Why gas-powered leaf blowers are bad for the environment and health



The sounds of autumn are well known. Leaves crunching underfoot, a gentle breeze blowing through the trees, and the constant noise of leaf blowers bothering many people.

But it blows away fallen leaves powerfully Noise is not the only problem caused by wind. Gasoline leaf blower too They spew toxic chemicals and global warming gases into the atmosphere and destroy natural habitats, experts say.

A new report on the impact of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in Massachusetts estimates that the equipment produced more than 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 2020. This is the equivalent amount of pollution produced by approximately 135,000 regular cars.

A recently released report by advocacy group MASSPIRG Education Fund is the latest research to support the transition to electric lawn equipment, which advocates say is less polluting and quieter than many gas-powered models. It is claimed that

Several cities across the country have already implemented bans or restrictions on the use of these devices, including Washington, D.C., Miami Beach, and Evanston, Illinois. Starting next year, California will enact a statewide ban on the sale of new gas-powered lawn equipment.

“The cost-benefit ratio just doesn’t make sense when you consider the benefits of gas-powered leaf blowers,” said Karen Jubanik, an emergency medicine physician at Yale University who advocates for a ban on gas. Powered leaf blower in New Haven, Connecticut.

Here’s what you need to know about the effects of gas-powered leaf blowers and what you can do instead to manage your leaves this fall.

Why should we be lazy and leave fallen leaves in the garden?

Many leaf blowers are powered by a two-stroke engine that runs on a mixture of oil and gas.

“These are very inefficient engines,” said Jamie Banks, founder and president of Quiet Communities, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce noise pollution. “So they emit a lot of toxic pollutants. “There is,” he said.

Lawn equipment across the United States produced more than 68,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and more than 350,000 tons of volatile organic compounds in 2020, according to a recent MASSPIRG report that includes national data. The report said these tools were responsible for releasing more than 20 million pounds of benzene, a carcinogen, into the air.

The device also produced more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide and nearly 19,000 tons of methane, according to the report.

These are just pollutants coming out of the back end of the leaf blower, Jubanik said.

“We have winds blowing over 320 mph on the front end, blowing everything on the ground into the air,” she said. “That’s herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, and metals, including lead.”

If the deafening chirp of a leaf blower feels inevitable, you’re not imagining it.

Leaf blowers emit low-frequency noise, and “loud sounds at harmful levels can travel long distances and easily penetrate walls and windows,” wrote a 2017 peer-reviewed paper analyzing noise pollution from gas-powered lawns. said Banks, who announced it in 2017. Device.

A pilot study found that loud noises generated by machinery can travel up to 800 feet from the source.

Short- and long-term exposure to noise pollution is associated with a number of health effects, including increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, other serious heart-related problems and hearing loss in some cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers as sources of noise that can damage hearing over time.

Electric leaf blowers are quieter. After testing both types, Consumer Reports found that electrical devices had an average score of 2.9 for in-ear noise, compared to a 1.7 for gas models. (The lower the score, the worse the noise.) And when sound was measured from 50 feet away, electric leaf blowers had an average score of 4.8, while gas had an average score of 2.5.

“It dissipates over a much shorter distance and can’t penetrate walls or windows as easily,” Banks said.

Noise from leaf blowers can pose problems for animals, especially species that rely on sound to communicate, said David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the nonprofit conservation group National Wildlife Federation. .

Removing leaves with a leaf blower also destroys the habitat of important pollinating species such as bees, butterflies, and moths, as well as other creatures such as amphibians and small mammals such as chipmunks.

“We typically use it to clear out prime habitat for many creatures,” he said.

The ‘no-mow’ movement could change our lawns

Electric lawn and garden equipment are becoming more common in the United States, but the commercial landscaping industry still has a ways to go, says the American Green Zone Alliance, an organization that promotes landscape maintenance with less environmental impact. ” founder Dan Mabe said.

There are about 700,000 landscaping companies in the United States, Mabe said. Of those, only an estimated 300 to 400 are fully electric. Many companies also offer hybrid services.

Lawn care is motorized. And the revolution will continue.

For landscaping companies, cost can be a barrier to transitioning to electrical equipment, he said.

Some local governments that have restrictions on gas-powered machines are offering financial assistance. For example, D.C. has a rebate program, and California allocated his $27 million to small landscapers to use on power tools.

In the meantime, if you’re still using a gas-powered leaf blower, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. Dr. Jubanik, an emergency physician, recommends that workers wear N-95-type masks and hearing protection. She and other experts encouraged people to swap leaf blowers for rakes whenever possible.

Mizejewski said people could also reconsider their landscape choices.

“If we minimize our lawns, increase flower beds in our gardens, and leave leaves where they fall, we will have much less need to use huge high-powered leaf blowers like gas or electric. ” he said.

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