting for pollinators need protection.

If you are experiencing something similar, take the frustration you feel and write one email and then send that email to every lawmaker, council person, and journalist you can find an email address for. If you don’t, then my email is the only one they’ll get!  Every time you send an email about your experiences, you’re educating someone.  A journalist may take an interest and share the problem with a wider audience.  To make an idea stick it needs to be repeated 5 or 6 times, so let’s keep sharing and writing. 

I decided to send my email to Senator Hansen first because of the excellent work she’s doing to save wildlife and native plants in Delaware.

Dear Senator Hansen,
     Thank you for highlighting the crucial importance of native plants and their essential role in restoring habitat for birds and pollinators. We need an Ecological Extinction Task Force like yours in every state. Many people across the country are very concerned about the potential extinction of our pollinators and the lack of native plants in landscaping and we’re trying to make a difference in our own yards.
     I’d like to suggest an idea to help the homeowners who are working so hard to ‘Garden for Wildlife’. Let’s reward those that have pollinator and bird habitat yards with a tax break. We need incentives for doing the right thing!
     For example, the American Bee Project gives agricultural tax benefits for land used for European honey bee foraging. Why don’t we give tax breaks to homeowners who provide a place for our native pollinators to forage, breed, and nest safely?
     Pesticide drift is a real concern. Many pollinator gardeners need protection from their neighbors who spray for mosquitoes.  Science tells us there are much smarter and safer answers if there truly is a mosquito issue. Mosquito spraying for profit is a growing industry that is decimating our beneficial insect population.
      Likewise, nothing fits the ‘unnecessary’ category more than lawn chemicals which are completely uncalled-for and they destroy habitat for our ground-nesting bees. 70% of our native bees nest in the ground. These useless and dangerous chemicals kill pollinators many other beneficial insects.
     With the constant loss of habitat, pollinators and birds need to find sanctuary in our yards. Let’s recognize and safeguard homeowners who are making better choices. Pollinator Friendly Yards are a part of the solution to a big problem and we need help and protection.  Pollinators and birds deserve to have a refuge native-plant-habitat yards.
      Thank you for considering this. We can all work to save pollinators from extinction and we’ll be saving humanity in the process.
Leslie Nelson Inman
pollinatorfriendlyyards.com
Pollinator Friendly Yards on Facebook
Sources:
Leaf blowers 300x more polluting than a car:
9 billion gallons of water used a day on landscape watering
Some birds so stressed by noise it appears they have PTSD

HOW I BECAME A LANDSCAPE REFORMER

I have to give my little dog, Teddy, credit for starting me on my landscaping reform journey. I have a habit of walking my dog in downtown Atlanta historic neighborhoods, so I can gaze nostalgically at the century-old bungalows and Coca­Cola mansions in Atlanta’s oldest suburbs.

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Over time, I became distracted on our walks  by the little ‘caution’ signs on every front yard, and I was seeing these signs more frequently. I didn’t want my dog on those lawns; I didn’t want her to even sniff those yards. What could the landscapers be putting on the grass that warrants a caution sign? And why would homeowners want something potentially dangerous in their yard?  The last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the answers to those questions.

The answers have become my environmental preoccupation, and as my neighborhood has become more upscale, it’s become an issue I am living with more and more every day. My home has become a little island of organic in a sea of Trugreen/Chemlawn and ‘Mow and Blow Guys’ with their loud, polluting leaf blowers.

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Conventional landscaping practices do nothing to promote a yard as a healthy, functioning ecosystem. Of course, most homeowners are not thinking of their yard as a functioning ecosystem. Yards are seen solely as a means to enhance the home, not as a way to sustain birds or pollinators. Landscapers help homeowners choose the usual turfgrass, Begonias, and Crepe Myrtles, and then manicure it weekly, OCD-­style. Not a twig or a fallen leaf rests upon these perfect lawns.

Yards are not considered nature. Lawns are extensions of living ­rooms, and the grass is living room carpet; the outdoor carpet needs constant vacuuming (or blowing), so the leaf blower brigade is needed as often as possible.

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The advent of these disagreeable tools—the leaf blower and lawn chemicals—have made it possible to have a compulsively neat and tidy yard. It takes a great deal of herbicide, glyphosate, and polluting machinery to achieve this ‘non­natural’ look.

Neighbors like me pay a high price with the constant leaf ­blower noise, along with the chemicals that flow into the local stream every time it rains. If you use the normal rakes and brooms that we all grew up with, then you’ll have a ‘good enough yard’, but apparently that’s not good enough. For many homeowners, it’s golf-course-style landscaping and whatever it takes to achieve that is fine!

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To enumerate some landscaping issues more concisely, I find that conventional landscapers fail to understand these concepts:

  1. Biodiversity is highly desirable, but conventional landscapers plant monoculture turfgrass. (Scientific American, “Outgrowing the Traditional Grass Lawn ­ weed-free flowerless grass lawns are a monoculture in microcosm.)
  2. Native plants are best for providing food for birds, but conventional landscapers plant exotics. (Audubon.org, “10 Plants for a Bird-Friendly Yard“­ – insects evolved to feed on native plants and birds raise their young on insects.)

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3. Peace and quiet allows birds to call, communicate, and survive, but conventional        landscapers blast raging leaf blowers. (Current Biology,Noise Pollution Changes Avian Communities and Species Interactions” – Humans have drastically changed much of the world’s acoustic background with anthropogenic sounds that are markedly different in pitch and amplitude than sounds in most natural habitats [1, 2 , 3 and 4]. This novel acoustic background may be detrimental for many species, particularly birds [1].)

     4.Organic is healthy, but conventional landscapers use 2, 4-­D, Mecoprop-­P and Dicambia and other herbicides on lawns and glyphosate on mulched areas and hardscapes. (EPA.gov­, “EPA Proposes Stronger Standards for People Applying Riskiest Pesticides” – The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing regulations that will limit exposure to dangerous pesticides. These new rules are meant to reduce the incidence of diseases associated with pesticide exposure, including non­-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and lung cancer.)

screenshot-2016-05-07-at-10-3    5. Fall leaves make a nutrient-­rich mulch and a place for wildlife to look for insect food, but conventional landscapers cart them away. (Chicago Tribune, “Autumn leaves can add valuable nutrients to garden” – fallen leaves turn into a rich soil amendment when you add them to your compost pile.)

     6.Fragrant native flowers draw pollinators, but conventional landscapers use polluting machinery that spews raw, unburnt fuel along with noxious fumes which make it more difficult for pollinators to smell/detect the life-sustaining plants they need. (Environmental Health Perspectives, “Air Pollution: Floral Scents Going Off the Air?” – Air pollution interferes with the ability of bees and other insects to follow the scent of flowers to their source, undermining the essential process of pollination, concludes a study by University of Virginia researchers.)

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Included in this post are just a few of the infographics I’ve made and shared around social media in hopes of changing the current conventional landscaping paradigm.

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