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    Leaf Blowers Blow a Lot More than Leaves

    by Janelle Sorensen

    Leaf blowers drive me crazy. And, I know I’m not the only one – the noise alone is enough to test the patience of a saint. I mean, they sound like a giant dentist drill or a mammoth mosquito, how unpleasant can you get? Beyond imaginative associations, the facts about their auditory irritation are no laughing matter. Jane Dale Owen writes for CLEAN Houston about how loud these machines can be:

    • Zero Air Pollution Los Angeles (ZAPLA) says that blower use at one residence impacts eight to fourteen others.
    • According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the noise induced by leaf blowers at 90 decibels exceeds the threshold of danger at 85 decibels and can seriously impair hearing. Leaf blowers are used mainly in residential areas where many types of residents are exposed to their pollutants and noise. This population includes homemakers, retirees, day sleepers, young toddlers, the ill or disabled, and pets.
    • Those at highest risk are the blower operators – gardeners and yard workers, who regularly omit wearing protective headphones and respiratory gear.
    • According to one manufacturer’s lobbyist, at a distance of fifty feet, the average blower measures 70-75 decibels. But the World Health Organization states that in order to have a healthy environment daytime noise levels should not exceed 55 decibels.
    • Excessive noise pollution is associated with increased blood pressure, headaches, ringing ears, loss of sleep, lower level in students’ ability to learn, and a lower frustration tolerance. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry stated that “excessive noise exposure during pregnancy can influence embryonic development.”

    But they’re more than just a noise nuisance – they can be a real threat to your health.

    Most obviously, gas-fueled leaf blowers spew out air pollution – one hour of use creates as much air pollution as a car driven for 100 miles. In addition, consider these disturbing air pollutants – what the leaf blower is blowing around besides leaves.

    The particulate matter (PM) swept into the air is composed of dust, fecal matter, (yep, critter poo), pesticides, fungi, chemicals, fertilizers, spores, and street dirt which can contain lead and gasoline – among other things. There have even been cases of viral diseases being spread by the use of leaf blowers.

    Do you use a leaf blower? Maybe it’s time to buy a good rake instead (contrary to popular belief, it’s just as fast – check out this story about a grandma who proves a rake and broom is as fast as a leaf blower). Raking is also good exercise.

    Have a neighbor who refuses to lay off the leaf blower? Share these tips for safe and courteous use of leaf blowers.

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