Monday, October 18, 2010

What's So Bad About Leaf Blowers? We'll Tell You

The National Society of Engineering, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, recommended last week that American become a quieter place. Not only can loud noises, such as leaf blowers, cause hearing damage, but noise can cause cardiovascular problems, mental health issues, and decreased task performance (which is to say,  you can't work while a leaf blower is going on.) Heart risks? Yes, noise can lead to heart problems. Leaf blowers are, of course, worse for people who use them hour after hour: Hearing protection is often non-existent or inadequate for yard workers.

We'll say it again: Ban leaf blowers in the District of Columbia. It makes little sense to chase a few leaves with a 180 mile per hour wind being propelled by a 70 decibel machine, when a quiet rake will do the job just as well.

Pediatricians support leaf blower bans, too. The New York Times reports:
Supporters of the bans have letters from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit that say gas-powered leaf blowers pose multiple health threats. They include spreading airborne particles, which can provoke asthma and other respiratory diseases, and potential pollutants like ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. Hearing damage from the engine noise, and eye injuries from pebbles and twigs propelled by blowers are also cited.
Another big problem with leaf blowers is that they also often travel in herds. Sure, you can find the solitary leaf blower, but when they're in groups of two of more, the volume is off the scale.

Dr. Andrew Weil had this to say about leaf blowers:
It goes without saying (but must be said anyway), that leaf blowers pose [a] threat to the health and hearing of the untold numbers of landscape workers who use them on a daily basis, in most cases without adequate protective equipment, for intervals that far exceed OSHA guidelines. Unfortunately, the workers themselves tend to exaggerate the benefits and deny the risks of blowing leaves with machines, which they strongly favor over rakes, for reasons that probably have more to do with symbolism than practicality.
The phenomenal proliferation of leaf blowers has far more to do with marketing than efficiency; indeed, when all the real costs are factored in their alleged benefits don’t even begin to justify their penalties and risks. Cheap to produce, priced to sell, and aggressively marketed, the real function of leaf blowers is to rake in money for the huge corporations that manufacture them.
Banning leaf blowers sounds radical, but it's not. Leaf blowers are relatively new on the American scene and hardly existed before 1980. Some California communities have banned them without the world ending and the District of Columbia can, too.

21 comments:

  1. You can have my leaf blower when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands. (But I see DC's point. I live on a 1 acre lot in VA, and don't think my occasional blower use hurts anyone.)

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    1. You're wrong. Did you read the fugging article?

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  2. OMG I would LOVE it if DC banned what is essentially an industrial strength hairdryer. They are stunningly noisy and just move stuff back into the air. Why people feel the need to blow around leaves is truly a fascinating and bizarre behavior.

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  3. I'd rather they banned you nannies than anything else. If you don't want your pristine air space upset by a lot of "activity" and "noise" and "stuff," it was probably a bad life decision to live in an urban area.

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    1. Hello Dave, you are a jerk and you should try to be more positive. I'm sure your community would appreciate it. And everyone else around you.

      Great argument though: Suffer from the "freedom" of others.

      I'm sure that will work out well in your libertarian fantasy.

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  4. City living doesn't mean that you have to be subjected to all manner of loud and dangerous noises. Saying that if you don't like leaf blowers you shouldn't live in a city is an old and meaningless cliche. We should strive to make our cities more livable, not less. Noise pollution is a serious health and quality of life issue. Let's ban leaf blowers.

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  5. I am not sure where you live in DC, but if I ever heard a leaf blower in my neighborhood, I would be overjoyed that someone was actually maintaining their property.

    The noises that I usually hear are: bass kickers in SUVs that drive by or double-park indefinitely; car alarms; people having conversations (yelling) on the street; fire/police sirens; and so on. You get the point.

    Anyway, I am sure that leaf blowers must be a serious problem for some neighborhoods. But even if you were lucky enough that this was the worst noise you had to deal with, I have to wonder, what will you do about lawnmowers, weed wackers, motorcycles, and power tools, which also make a lot of noise? Do people really use leaf blowers that much more than any of these other things?

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    1. In my neighborhood, lawnmowers and weed wackers are used once per week, at most. But the leaf blowers come out every DAY. Long after the fall leaves have fallen and been cleaned up, the leaf blowers come out, to make the sidewalks and driveways, even the street, as clean of dirt and debris as if it were your kitchen floor.

      Insanity.

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  6. Common sense finally prevailing.

    All leaf blowers are is more $ for the corporations, who don't give a poop for your health or well-being. CEO's generally don't live like us common folk do.

