What are the actual concerns that make so many people upset about the leaf blower?
The primary issue is the sound that is generated by leaf blowers, typically in residential areas. It is the “noise”. Most people just think a leaf blower is loud and complain only about that without understanding what the total problem really is. The whining sound typical of older designs also tends to irritate people. The sound of a leaf blower is historically uncomfortable to listen to.
There is also concern about when leaf blowers are used. There are many things one would rather not have to listen to after 8:00 PM or before 7:00 AM. Not surprisingly, the leaf blower is one of these.
Many operators do not know how to properly use a leaf blower. As with everything, there is a right way and a wrong way to use a blower and it is not always obvious. For example, because blowers at an idle are quieter than when run at high speeds, large blowers should rarely be operated at full throttle in a residential area.
Also, care should be given as to where debris is blown. It is imperative that the operator be courteous and conscientious.
Complaining on the basis of noise alone has not resulted in the kind of support needed to result in blower ban legislation as anti-blower activists had hoped. They had to expand their argument from a mere noise complaint, which is only a harmless irritation, to a potential health hazard. The result is their focusing on engine exhaust emission and the generation of dust. Intuitively, after listening to their argument, people tend to believe that blowers might be hazardous to your health, which helps their case. Of course, this has no foundation in fact, as the CARB report and others have indicated.
Exhaust emission was a problem many years ago, but not any more. Emissions have been reduced up to 90% to meet new stringent government Standards. Comparing actual emissions from a car to a leaf blower over the course of time, automobiles are considerably worse than leaf blowers. Think about it. Most households with one automobile run a tank of gasoline per week through a car (18 gallons on average) while a leaf blower’s fuel consumption is measured in ounces per week, per household.
Test results show that dust is insignificant compared to other common sources as was proven by the University of California study for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District mentioned earlier in this pamphlet.
There have been many efforts to place a “black cloud” over leaf blowers. Supporters of this view are truly disturbed by the seemingly loud; mostly irritating sounds generated by blowers and they feel compelled to do something about it. In their zeal, they are using every argument possible to paint the blower as an evil and unnecessary landscaping tool. Often they find someone that said something unflattering about the blower and then they quote this person as if what he said was fact. Although their argument is mostly anecdotal and unsubstantiated, this type of propaganda serves to reinforce those that are considering banning leaf blowers in other communities. You can find comments such as these on several web pages compiled and financed by dedicated and determined anti-leaf blower activists.
What to do about it
Well, the easiest option is to use a rake — or just leave the leaves where they are, which is healthier for the environment.
But leaf blowers didn’t get to where they are today because people like to rake. Electrical versions, either corded or battery-powered, would address the air quality and virtually all of the noise concerns.
While government regulation might help with emission levels, noise concerns might best be dealt with using more social approaches. Establishing neighborhood-wide leaf blowing intervals, or limiting the activity to a single day per week, would help make our lives a little better. As an added benefit, this would also help people feel that their concerns are being heard, and foster a sense of community.
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