Guest opinion: It's past time for Menlo Park to go electric on blowers | July 31, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - July 31, 2019

Guest opinion: It's past time for Menlo Park to go electric on blowers

by Lisa Williams and Leah Elkins

Up and down the Peninsula, towns and cities are being proactive around our climate change crisis. One of the ways this is happening is by phasing out the use of gas-powered garden tools.

Many cities have started with a particularly obnoxious offender, the gasoline leaf blower. Throughout Menlo Park, these machines spew polluting fumes and high-pitched whines as gardeners and homeowners blow leaves from one driveway to the next.

Los Altos banned gas-powered leaf blowers in 1991, Palo Alto in 2000, and Los Gatos in 2014. In January 2019, Portola Valley passed a ban with a two-year phase-in period; the Atherton City Council has already had this on its agenda twice so far this year.

We invite Menlo Park to follow suit. Phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers is an easy step to reduce our carbon emissions — and bring some quiet to our neighborhoods. Battery-powered garden tools are significantly quieter than their gas-powered equivalent — and have been improving. For information from AGZA American Green Zone Data, sourced from WHO, EPA, NIOSH, OSHA, ANSI, American Lung Association and Quiet Communities.com, go to tinyurl.com/leafblowers-31.

Gas-powered leaf blowers use an inefficient polluting two-stroke engine that lacks a separate lubrication system. The oil is mixed in with the gasoline it uses for fuel. They are designed to be air-cooled, causing the engine to spew one-third of its fuel as an unburned aerosol directly into the environment.

Not only do gas blowers' greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions contribute to our climate crisis, but the resulting carbon monoxide compromises our brains, particulate matter harms our lungs and hearts, nitrous oxide hurt our throats, and hydrocarbons irritate our throats, noses and eyes.

Not only are gasoline blowers far greater ozone and particulate polluters than the four-stroke engines in gas-powered automobiles, their VOCs (hydrocarbons) emissions are carcinogenic.

Last but not least, their noise pollution damages our nervous system and hearing.

According to the California Air Resource Board, operating the best-selling commercial gas leaf blower for just one hour emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.

Also of concern is that gardeners are directly exposing themselves to multiple toxins and continuous loud decibel levels, often not wearing protective gear such as dust face masks and or noise reduction safety earmuffs or earplugs.

By phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers, the Menlo Park City Council would be tangibly demonstrating our city's commitment to our Climate and Sustainability Resolution, which Mayor Ray Mueller signed on Earth Day last April.

It's time for Menlo Park to follow the majority of our neighboring cities and towns and transition to electric blowers. Lithium-ion battery technology has advanced to a level where the commercial electric leaf blower is now comparable in power to the gas blower but without the carbon emissions and other air pollutants, while being significantly quieter.

We invite all interested Menlo Park residents to join our "go electric" coalition to let our City Council know that we want them to take this important step forward. To make sure your voice is heard, please contact Lisa Williams at lisawilliamsbb@gmail.com or Leah Elkins at leahelkins@gmail.com.

Lisa Williams has lived in the Linfield Oaks neighborhood for over 31 years. Leah Elkins has lived raised and her family in the Willows neighborhood over the past 22 years.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Pat Walker
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 1, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Pat Walker is a registered user.

Thank you for this timely suggestion. We are long overdue in addressing the environmental and health effects of gas-powered leaf blowers. Every adult and child who is home during the day smelling the petroleum fumes of leaf blowers is breathing in harmful hydrocarbon emissions, which are linked to heart disease and cancer. In our neighborhood, we are surrounded by neighbors whose gardening services use gas-powered leaf blowers so that we are breathing in those fumes five days/week.

However, switching to electric blowers only eliminates the petroleum-related health effects. Electric blowers do not eliminate the leaf blower dust (particulate matter) that is linked to asthma. Nor does it address the desiccation and compaction of the soil caused by blowers that destroys habitat for insects, bees and birds. Perhaps switching to electric blowers would be a first step. It would at least reduce a source of air pollution and noise.


4 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 1, 2019 at 9:58 pm

Electric is a good first step, but really does not go far enough.

Leaf blowers are a huge source of noise and air pollution, and are strictly unnecessary. The real long-term answer is an outright ban, and learning to either leave the leaves, or use this amazing piece of technology called a rake.

For other uses (I see them used to sweep porches and sidewalks), this fantastic invention called a broom could be used instead.


2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 3, 2019 at 10:09 am

The problem in Menlo Park is that we are a tree city. If we get rid of all the trees then there wouldn't be any leaves and thus no need for leaf blowers. Simple solution.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 3, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Wrong Pat Walker, the vast majority of electricity in California is produced by burning natural gas. Both the production and burning of natural gas releases green house gases. Your just moving the pollution into someone else’s back yard.

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