Monday, October 4, 2010

Ban Leaf Blowers in DC

Once autumn takes hold, leaf blower season will be in full bloom.

It's time to ban leaf blowers.

When leaf blowers were first used, fewer people worked at home, and fewer people were disturbed by the 70+ decibel level of most gas-powered leaf blowers. That's 70+ decibels at 50 feet; it's a lot louder when you're walking right by one. When a leaf blower is in action nearby, it's hard, sometimes impossible, to think. Can you imagine a leaf blower being used in an office hallway while people are working? No way would that ever be allowed to happen during work hours.

Leaf blowers destroy the beauty of autumn.

Leaf blowers have their supporters, because people are using them and hiring contractors who use them. It is easier to push leaves with a blower than with a rake. Banning leaf blowers might make it a little bit more expensive to employ yard companies, but not necessarily. Leaf blower negatives far outweigh any benefits we get from these machines.

A gas-powered leaf blower emits a lot of pollution:  If you want the details, here's a thorough analysis (PDF). Good air quality in the Washington, DC area is often elusive, and a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers would improve the quality of the the air we breathe.

Leaf blowers have another pollution problem, too, one that is especially troublesome: Pollen, dog poop and other debris are usually taken care of by nature when it rains. These bad things get washed away. But thanks to leaf blowers, the pollen or dog poop bits in your neighbor's yard get blown into your yard. Next time you walk by a leaf blower, don't just cover your ears, but cover your mouth, nose and eyes to keep those blowing pollutants at bay.

Dr. Andrew Weil makes the good point that the 180 mile per hour hot wind that leaf blowers create is bad for the lawns we want to protect: "Leafblowers literally scour the earth: stripping off topsoil, desiccating roots, and killing vital soil-dwelling organisms, while, at the same time, propelling into the air clouds of dirt, dust and dangerous contaminants."

Electric leaf blowers are quieter than gas-powered leaf blowers, but still noisy enough to make you wish autumn would go away. And leaf blowers often arrive in herds; the cacophony of blowers is intolerable.

One person posting on the Cleveland Park Listserv put it this way: "Some of us live or work at home; some of us are sick and dying in our beds. The leaf-blower sound finds us all even if our windows and doors are carefully shut. For those of us who have babies that start screaming when the noise starts, even when the windows and doors are closed, that is surely an indicator that noise is too loud."

It's often said that we because we live in an "urban environment" we should have to put up with many obnoxious things, including leaf blowers. I disagree. I think that we should strive for better city living, a better quality of life, and a quieter city.

It's easy to quantify the decibel level of leaf blowers, but that's not the entire problem. Leaf blowers have a particularly odious noise, making it hard to think, and impossible to enjoy the nearby outdoors. And walking by one is an almost intolerable experience.

Leaf blowers are relatively new to the American landscape: They didn't become widely used until the 1980's. We did fine without them for centuries, and we can have even more livable communities without leaf blowers.

If leaf blowers were once a good idea, they no longer are. Let's ban them in the District of Columbia.


  1. this is s moronic...your liberal nanny state psycho babble is far more polluting and corruptive than a leaf blower could ever be. Just admit your real problem is that your neighbors are hiring workers to do their yard work and you don't like it.

  2. Whoa! . . .
    someone didn't have their Wheaties this morning.

    And, Bill, we know you're so jealous, admit it! :)

  3. Bill- Beautifully wrtitten and spot-on. We're sick and tired of debris blowers' pollution as well, and encourage you to push for a ban in D.C. Check out and for more...

  4. Seriously people, you are talking about banning leaf blowers!!!!!!

    Sorry to get all political here but it seems to me the fervor associated with the upcoming election is being fueled by a fear of people like you. Average people are incensed that while they bust their butts working two jobs to keep clothes on the backs of their kids others are plotting on how to ban leaf blowers. This type of behavior is elitist, crazy and out of touch.

    Come on folks, you are better than this.

  5. Average people are incensed that while they bust their butts working two jobs to keep clothes on the backs of their kids others are plotting on how to ban leaf blowers. This type of behavior is elitist, crazy and out of touch.

    I'm not sure what the commentator means, exactly, but if he or she is implying that banning leaf blowers is going to put yard workers out of work, he's wrong. Has he every heard of something called a "rake"?

    In fact, if you believe the assertion that it takes longer to rake a yard than to use a leaf blower, yard workers will make more money because they'll be working longer.

    But there's another important point that the commentator neglects: Workers who use leaf blowers often have inadequate hearing protection, if they have any at all. Working with a leaf blower day after day is going to cause hearing loss. And that's a sad thing. Banning leaf blowers will help prevent hearing loss among yard workers.

  6. He or she is implying that the Robert's of the world are so busy worrying about the noise and possible airborne fecal matter associated with leaf blowers that they fail to notice that others are more worried about a good paying job, their kids education and a government that doesn't piss away their hard earned money on hearings about yard equipment.

    "This type of behavior is elitist, crazy and out of touch."

  7. Others are more worried about a good paying job, their kids education....

    Banning leaf blowers doesn't take a way jobs. People can use rakes. Workers aren't going to be paid any less per hour because they're raking leaves instead of blowing them around. If anything, yard workers will make more money because it takes longer (by some estimates) to rake than to blow leaves around.

    And when workers use rakes they don't run the real risk of hearing loss. Hearing protection, as I mentioned, is often non-existent, or inadequate.

    A ban on leaf blowers is pro-worker.

  8. Elitist sounds more like it could be used to describe the small group of "leaf blowers" that cause pain and suffering to so many others on schedules that are convenient for them.

