The Real Deal: Yea or nay to gas leaf blowers?

The Real Deal: Yea or nay to gas leaf blowers?

By Gary Feldman

The first gas leaf blowers were developed with two-stroke engines and are still used to this very day.  According to Fortune magazine, engines of this type are “extremely reliable, maneuverable, lightweight, yet powerful and inexpensive” but they are also “the dirtiest engines on the face of the Earth.”

Operating a commercial leaf blower for just one hour emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a new passenger car about 1,100 miles, roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Denver, for more than 15 hours of driving. (California Air Resources Board)

In the 1970s when gas leaf blowers were introduced in the U.S., they were already being banned by places like Carmel, Calif., due to the noise and emissions impact on the environment, and here we are today. 

A devastating assault on our lungs, nature and the planet, gas leaf blowers, running on a mix of the combustion of oil and gas, unleash carcinogenic and volatile organic compounds including, but not limited to carbon monoxide, methane, benzene, butadiene, and formaldehyde. The soot on our windowsills and dust in our homes are not benign.

Not only does the gas leaf blower itself create intense pollution, but the wind force from it spreads all materials that are on the ground.  Pesticides, yard chemicals, mold, leaf litter, dirt, pee and poop from domestic animals and outdoor wildlife are kicked up into the air where particles can trigger asthma attacks, severe allergies, COPD symptoms, headaches, eye and throat irritation, and the list goes on.   Folks, it doesn’t stop here.  Insects create droppings as well.  People also spit on the ground.  Think about the bacteria, viruses, and disease spores we are inhaling. 

To top it off the petroleum (fossil fuel) from the gas blowers form invisible bubbles that are suspended in the air.  These bubbles hold onto toxic substances, and the climate is holding down more toxins now than ever before due to ozone depletion.  Along with this changing atmosphere comes the evolution of new viruses.

Let’s not forget about cancer due to inhaling the gas, and cancer won’t forget about us.  Often triggered by environmental conditions that may persist as cells divide is a chemical modification of DNA or other molecules called methylation that breaks down immunity. 

The Respiratory Health Association states:  “The engines on gas-powered leaf blowers create air pollution that can cause significant impact to the lungs.  A combination of chemicals that contribute to ground-level ozone, as well as fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) can be inhaled by people using the equipment as well as people nearby.  Even short-term exposure to particle pollution and ozone-forming chemicals generated by the machines has been proven to cause or contribute to health concerns like asthma, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, COPD, and early death.”

Humans of all ages, nature, and not to forget our beloved pets, are suffering needlessly for this excess spewing of gas. 

Leaf blowers also hurt our gardens and trees.  They burn and dehydrate the plants and other greenery, disrupt seeds, and disturb natural mulch.

Debris blown off property and into the street most often winds up back onto the freshly blown site or neighboring landscapes.  Material is rarely moved into a pile where it can be collected and taken to a compost pile for proper recycling.

Now to focus on noise pollution created by gas leaf blowers.  Decibel levels for general daytime noise should be less than 55 dB.  The typical gas-powered leaf blower measures 70-75 dB at 50 feet and louder at any closer distance.  This can permanently damage hearing especially with ongoing exposure.  The nosiest gas leaf blowers average about 80 to 90 decibels, and some emit sound levels in excess of 95 dB, especially dangerous to the operator. 

A study published in the Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies explored the characteristics of sound from gas-powered leaf blowers, stating they have been found to have low-frequency components that allow the sound to travel long distances and penetrate building walls.

Gas-powered leaf blowers are the most inappropriately and overused landscape tool.  If possible, rake your yard and use the leaf litter to add nutrients to your own soil by composting them. The leaves also provide welcome habitats for important pollinators.  Before you choose a landscaping company ask which type of leaf blower they use, and let them know that you are looking for a company that uses battery-powered blowers, and non-toxic chemicals.

There are ordinances limiting or banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in hundreds upon hundreds of communities nationally.  Demand that our municipal leadership passes an ordinance for the safety of all, and one that is adhered to.

Gas-Powered or Battery-Powered Leaf Blowers:  Which is your choice and why?

Share your comments with The Island 360 so as a community we can stand strong together.

Gary Feldman was an innovator in the nutritional supplement retail field with a first-of-its-kind catalog of all vegetarian name-brand supplements and cruelty-free personal care products, and did extensive research for customers.   He is continuing ed instructor.


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