The Worst Urban Environmental Problem Of Our Time: Leaf Blowers. Extreme Pollution. Extreme noise.

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Don’t underestimate the pollution caused by these machines.  Leaf blowers produce 300x more hydrocarbons (carcinogenic gas) than a car.  Cars have sophisticated filters like catalytic converters which greatly improve their hydrocarbon output. According to California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), there are 16 million small engines producing 50 MILLION TONS of smog-forming pollutants in just one area of California alone!

 
Ms. Baker,

Please google “leaf blower bans” to learn about the many states and cities that are ending the extreme noise and air pollution caused by leaf blowers and landscaping crews.

Gas Leaf Blowers have been banned or restricted in more than 350 municipalities across 31 states 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.

Don’t underestimate the pollution caused by these machines.  Leaf blowers produce 300x more hydrocarbons (carcinogenic gas) than a car.  Cars have sophisticated filters like catalytic converters which greatly improve their hydrocarbon output. 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.

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. The #1 thing most homebuyers want is a quiet neighborhood. By demanding an overly manicured landscape, we’re destroying the soundscape and that’s going to lower the value of our homes.

When homeowners unrealistically demand that every leaf and twig are removed off their lawns, the result is a leaf blower battle-ground in the neighborhood. Landscapers claim this equipment is faster but they blast away at deafening levels for hours-on-end all day long. 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 interferes with the enjoyment and use of one’s own private property — a basic right.

Leaf blower crews now operate year-round blowing dust on the hottest summer Code Red days and ruining the most beautiful fall 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 toxic pollution into our air for no reason! There are no leaves to blow for 9 months of the year, but they blast away at 200 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 these particles cause damage to respiratory systems. What’s in this dust and particulate matter? A myriad of unpleasant things such as dried 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 park, campus and 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 else’s perceived “convenience” and the desire for unrealistic, hyper-clean lawns by an overly-loud, overly- polluting machine..

Don’t believe the unfortunate myth that landscaping is a great job for the working man. 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, their hearing will be damaged. Only the very best ear protection available would shield them and usually, they wear none. They also breathe the toxic exhaust fumes which may 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 overly-loud human activity. These birds are unable to successfully raise their young and are driven from their nests. With our yards sounding like industrial zones, will birds be able to successfully raise the next generation? (Study about birds and noise: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/noise-pollution-makes-birds-so-stressed-they-experience-ptsdlike-symptoms/)

This is NOT a small problem.  Let’s fix it.

LINK to 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

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 earned an “F” grade. 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/

Leslie Nelson Inman

Pollinator Friendly Yards  on Facebook

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