  9. Elitist? Or E-leaf-ist? Join COMSOPEAPOOL! Citizens On the March to Save Our Precious Ears And Protect Our Organic Leaves!

  10. It's wrong for one homeowner to disturb the peace and quiet of dozens. Sure, decades ago it didn't matter because almost nobody worked at home. But now that so many people do work from home leaf blowers are a real problem.

    Why do we need leaf blowers anyway? They're no faster than using a rake. The leaf blower manufacturers are surely laughing at our gullibility.

  11. What a bunch of that old, familiar, brown stuff. "I don't like leaf blowers, so they must be banned."


    "I am an important liberal and know better than you, or anyone else, except for another important liberal, so leaf blowers must be banned."


    "The bigoted, racist, leaf blowers hurt the ears of the oppresed workers who are forced by the right wing imperalist capitalists, so leaf blowers must be banned."


    "The penalties must be strenghted, to make operatinga leaf blower a Hate Crime. Lock them up throw away the key."


    How about we just "leaf," pun intended, this alone? We do not need another law banning something. The noise is temporary so get over yourselves.

  12. Anonymous' arguments against banning leaf blowers are full of rhetoric, but lack any substance. The facts are: Leaf blowers injure the hearing of the people who use them all day long, day after day. Leaf blowers make it hard or impossible to work at home when they're around. Leaf blowers pollute. Leaf blowers scatter dog feces and other derbies.

    It's wrong, in my opinion, to belittle the damage that leaf blowers do to the workers who use them, as "anonymous" does.

    One leaf blower is bad enough, but leaf blowers often come in groups, significantly increasing their noise. Again, that noise doesn't just disturb people at home, but harms the workers, too.

    Let me suggest to "anonymous" that you use facts and substance when debating, rather than weak sarcasm. The absence of any facts in your comments only helps prove the case that leaf blowers should be banned.

    Maybe you should observe leaf blowers in action: If you do, you'll come the conclusions that leaf blowers are hardly better than rakes. And people who use leaf blowers often spend much of their time blowing around a few leaves.

    I am an important liberal and know better than you, or anyone else, except for another important liberal, so leaf blowers must be banned...The penalties must be strenghted, to make operating a leaf blower a Hate Crime. Lock them up throw away the key.

  13. Wow, what an idiotic article. Perhaps cars, planes and boats should be banned. They are all noisy and polute. Perhaps the author of this article should be banned. They produce noise and polute.

  14. Noise restrictions are an important and integral part of urban life. I'm sure that even the person who wrote that the article about banning leaf blowers was "idiotic," would agree that car mufflers are a good idea and that trash pickup shouldn't happen at 3am.

    Nobody's calling for cars, boats and planes to be banned. Just leaf blowers, which nobody needs. Argument by exaggeration is pointless. But the facts are that leaf blowers injure workers who use them, and disturb people who work at home.

    Don't fall for the propaganda and advertising put out by the leaf blower industry. We don't need leaf blowers at all.

  15. Sure, a rake is faster for a small area, but try raking all day. Your elbows will wear out very quickly. (I know this from experience.)



  17. People around here blow year round. They don't wait... they do whatever they want to.. Blow and go. the people who hire yard workers who blow and go are worse than the people actually doing it in my opinion.



  19. Some inventions aren't good ones, and leaf blowers fall into that category. Read what Dr. Weil has to say about them:

    It's time to get rid of them. I'd say let's get rid of them just in residential neighborhoods, but after reading, Dr. Weil, I understand how bad leaf blowers are for the people who use them. Everyone should read that. Dr. Weil is a very smart person.

  20. At least someone using a leaf blower nearby will stop within 30 minutes or so. At my house I use one once every six weeks or so for about 15 minutes. However, if I raked it would take me the better part of two solid days. But if we're going to ban things that make loud noises then how about also banning buzz saws -- which can be used in the same location not just all day but for weeks at a time as a home remodel takes place.

  21. How about a law requiring all homeowners to be at home while leaf blowers are in use? I bet that if people had to be at home while lawn companies operated leaf blowers, 90 percent of the people wouldn't use these loud machines.

    People wouldn't employ leaf blower companies if they had to hear that noise, too.

    One leaf blower can make it impossible for everyone in the surrounding houses to enjoy the outdoors. That isn't right.

  22. I wish I lived in a world where leaf blowers could be banned, but alas I do not. They are here to stay.

    I do wish, however, that some common-sense rules applied.

    In my neighborhood, the lawn companies, embassies, and apartment-complex employees use leaf blowers to keep their property free of DIRT. Not just leaves. I have watched them blow a single LEAF down the street onto someone else's property. I have watched them use leaf-blowers while it was RAINING, to blow a small driveway clear of a sixteenth-inch of water. I see them on a near daily basis blow the tiny amount of dirt that normally accumulates on a city street from around the cars parked on the street. I have watched them blowing dirt in 15 mph winds.

    One day, when I objected, the lawncare company employee started screaming at me that they HAVE to do this, because the OTHER people are doing it TOO! They HAVE to blow it back to the other side of the street.

    It is insanity.

    There is no law, no ordinance, and no ban, that will fix this problem.

    1. Insanity indeed! It would make slightly more sense if they were at least vacuuming-up the leaves using a considerably quieter and cleaner electric motor and then mulching them, instead of just blowing them around uselessly! As for trying to dry the driveway in the rain, that's the craziest thing I've heard in QUITE a while!!

      But take heart, it's not quite as hopeless as you make it sound! Some 400 cities and towns have already banned or strictly regulated the use of leaf blowers :

  23. Very good topic to discuss. Good writeup friend.