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Unexpected Health Threat Starts in Spring

Does the noise from leaf blowers negatively impact our health?

The tulips are pushing up from the hardened earth and there are flickering buds on the trees. After a long, chilly winter, spring is finally upon us. But just when everything begins to bloom in a rainbow color, we’re invaded by the incessant scream of leaf blowers.

Studies have concluded that the sound spectrum of the gasoline-powered leaf blower contains high intensity and high frequency noise, which can have negative health impacts including noise-induced hearing loss. 

Noise-induced stimulation of the nervous system can result in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Noise has an adverse impact on sleep, communication and effects of performance and behavior. The unhealthful noise is only part of the negative impact of leaf blowers; they’re a significant factor in creating air pollution. 

The major pollutants from a two-stroke engine are oil-based particulates, a mixture of hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide. When landscapers blow our yards they push dust, fecal matter, pesticides, fungi, chemicals, fertilizers, spores, and street dirt, which consists of lead and organic and elemental carbon into the very air our children and we breathe. 

Often, operators blow dust and debris into the streets, leaving the dust to be re-suspended by passing vehicles. Some landscapers wear protective masks over their faces and headsets to protect their ears. But what about the rest of us? All we can do is stay in our homes or flee until the noise passes. 

What are the options? Approximately 20 California cities have banned leaf blowers. We should consider doing the same. At the very least the village, the county and the State should mandate that two-cycle engines be banned and quieter models be introduced. 

High intensity noise levels can be significantly reduced with newer machines and some landscapers are now using them. There is also the electric option, which is quieter still. Walk around and note the difference.

Ticket landscapers who blow debris into the street. The Village has an ordinance preventing people from pushing plowed snow back into the street. Yard debris should also be a violation. The bottom line is that we have an environmental issue and we have a health issue with leaf blowers. 

Do we sit by and ignore it or do we become proactive and try and improve our quality of life? Let the trustees know how you feel. http://www.ci.rockville-centre.ny.us/

Ted D. Gluckman April 11, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Mr. Paymar raises some interesting issues and some serious concerns. If we are to ban two cycle engines, what about lawn mowers, line trimmers and edgers? Yes, all can be had in electric models, but are we to ask gardeners to buy all new equipment? And what about residents like me who do their own landscaping? Am I to replace all my equipment? As for concerns about suspending foul particulate matter in the air, only a ban on ALL leaf blowers would solve that issue. Perhaps we need to phase in a regulation of these blowers so that those already owned are grandfathered in. And now to my own similar pet peeve...those noisy, smelly gasoline guzzling sanitation sweepers which do nothing but smear, send airborne and redistribute the mess of my block to your block, all the while costing us taxayers an operator's salary and the fuel and maintenance costs of those behemoths. When contacting the trustees about Mr. Paymar's leaf blower concerns, also please tell them how you feel about the useless street sweepers.
Alison Gilbert April 11, 2011 at 09:07 PM
The noise from the 'leaf blowers' is so bad, I have to wear ear plugs when they are around. And speaking of leaf blowers, I watch the workmen as they blow the debris, paper and whatever away from their customers property out into the street or the next property. What good does that do? In the fall, they do sweep up the piles of leaves but otherwise this is just smoke and mirrors to clear the property of their customer. The noise is horrible and I am sure the hearing of the workmen is severely compromised. They do not even wear protective gear on their ears. Another issue is the fact that these 'landscapers' have to work so many jobs in one day (but still earn so little money) that they say they have to use the leaf blowers to get their work done. Does anyone remember when we had real street sweepers, not the ridiculous machines that just mush around the dirt. Street sweepers who had brooms and walked on two legs. Maybe we could lower the unemployment rate by bringing back so human, quiet street sweepers!
Long Island Patriot April 14, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Perhaps we should ask the writers of these ridiculous articles to stop trying to scare the public instead. Mr. Paymar, why not be honest with the readers and admit that your real reason behind writing about these engines is so that we will become like the tree-hugging Californians who have banned just about everything that works under the guise of global warming, greenhouse gases, or whatever the latest flavor of the day is? It seems that the only thing that will make all of you left-wing loons happy is for Americans to go back to mowing their lawns with a donkey and a whip. Do not believe the nonsense in this article people. Other than the noise aspect, the rest of it is just crap. Last year they passed legislation that eliminated our freedom to purchase incandescent light bulbs. Today its our lawn mowers, and leaf blowers. Tomorrow it will be our cars and washing machines. Allow our elected morons to pass these kinds of laws and eventually we will be living back in the Dark Ages. We will all own cows to keep our grass in check, and use wash boards to do our laundry.
Ted D. Gluckman April 18, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Would it be possible for you to reply with some facts instead of an ad hominum attack worthy of Archie Bunker? "Tree huggers, left wing loons, elected morons." Your letter is filled with anger and hatred and what some would call "reductio ad absurdum." You have taken things to the level of the absurd with talk about donkey whips and wash boards when the original and the followups raise a serious concern about noise levels and air pollution. Please come to the table armed with intellect and not bile and perhaps your point of view would be more clear.
Long Island Patriot April 19, 2011 at 08:01 PM
I’m sorry Ted, but I stand by what I said. If there is one thing that Americans don't need more of, its government regulation. If you read between the lines, “more regulation” is the underlying message of the author in this article. He talks about noise and pollution, but he is really pushing for government control over what we can and can’t own. We lose more of our rights and freedoms every day because people whine and scream that "There ought to be a law" for things like power edgers and lawn mowers. If you want to throw away your leaf blower feel free. If you want to replace your gas powered landscaping equipment for electric ones in the name of the environment, go ahead. Just please don’t impose your ideals on the rest of us. Do you really believe that electric landscaping equipment won’t make noise or blow dust around the neighborhood, (not to mention how inferior they are to gas powered ones). Also, do you really think electricity is a cleaner energy than gasoline? It takes oil and coal (and sometimes gasoline) to make electricity, which also pollutes our environment. CONTINUED...
Long Island Patriot April 19, 2011 at 08:01 PM
I suppose you are correct when you said I am angry. I get angry when I see a writer trying to strip away my freedoms because of their agenda or some made-up hokey science. I get angry when our elected officials give in to (so-called) environmentalists, whose real agenda is to fill their own pockets by peddling “carbon credits” and dangerous mercury-filled light bulbs. I get angry when a hypocrite like Al Gore gets awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, then flies everywhere on his private jet leaving a bigger “carbon footprint” than any one of us. And I get angry when our elected officials overstep their authority to pass laws because some “environmentalist” with an agenda says I have to. Ok, so maybe I exaggerated the donkey whips and washboards. But Government mandates, regulations, and ignoring our freedoms will eventually lead to tyranny if left unchecked. Landscaping equipment alone my seen insignificant, but multiply those regulations by the thousands that we have to deal with already and you end up with less freedom, and less control over your own life.
Ted D. Gluckman April 19, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Bryan, thank you. Your point of view is very much more clear now that it is stripped of the silliness. We might disagree but I respect your concerns, understand them, possibly even agree to some extent about over regulation and at least we have a civil basis upon which to discuss it. THAT is what they need in Washington and THAT is what they do not have.


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