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Sustainability Advisory Committee

Posted on: June 22, 2022

Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers: Air and Noise Pollution

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Did you know that trying to hear each other over the din of a gas-powered leaf blower pales in comparison to the mix of toxic fumes and particulate matter that are being added to local smog and greenhouse gas emissions?  

Responses to this concern are active and building. The West Goshen Township (WGT) Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC) wants to educate our community about the concerns associated with using gas-powered leaf blowers and other fossil fuel-based lawn tools. 

  • Air Pollution.  Many consumer-grade blowers (and some mowers) use a two-stroke engine, which lacks an independent lubrication system, so fuel is mixed with oil. Burning oil and fuel emits a number of harmful toxic pollutants into the air, including carbon monoxide; nitrous oxides, which cause smog formation and acid rain; and hydrocarbons, a carcinogenic gas that also causes smog. Gallon for gallon these engines pollute at significantly higher rates when compared to other equipment and vehicles. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of leaf blowing creates as much pollution as driving a vehicle anywhere from 200 to several thousand miles. Clearly there are many factors that go into these calculations such as type of vehicle and fuel, but either way, the data underscore the need for education and change.

  • Noise Pollution.  How loud, you ask? Some leaf blowers produce more than 100 decibels of low-frequency, wall-penetrating sound, which can be equivalent to a plane taking off. Noise pollution poses critical psychological and physical health issues, including tinnitus and hearing loss, stress, hypertension, headaches, and productivity deficits, particularly for unprotected lawn crews working full-time at the source of emissions and noise. These workers may have few options and little agency.

  • Dust Pollution.  Much more than a cleaning nuisance, dust may contain pollen, mold, animal feces, heavy metals and chemicals from herbicides and pesticides, all of which can add up to increased risk of lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, premature births, and other life-threatening conditions.

  • Biodiversity Loss. Fallen leaves provide habitat and protection for overwintering insects and the egg sacs of others. Leaf blowers, whether electric or gasoline-powered, dislodge the leaf litter that is so essential to insect life, which in turn is so essential to birds and other wildlife. 

Looking Towards the Future

Sure, gas blowers produce the most blowing power, and for most commercial operations, battery power has yet to compete on this level, but the technology is improving steadily and quickly. Further, we must be aware of the many laws coming down on gas-powered landscaping tools that particularly target loud leaf blowers. California became the first state to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in 2021. As of today, a total of 13 states regulate or ban gas-powered leaf blowers. Demand for electric powered lawn equipment is expected to grow into a $14.1 billion industry by 2024, according to market research from the Freedonia Group.

What can you do NOW?

Well, for the homeowner there is always the old-fashioned method: pick up a rake and brandish your broom!  For landscaping companies, however, economic impacts are a serious consideration.  The good news is that there are electric-powered leaf blowers that use rechargeable lithium batteries and are an affordable solution for individuals and companies. Even more importantly, electric powered leaf blowers are safe for humans and kind to the environment.

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