Suck On This | Leaf Blowers Are Nuisance Polluters

Because the State of California has more drivers than any other state in the country (at last count the official tally of registered vehicles was approximately 31,799, 398) the legislature forces almost everyone to obtain a passing biennial smog certification.

Given the number of drivers, reduction of automotive emissions should strike anyone who enjoys breathing as simple common sense. But astonishingly enough, the State has no interest in ridding our environment of one of the biggest polluters on the planet. I’m talking about the noisy, smelly, gasoline-powered, dirt/dust/debris redistribution appliances known as leaf blowers.

Instead of banning these botherations outright, the State Legislature leaves it up to the individual muncipalities to decide. I suppose I could understand this hands-off approach from any other legislature, but you see, the State of California sticks its regulatory nose into pretty much every facet of life from professional services like legal advice to Mom-‘N-Pop owned business such as food catering.  In either case, you’ll need a license to set up shop, and every year thereafter, you will need to otherwise jump through hoops and pay the annual license fee.

But wait a sec -you may say:

The State has an abiding interest in protecting consumers from con artists and food poisoning.  It’s only right that these professions are regulated.

Oh well allow me to retort:

If the State has such an abiding interest, then why are the worst stinking polluters still in operation in much of the State?

Doesn’t the legislature have an identical abiding interest in keeping the air safe for consumers to breathe?  Clearly, this fact was recognized long ago otherwise motorists would not have to obtain and pass a smog check every other year in order to register their vehicles.

Since most of us reside in large, metropolitan areas, you can gain a clear understanding as to how much pollution you’re breathing in if you consider that leaf blowers are used by nearly every city, commercial & residential property all day, every day.

Think of all the times you have been relaxing (or trying to) on a lazy afternoon enjoying the (somewhat) quietude and one of these stinky/noisy polluters rambles by coating your vehicle, patio and lungs with poisonous dust that is best left on the ground.  It’s bad enough you have to hear car alarms going off, but leaf blowers serve absolutely no constructive purpose whatsoever and yet we are forced to accept that the deadly vapor being spewed into our air is a service.

The sad fact is that as long as the State Legislature leaves it up to local government, there is no escaping from leaf blowers no matter where you go. And in the meantime, we continue to have our respiratory systems assaulted at every turn.


With a muzzle velocity of 150mph, gasoline-powered leaf blowers blow herbicides, pesticides, and fecal contaminants up from the ground into the air causing respiratory distress for asthmatics & allergy sufferers, and, otherwise increase the threat to everyone else including children, seniors and those with a compromised immune system.


A gasoline-powered leaf blower generates as much tailpipe emissions in one hour as an automobile does over 100 miles. The difference is that a car emits all that pollution over a big stretch of road, while a leaf blower deposits it all in one back or front yard. A two-stroke commercial blower generates 277 lbs. of volatile organic compounds, 825 lbs. of carbon monoxide and 3.3 lbs.of particulates per year.

click to enlarge


A gas-powered leaf blower creates up to 70 decibels of nerve-racking noise at 50 feet, disturbing children’s naps, school classrooms, and home offices. This noise pollution is disturbing to people who work at home, or work at night and sleep during the day. Noise pollution from blowers also scares our local wildlife, especially birds. Cal OSHA allows only 20 minutes of aggregate daily exposure to a noise level over 100 decibels, while most gardeners run their blowers at 109 for most of the day. Clearly, most gardeners use leaf blowers far in excess of the level Cal OSHA recommends as safe to the operator.

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The Landscaping/Gardening Industry Chimes In

The standard refrain from gardeners is that they would have to increase their rates if they couldn’t use their blowers. Yet there’s no evidence of that happening in Los Angeles, or any other cities that have banned blowers. In none of the cities which have already banned blowers is there any evidence of resulting tax increases, or of financial hardship to gardeners.


While it is true that manufacturers have introduced leaf blowers that operate at noise levels between 65 & 70 decibels (as opposed to older models that operate at 70 db and higher) along with reduced emissions to comply with new federal EPA standards,  the fact remains that leaf blowers are a nuisance polluter simply because they kick up contaminants/toxins from the street into our lungs.

There is no guarantee that environmentally-friendly leaf blowers are even being used by industry in the first place. There is just no way to enforce it.  Secondly, older non-environmental models retail for around $450.00 vs. the new models coming in at $750.00. Which model do you think the small landscaping business owner employing illegal labor is more likely to purchase?

But even so, using a newer, more expensive model is like saying that since my vehicle has passed a smog check every other year for the past decade to meet stringent California reduced emission standards that this therefore makes it safe to inhale the fumes. You wouldn’t want to suck on the tailpipe while the motor is running, but that is essentially what we are doing each time a leaf blower is used.

Leaf blowers should be banned at the State government level period.  There is no compelling reason -financial, economic, or otherwise- why they should even be for sale.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find anything gas-powered that hits the gross polluter trifecta as thoroughly.

Leaf blowers are noisy, smelly, and dangerous to our health on so many levels that it boggles the mind how an allegedly emissions conscious state like California can continue to ignore the problem at the same time it forces motorists to have their vehicles smog checked.

All leaf blowers do is generate pollution and blow particulate matter from point A to point B.  Blowing it up from the ground does not remove it.  It does, however, cause it to be inhaled.  If removing dirt/leaves/debris is the goal, then these chuckleheads with the industrial strength hairdryers should be given a push broom and a dust pan.

The only reason I have personally seen for leaf blower usage in Southern California is so that unskilled laborers (almost always illegal immigrants) can have a job with a commercial landscaping company. It’s high time for both leaf blowers and illegal laborers to go.

©2011 Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar™ and Prattle On, Boyo™ with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Below referenced is a four minute video showing fugitive dust created by blower use. Voiceover by Peter Graves recites facts cited by Orange County Grand Jury Report, as well as the findings of leaf blower studies.


Take action

California Environmental Protection Agency AIR RESOURCES BOARD: The Potential Health & Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers


2 Responses to Suck On This | Leaf Blowers Are Nuisance Polluters

  1. Joanie says:

    This is very eye opening. I wonder if the Sierra club is on to this yet?

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