Leaf blower use on lawns, gardens, driveways is a source of pollution and noise that can significantly impact our environment and health. In addition, the use of hot, dry winds directed at plants desiccates roots and leaves, while drying and stripping away top soil.
Noise pollution may be the first problem for those anywhere near these machines. Blowers create 90-100 decibels at close range and measure 70-75 decibels at 50 feet away. The EPA advises that levels over 75 decibels cause hearing loss and are detrimental to human health. Children are especially vulnerable. The World Health Organization recommends noise levels not exceed 55 decibels for human health.
Air pollution, both emissions and particulate matter that becomes airborne, including dust, pollen, salt, lead, pesticides, fungi, mold, spores, and fecal matter, is a lingering effect long after the blower has been turned off or moved down the street. Particulate matter takes hours to settle and exacerbates allergies, pulmonary diseases and cardiac conditions. Children and elderly are most threatened.
A 2011 study by Edmunds compared emissions from a 6200 pound 2011 Ford F-150 Raptor to emissions for the most commonly used 2-stroke engine leaf blower and a 4-stroke engine blower. The dirty 2-stroke engine came in at 299 times more polluting than the truck.
Emissions Test Results (in grams per minute)
||Non-Methane Hydrocarbons (NMHC)
||Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
||Carbon Monoxide (CO)
|2011 Ford Raptor
|Ryobi 4-stroke leaf blower
|Echo 2-stroke leaf blower
Communities that had banned or restricted the use of leaf blowers include hundreds of municipalities and counties in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York, as of 2010 as per Consumer Reports . If we are truly serious about reducing the use of fossil fuels, reducing pollution and improving the health of our environment and citizens, one significant action would be to discontinue the use of leaf blowers, use rakes and brooms when necessary and understand and accept that a lawn is a living, growing thing, not a manufactured carpet to be kept pristine.
Thanks to Paul Tankel for this information!