[EDITORIAL] With COVID and Fires Putting Lung Health in Peril, It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Gas Leaf Blowers for Good
BY JESSICA HOUGH ON OCTOBER 1, 2020
Would you consider letting a pickup truck idle in your driveway with its tailpipe aimed at your open windows for three hours each week?
If a leaf blower is being used in your yard, that’s approximately the amount of pollutants that are entering your home environment for every fifteen minutes of use.
Yes, that’s every fifteen minutes. Your passive acceptance of this practice spews carcinogenic benzene and fine particulates into your immediate environment at unsafe levels of exposure.
According to a 2017 California Air Resources Board study, “for the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2016 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.” That is a fifteen-hour drive!
So why, especially now when the Covid-19 virus threatens our lung health and fires rage across the state, would you contaminate your home with carcinogens that you would never consciously allow in your drinking water, food, or bedding? Beats me. But families all over my neighborhood who spend time and money to protect their families appear committed to this dirty and dangerous tool.
The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene is a known carcinogen, which means it can cause cancer. Exposure to benzene may also be harmful to the reproductive organs. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to airborne particulates such as those from leaf blowers can affect both your lungs and your heart, leading to a variety of problems, including: heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, and decreased lung function. Children are particularly vulnerable.
I have heard neighbors say that they fear their gardener will charge them more if they tell him not to use the gas blower. Don’t you already pay more for organic food and filtered water? Clean air for your children to breathe should be as high on your list of priorities.
Needless to say, operating a gas-powered leaf blower is even more harmful to the user, who inhales much more of the carcinogens along with high concentrations of microscopic ultrafine particles. So if you care a lick about environmental justice, then this is one more reason to put an end to the gas powered tool and provide better working conditions for the lawn and garden teams that work for you.
Small, high-polluting engines like those used in lawn mowers and leaf blowers are harmful for every person on this planet. There are no exceptions. It’s time to say goodbye to the gas leaf blower. Here are some alternatives:
- Ask your gardener to use an electric leaf blower instead. Commercial grade blowers are available and they are not only cleaner, they are much lighter for the user and quieter too! If your gardener doesn’t have the resources to purchase one, buy one for him—or at least buy one for him to use at your home.
- If you are a renter, let your landlord know that he or she is violating the law. The city’s Gas Powered Leaf Blower Ordinance (LAMC 112.04 c) states that gas-powered leaf blowers are prohibited within 500 feet of a residence. The city knows that these polluters cause health problems and that is why the ban has been in place since 1998. But needless to say, it is rarely enforced.
- Leave the leaf litter where it is. Tell your gardener that he may let the leaves decompose in your flower beds and allow grass clippings to sit on the lawn. Grass clippings are a free, high-nitrogen fertilizer. When clippings decompose, they release their nutrients back to the lawn.
- Skip the mow and blow service altogether and landscape your yard to save both water and the need for a lawn care service. Reject the look of a yard perfectly free of stray leaves and dust and accept the healthier look of a yard that is closer to nature, where decomposing leaves add nutrients to your soil and birds and butterflies thrive.