Monday, May 7, 2012

District Residents Propose Gas-Powered Leaf Blower Ban

Over 200 people signed the letter to Councilmember Mary Cheh calling for a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

This letter was written by Bill Adler, publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv,, who says, “Gas-powered leaf blowers are a significant drain on the quality of urban life. They’re noisy and, as a recent study revealed, more polluting than a Ford pickup truck. As more and more people work at home, more and and more people are disturbed by leaf blowers. Their noise carries a considerable distance throughout a neighborhood and is so loud that closed windows do not offer relief. Leaf blowers are now used year-round, making them a constant source of noise and air pollution. A number of cities have banned leaf blowers, and it’s time for the District of Columbia to do that, too.”

In addition to signing the letter, which is reprinted below, people offered their additional thoughts on leaf blowers. These comments appear after the letter. For a list of the names of over people who signed this letter, contact Bill Adler at billadler (at)

Councilmember Mary Cheh
Chair, Committee on Environment, Public Works and Transportation
District of Columbia City Council
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

May 7, 2012

Dear Councilmember Cheh:

We were pleased to learn that you said on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show that you are considering legislation to curtail leaf blowers in the District of Columbia.

We would like to see a total ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in the District of Columbia.

Everyone is familiar with how unpleasant and disruptive leaf blower noise is. Leaf blower noise is a major problem for the increasing number of people who work at home, for parents with young children, for people who are home, sick. When a gas-powered leaf blower is nearby, it can be impossible to sleep, work, or use the phone, not to mention simply enjoy the use of one’s home. These blowers with their two-stroke engines emit a sound that’s particularly unpleasant, far worse than other common power equipment such as lawn mowers and snow blowers.

Leaf blowers subject pedestrians, including infants in strollers, to exceedingly high decibel levels. These blowers deprive people of the ability to use a sidewalk comfortably and safely.

Leaf blowers often travel in herds, too: Gardening companies frequently deploy multiple leaf blowers, and they are now using leaf blowers all year round, not just in fall, as once was the case.

Gas-powered leaf blowers create high levels of air pollutants. Edmunds recently tested leaf blowers and discovered that a two stroke gas-powered leaf blower emits over 23 times the amount of carbon monoxide and over 300 times the amount of non-methane hydrocarbons as a 2011 Ford Raptor pickup. Edmunds points out: “To equal the hydrocarbon emissions of about a half-hour of yard work with this two-stroke leaf blower, you'd have to drive a Raptor for 3,887 miles, or the distance from Northern Texas to Anchorage, Alaska.”

The third major problem with leaf blowers is that they disperse particulates into the air directly. Ordinarily, pesticides, fecal material, pollen and dust (once they’ve settled onto the ground) aren’t airborne pollutants. But they become airborne thanks to leaf blowers’ 180 mile per hour wind. Leaf blowers push particulate matter into the street and neighbors’ yards. In addition, lawn companies frequently use leaf blowers on the sidewalk and street, exacerbating this problem.

While a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers wouldn’t eliminate this last problem, it would lessen it: Electric leaf blowers produce a less powerful wind and disperse fewer unhealthy particles. Electric leaf blowers are also only moderately noisy, more akin to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Gas-powered leaf blowers are not a necessity. American lawns got along well without them for centuries. Leaf blowers are the direct descendant of a device invented in the late 1950’s to disperse agricultural chemicals. The powerful hot wind from a leaf blower can harm living grass. The problems that gas-powered leaf blowers cause --noise pollution and air pollution-- far outweigh the benefits, especially because there are good substitutes for gas-powered leaf blowers, namely rakes and electric leaf blowers.

There are those who say that a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers won’t work. In response to that, we note that people said that a bag tax and dog poop laws wouldn’t work. These and other environmental laws have improved our lives and environment, and a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers would, too.

You have our complete support, should you pursue a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

Leaf blower comments from people who signed the letter to Councilmember Mary Cheh:

These devices are the most unnecessary piece of equipment our modern society has devised. Most of the time, workers only blow the material around; they don't pick it up. That just leaves it for the wind and subsequent leaf blowers to blow around again.

Leaf blowers are loud, polluting, unnecessary noise makers used all too frequently.

Noise and pollution both threaten our quality of life and justify forbidding the use of these devices.

These devices are as much work as sweeping, but a lot more trouble. They waste gas, are polluting, noisy. They are really unnecessary.

This letter is a dream come true, not only because of the immense pollution that is caused by leaf blowers, but also because they don't just blow leaves, operators routinely blow and knowingly blow trash from the sidewalk into the street which ends up in our storm drains and in our waterways. There are many good reasons to support this petition, but it wouldn't hurt to get the old fashioned rake and broom out to take care of leaves and piled up debris.

I am happy to support this. Noise pollution is a serious and growing blight on urban life

I am in such amazing agreement with this petition. The noise generated is almost every day of the week during the fall.

Leaf blowers have no redeeming features and are big sources of both air and noise pollution. What ever happened to the rake anyway? They used to get the job done. Please ban these abominations ASAP!

I'm 1,000 percent in favor of making gas-powered leaf-blowers illegal in the District, mainly for environmental reasons, but the quiet would be bliss.

Leaf blowers are a public health and environmental hazard. They cause air and noise pollution for workers and passersby. Sometimes rakes get the job done faster, too. Please ban the blowers as other cities have.

Leaf blowers are harmful to the environment. Period. Please restrict their use to where absolutely necessary.

Those blowers contribute to the clogging of the drains in DC, at least in my neighborhood. Lazy people who do not want to bag the leaves push them to the street and that is how drains are clogged forever. Please, Councilwoman Cheh, help us!

