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.