    But I can understand if one lives on a large piece of property, as Robert V. says. (Oh, RV, I'm sure you don't do it every day, as here in DC, right?)

    To Anonymous 1, if you heard them EVERY DAY ALL DAY and used for little patches of land (which is totally ridiculous) and them taking MORE time than if it was raked (I KNOW about raking, I raked 2 1/2 acres when I was a kid with my family, so I'm a great judge on raking), you would notice the difference in noise level. Sorry you have to put up with the noise that you described, though.

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  7. The gardening companies who consistently use leaf blowers allow their staff to blow debris into the streets. Therefore, when it rains the debris flow into sewers, and well, you know, into the river. Furthermore, they do not refrain when cars pass. Twice, my car has been hit by a random pebble blown by a mower towards my vehicle. Get Rid Of Blowers!

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  8. let's start a group to petition homeowners to control their contractor's use of blowers

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  9. I'm torn. I don't really want another law on the books or the government to ban yet another thing. But I would really love to get the Kuwaiti Embassy to stop using leafblowers to clear its entire lot of leaves at 8am EVERY morning for 8 months out of the year. They are a menace to the entire neighborhood.

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  10. OMG. You're all taking this a bit too seriously, don't ya think?
    Our children live in poverty, our schools are abysmal, our HIV infection rate is in line with 3rd world countries, black people live in one side of town and white people live in another. The metro is falling apart and Jim Vance still wears those damn earrings.
    There are more important things to complain about.

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  11. OMG I don't think anyone is making a life-long commitment/full-time job on this issue. They just want to make their world a little quieter.

    Believe me, I'm sure we know there are other priorities/issues in this world (like we didn't know any of the above, duh?!), and I'm sure we have some of those listed above involved in our lives. After all, there are 24 hours a day/seven days a week. Enough time to do a lot.

    I love when people berate a minor issue and state we all must crusade for only the larger ones. (NOT!!)

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  12. Leaf blowers suck as much as they blow. I live in DC, and our neighbor brings out a leaf blower every weekend, no matter the season, to vacate every crumb from his sidewalk. Man that sidewalk is sparkly clean, but what's the point? I rake will do just as well.

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  13. Our neighbors (or at least their hired help) bring out leaf blowers every DAY, to dust their property clean of every speck of dirt, then head to the street to do the same thing there. Year in, year out, only stopping for snow. I can't imagine how clean the INside of their homes are, if this is how particular they are about dust outside.

    It's bizarre.

    It's mostly ambassador's homes (the Libyans on Wyoming Ave. are particularly obsessive about it). Is there something in the State Department rule book that tells them that Americans expect them to keep their property this sterile?

    I used to live in a community that allowed leaf blowers in May and mid-October thru mid-November. That was it. That way, their use was limited almost exclusively to what they were designed for.

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  14. It's morally wrong for one leaf blower/company to disturb the peace and quiet of a dozen homes.

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  15. I'm a little late to the game, but you think the Libyan Residence on Wyoming is bad? Try the Serbians on Kalorama Ave. EVERY day, this guy comes out to blow the dust and dirt and a few leaves on a postage-stamp property that could easily be done with a rake and abroom three days per week max. Even in peak leaf-falling season.

    Where do people get the idea that things outdoors have to be this clean? Or when they do, that it has to be done with such noisy equipment?

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  16. At this moment, I sit at home and my fiancee is trying to work while some neighbor has a contractor using a a leaf blower. He has been trying to do the same thing for the last 3 minutes as the leaf blower blasts into our brains.

    Yes, please please please lets ban leaf blowers. They produce both noise and air pollution.

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  17. The Serbian Embassy employee on Kalorama Road is currently using his leaf blower to blow half an inch of snow off their driveway. He has been at it for over 20 minutes and shows no sign of stopping. He could do a quicker job with a broom, but no, he has to make a huge loud racket on an otherwise quiet, peaceful day with the snow softly falling.

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  18. I am listening (involuntarily) to a leaf blower being used to sweep the sidewalk as I type this. (Then he will sweep the street, then the sidewalk, etc ad nauseum, moving the same leaves back and forth.) I live downtown, but NOTHING is as loud or disruptive as this sound. Has any action/progress occurred on this issue? I would be very interested in supporting it. (And for the peanut gallery, I work and volunteer in several public interest causes; the fact that leaf blowers aren't the world's greatest problem doesn't mean that they aren't a problem.) Thanks.

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