We enjoy our front porch and patio in the rear. But every Sunday during a late breakfast, the leaf blowers are out. Not a civilized way to live.

This is a great idea, I have many friends with respiratory problems, and these blowers create serious immediate problems for someone with diminished lung capacity. I see no reason why these should be allowed for this reason especially.

Thank you for spearheading this petition. There are days when I'm surrounded by yard crews with multiple leaf blowers being used by each of the four crews. I put in sound dampening ear plugs and turn to classical music to survive.

I work from home and when landscapers come through and use leaf blowers for my neighbors, it creates a disturbing racket. Bring back the rakes!

Please take this petition seriously. The detriment blowers have on the environment is tremendous. Plus, their noise pollution is unparalleled.

I find the level of noise from leaf blowers to be hellacious!

Please, the noise is unbearable and relentless! We live on a side street, I work from home and even with windows closed (a hardship for us because we do not have central AC) it just makes life miserable. There are babies in the neighborhood who nap and elderly folks too. These crews with several leaf blowers, along with power mowers going all at once do many homes in the neighborhood,almost daily in the spring, summer and fall. They even use the leaf blowers to sweep dust from the street in front of the houses and the sidewalks. A broom works just as well. That is what I use and it does a great job. By the way these crews wear protective ear muffs to protect themselves while they work, which is good and right for them but it makes them insensitive to the rest of the world.

As an allergy sufferer who also has significantly dry eyes, and a migraine sufferer with particular sensitivity to loud, harsh noises and smells, I am made a prisoner in my house when these leaf blowers are used on my street. Please champion this cause!

I agree, leaf blowers are a blight on our landscape. There is no need for them. They are disruptive the the peace and quiet of our community. Please ban them.

I am so happy to see this petition. I live off of Connecticut Ave, NW and the leafblowers only make allergies and cleanliness and breathing worse! What happened to rakes? I know that the people using the blowers are working hard, but I also see them with glasses, masks and earplugs, so maybe a rake would be a better option for all involved.

Not only do these blowers pollute the air, the noise they make impacts noise levels. Because I ride my bike everyday, I often encounter people using these blowers. The noise is so great that there is no way to let them know I'm there. The blowing dirt and debris blasts me and I end up with it in my eyes, nose and mouth.

I have seen people just blow the leaves onto the street and make them someone else's problem.

I am thrilled that Ms. Cheh is proposing a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers DC. I have wanted this for years. Six years ago while working at home I was unnerved by loud leaf blowers east of my house. I followed the sound and found the culprits -- three blowers on a small yard more than FIVE blocks from my house! Of course, the homeowners were at work and knew nothing about this offense. I have always hired someone to rake my leaves in the fall, and have an electric blower for occasional use.

When commercial groups use 3 or 4 of these blowers, the noise is deafening for bystanders and for the poor employees, many of whom have no ear protection. My neighbors' leaves are blown into my driveway, as well. The allergy component is even more important.

Ms Cheh: I walk more than I drive. The noise and the debris sent out into the air is inexcusable. Please ban gas-powered leaf blowers. Thank you.

Actually, soil science informs us that practice of constantly stripping leaves away compromises soil quality, leading to compaction, etc. Plus leaf removal is a huge expense to the taxpayers. So just raking leaves off grassy lawns & allowing some leaves to remain in some bedded areas is more than adequate to balance our quest for neatness with nature's nutrients cycle. Don't need blowers at all, permitting electric leaf blowers is a generous concession to lawn care companies.

Leaf blowers are so noisy that I cannot sit outdoors on our porch for entire mornings as one yard after another on Rodman Street and Springland Lane use lawn service companies with very noisy equipment. The decibel level on our porch, about 150 feet away, has been estimated at 85 decibels by an expert on noise. The gentleman happened to be visiting me on another matter, and while we were talking on our porch, the yard work by the neighbors' lawn company began full blast.

We moved into the city for its many amenities, but the distraction and pollution of gas-powered leaf blowers make residence near them anything but ideal.

Ever get hit by an acorn in the face by one of those things? Not very fun. Lucky I didn't lose an eye.

These have become a year around menace in DC and Montgomery County -- kids can't take naps and adults can't work from home or enjoy their windows open or sitting outside. Enough.

I work at home and frequently have to leave the house and work at a Starbucks as all my neighbors have yard help that use gas blowers and they all come on different days. It is truly a hardship for those of us who work at home - not to mention that we cannot have our windows open.

For over ten years now, nearly every weekday morning at 8am pretty, I have been awoken (sometimes I sleep through it) by the leaf blower next door to my apt building. It goes on for at least 10-20 minutes, he blows the parking lot even when there are no leaves (I have pics and video) which is the case most of the time since he is out there every weekday, 12 months a year, no joke. Since I can't control this sound, which is directly outside my window, I have been sleeping with earplugs and often take Nyquil just to be sure I get to sleep through it. I also keep my iPhone next to me and turn on music to mask the noise most mornings just so I can get back to sleep. Noise travels, it disturbs those who live in the buildings nearby. I don't work 9-5 and am a night owl so being awoken at 8am by a horrible sound impacts my sleep and quality of life.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! Given the rude and excessive use of these now year-around noisebazookas in DC and Montgomery County, the only way to have some peace in our neighborhoods is this ban. With kids unable to nap, families unable to sit and play outside, and people unable to work from home, jurisdictions all over the country are already taking the same step to bring an end to this nuisance. One would think that landscapers would save money on equipment, gas, and earplugs by simply offering a rake and broom service after mowing someone's yard...just as fast, cheaper, and more neighborly. Who needs a bellowing high powered gas blower to clean a few grass clips off a sidewalk anyway?!