The Gas Powered Leaf Blower Is the Most Polluting Yard Tool Ever Invented
It’s cousins aren’t that great either.
You like your yardman. He’s a nice guy, but you hate his gas powered yard tools; particularly the leaf blower. Inevitably, you’re trying to take a nap while he is making Indy 500 noises. If your house has any air leaks it fills with the noxious fumes from the exhaust. If you find that irritating, you are not alone.
In 2011, a 50cc two-stroke leaf blower and a Ford F-150 Raptor with a 6.2 liter 411 horsepower engine were each run for 30 minutes, and the resultant pollutants were measured. The hydrocarbon emissions from the leaf blower were the equivalent of driving the Ford pickup 3,887 miles. For the same amount of pollution you can go from Dallas to Anchorage with your friends or blow some paper-thin organic material around your yard.
Some of the components of two stroke engine emissions are benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde — known carcinogens. More troubling is the ultrafine particles measuring 0.01 microns or less. These can get into the deepest recesses of the lungs. An operator of such equipment may as well be standing by a busy highway sucking down swirling brake dust.
For the user of a leaf blower the noise can get up to 100 decibels (ear protection is recommended past 85 decibels), but even hundreds of feet away the noise can be in the mid-sixties, a level that can trigger increases in blood pressure and heart rates. It is ruinous for kids’ concentration while learning and completely destroys naps.
The wind speed can approach 200 mph, so it is like a small EF-4 tornado in its ability to pick up particles of pollution from the ground and shove them right up your nose. Things like brake lining powder, lead, fungus spores, pathogens, pesticides, and herbicides can become airborne and a menace to health.
The gas-powered leaf blower is a particularly onerous tool because of its noise and the double whammy of its emissions plus the stuff it stirs up from the ground. The gas-powered mowers, edgers, clippers, and chain saws are not far behind as a nuisance and a hazard. You would think there would be laws limiting their use or steering it toward electric. California, as usual, was at the forefront on this.
When the California legislature tried to introduce higher standards, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute stepped in and lobbied Senator Kit Bond of Missouri to introduce an amendment denying states the ability to pass laws stricter than the Federal laws regarding small engine off road vehicles. It went to court, culminating in California keeping its stricter laws but allowing no other states to do that.
Side observation: Where is the Citizens For a Healthy Environment Institute, and why can’t they wield bribery, I mean “lobby”, money to counter such nonsense?
We, as individuals, can fight back. Choose a landscaper that uses electric equipment. Get an electric mower and mulch your leaves. (Works best on smaller yards) Better yet, get a large piece of cardboard and just scoop them up and pour them into a leaf bag. It takes less time than raking or blowing.
If you have to get every leaf, do it with an electric blower. I’ve got one. It works great for that couple of minutes tidying up the rake job. It goes great with my electric mower, edger, hedge clipper, and chain saw. A fifty feet long extension cord is a good investment if you go this route.
The best way to fight back, however, is to exercise your right to vote. If you get the chance, vote for people willing to strengthen and properly fund our EPA and introduce legislation to protect our environment. Economic growth at any cost is too expensive. We need to start living within our means environmentally.