Put Down the Leaf Blowers

Consider leaving the leaves alone, Margaret Renkl writes
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2021 6:40 PM CDT
Leaf Blowers Are Multipronged Threat to Health and Environment
A gardener uses a leaf blower to clear leaves at a home in Sacramento earlier this month. California plans to phase gas-powered lawn equipment out.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(Newser) – A lot of crimes against nature are committed in the name of lawn care. Pesticides are involved. Other practices endanger insects, birds, and plants. But with its high levels of chemical emissions, deafening noise, and unhealthy pollution, Margaret Renkl writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times, the leaf blower stands alone. California is phasing out gas-powered lawn equipment, and should that idea catch on, Renkl doesn't think the nation—or its lawns—would miss it.

California has stricter emissions standards than the federal ones. Partly because of that, the state has turned the tables, with passenger vehicles' emissions running below that of other machinery. "Think about that for a minute: Lawn-care equipment creates more pollution in California than cars do," Renkle says. Most of the equipment uses the outdated two-stroke engine, which holds oil and gas in the same chamber and releases up to one-third of the fuel into the air as unburned aerosol. And that engine is loud.

Some versions produce as much noise as a plane taking off. In total, the equipment burns almost 2.2 billion gallons of gas per year. The dust the blowers kick up contains mold, pollen and chemicals, adding risk of lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, premature birth, and other problems. "What's bad for the environment is bad for humans, too—most menacingly, of course, for the employees of landscape services," Renkle writes, "who are exposed to these dangers all day long."

Electric leaf blowers are an improvement, Renkle says. But they still take a toll on biodiversity. Renkle says she resists the temptation to fire up a gas-powered engine when leaves start to cover her lawn. "The leaves that fall across every inch of this wild half acre of suburbia are so much prettier than any unnaturally green lawn beaten into submission by stench-spewing machinery," she writes. Read the full piece here. (Elon Musk has joked about creating an electric leaf blower.)

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