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 be our allies in working against leaf blowers are unaware of how polluting and damaging they are to the environment. 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:
Dear Senator Lewis;
Please take a moment to read about a significant neighborhood problem affecting many of us on a daily basis: The Ever-Present Leaf Blower Landscaping Crew.
Here’s their outrageous business model: Show up regularly where people live and work with the loudest and dirtiest engines imaginable. Then pollute like mad in order to “clean up”. Many cities have recognized the huge drawbacks to gas leaf blowers and that’s why they’ve 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.
Conventional landscaping practices are toxic to our health and the environment. Noisy, polluting leaf blowers crews are destroying the quality of life in our neighborhoods. When I arrive home from work to their revving and blaring, I wonder what happened to my peaceful neighborhood. By demanding an unreasonable, overly-manicured, golf-course-style 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 and yet our neighborhoods are becoming the center of constant noise and chaos. After 45 mins of a wall of roaring sound coming from one crew, then the next one shows up. This is hardly sustainable.
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.
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.
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/)
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/)
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.
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.
Leslie Nelson Inman
Study on leaf blower emissions.
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/