leaf blower facts

Noise can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Many gas leaf blowers impact the operator’s ears at 100 decibels or more. [Transcript (Johnson) p. 14; Transcript (Banks) p. 19; Banks2, p. 4] For comparison, a table saw runs at 105 dB and a live rock concert at 108-114 dB. 110 dB is the average human pain threshold and 16 times as loud as 70 dB [Industrial Noise Control] 91 decibels for 2 hours or 100 decibels for only 15 minutes a day can result in permanent hearing loss according to the CDC. Even exposure to an average of 75 decibels over a lifetime can result in permanent hearing loss. [Fink, p. 2] "More often than not…the noise that causes sensorineural hearing loss is not one deafening bang but decades’ worth of exposure to the high-decibel accessories of daily life: leaf blowers, car horns, highway traffic, movie theater sounds, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, loud music, and so on." - Harvard Medical School Special Report, Hearing Loss: A Guide to Prevention and Treatment

Dirty two-stroke engines are held to lower emission standards than cars.

"Compared with trucks, automobiles, and power plants, two-stroke engines are a relatively small portion of total fossil-fuel use and polluting emissions. But they are an anomaly on the modern environmental scene: At a time when car, truck, and aircraft engines are becoming dramatically cleaner and more efficient, and when power plants are moving to more sustainable energy sources, two-stroke engines are grossly dirty, dangerous, wasteful, and polluting." [Huntington CALM] With so many alternatives on the market, GLBs should be a thing of the past, yet the EPA and other regulatory bodies still allow them on the market.

Landscape contractors handling GLBs on a regular basis are endangering their health.

Regular exposure to GLBs can result in migraines, cardiovascular disease, permanent hearing loss, and a variety of other illnesses. While landscape companies may claim that bans on GLBs negatively impact their bottom line and force their employees to work longer hours, little attention is paid to health impacts. Leaf blowing is an entry-level job where the worker has little job security or control over the equipment he must use. OSHA policy requires that employers use safe equipment to protect workers (e.g. battery-powered blowers) before requiring workers to use protective equipment, such as hearing protectors. Hearing protectors are often not effective in preventing hearing loss because of their poor quality and the need for even the high quality protectors to fit correctly. [Elkins2, p. 3] Many lawn care services are not compliant with OSHA regulations and the workers are subjected to risks from cancer causing agents and permanent hearing loss.

People are not the only ones impacted; the health of our pets is at risk.

According to Vallard Forsythe, DVM: It is very well known that particulate matter such as dust, dirt, and debris from the environment can pose a tremendous health challenge for dog, cats, and virtually all other mammals. Extra particulate matter such as the debris aerosolized by leaf blowers pose a sharply increased risk for a variety of health problems for our domestic species. The blasting "on and off" sounds made with leaf blowers has a definite impact on small animals "fight or flight" response, causing an immediate release of cortisol into the bloodstream. Especially with cats, this taxes the body and leads to a surge in blood glucose almost instantly.

Contact the Humane Society, ASPCA, and other animal/vet organizations to spread the word and gain support for blower bans that will protect our pets.

All out bans on GLBs has proven to be more effective than enforcing local noise ordinances.

"Enforcement of the current regulation in DC is either non-existent or ineffective resulting in demands that the DC Council to do something about noisy leaf blowers. Current enforcement requires the presence of an inspector with a noise meter at the time of the violation, and that is not practical, but the new legislation will be much easier to enforce." [Quiet Clean DC] Los Angeles has struggled since the inception of its regulation banning GLBs usage within 500 feet of residences. The law was put in place in 1998.

Even electric and battery powered blowers can have detrimental health and environmental effects.

Some seemingly more environmentally friendly blowers still run at decibel levels higher than 65, and if used unresponsively, at the highest setting still kick up as many particulates, dust and debris as their gas powered cousins. Leaves should be left in flower beds whenever possible in order to provide a necessary layer of protection during cooler months, allowing hibernating insects a safe place to over-winter. Germany's Ministry for the Environment called leaf blowers too loud, polluting, and that they pose a fatal threat to insects. [ BBC, 2019]