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Air district report: Leaf blowers present health risks

Original post made on Aug 31, 2015

Blasting air at up to 185 mph, leaf blowers can whip up hazardous particles and contaminants from the ground at speeds greater than a Category 5 hurricane, sending them long distances. Epidemiological studies have long recognized the harm these particles cause to people's respiratory systems, according to Bay Area Air Quality Management District reports.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 31, 2015, 7:48 AM

Comments (21)

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2015 at 10:15 am

The gardening assoc calls "concerns over air emissions spurious."
That's why most of the gardeners I see are wearing face masks (filters) when the blow, cut and trim (no offense intended to barbers).

It's time for an outright ban on the damn blowers - whether they be gas or electric (including battery). It's time for a bit of fresh air and quiet.

Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 31, 2015 at 10:27 am

really? is a registered user.

let's be clear about the risks of gas blowers- the dust and particulates are one thing, but the harmful emessions coming out of their exhaust is really toxic. Supposedly, a gas leaf blower puts out 120 times the amount of unburned fuel and hydrocarbons as a modern car. Keep the electrics, but ban the gas ones.

Posted by Allen
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 31, 2015 at 12:40 pm

The Almanac article and "whatever's" comment say it all. "Really?" misses the point that electric dust blowers are as bad for adding particulate matter to the atmosphere as are gas dust blowers. These things must be endured in my neighborhood nearly any time of day and most every day of the week.

a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 31, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Of course the noise is bad...
What I object to is the blowers used to clean off parking lots and driveways - a la Menlo Safeway parking lot on Tues or Wed am or my neighbor on Wed 9am. No leaves...just dirt. That practice needs to stop. PERIOD.

Think about it...inhaling "animal droppings, spores, fungi, pollens, pesticides and herbicides, fertilizers, brake-lining dust and tire residue and heavy metals" are probably worse for respiratory systems.
This occurs in my neighborhood every weekday. 8am to 5pm.

I admit to using a blower 2-3X per year to get rid of what my broom won't (pine needles, etc.). But I don't need or use a gas powered tool.

Problem in my neighborhood is homeowners won't change their mow and blow guy's behavior because they want their driveways and walkways clean - EVERY WEEK.

Placing restrictions on their commercial use is senseless - another "rule" without teeth.

PLEASE, ban them altogether.

Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Swapping the gas blowers for electric blowers would immediately solve two problems: harmful emissions and noise pollution.

Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 31, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Deja vu.
Many of us campaigned for banning the gas-powered blowers in the late 1990s, but we lost the referendum.
The blower manufacturing companies put big bucks into defeating the measure, and were joined by landscaping companies that hire out the mow-and-blow gardeners, as well as such gardeners themselves.

Many people in Menlo Park just wanted the cheapest lawn cleanup they could get and didn't care about the noise or pollution they were inflicting on their neighbors.
And because most of the mow-and-blow gardeners were Hispanic, our opposition falsely claimed that wanting to ban the gas blowers was somehow racial discrimination.

Now the hue and cry is on again, in both Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
Perhaps people are finally ready to ban these noisome, noxious machines.
But do our city councils have the guts to ban them and to enforce the bans?
If so, the blower faction will probably seek a referendum once again. But maybe this time the voters would be smarter.
I've always liked the sound of a rake...

Posted by One With Nature
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Leaf blowers are the absolute worst thing about living in Menlo Park. I work at home, and am bombarded with the noise pollution from these things all week long. It sounds like a chainsaw massacre, or a dentist’s drill, or a hornet attack depending on the model of leaf blower. It feels like we just abandon the neighborhood each week to outsiders who pollute the air with dust plumes, engine exhaust, and godawful noise. The only people who even step foot in most of these yards are gardeners. The weekends are the only time you can hear the birds chirping, and the wind rustling through the leaves. It’s like a movie with beautiful cinematography and a death metal soundtrack. I would far prefer to have leaves on the ground than the random assault of leaf blowers any time. Leaf blowers should be banned. Period.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 31, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Air district report: Leaf blowers present health risks"

My, what a blinding flash of the obvious.

Posted by More than enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2015 at 4:28 pm

The robust response to the mow and blow issue speaks for itself in reflecting feelings about this noxious practice. All the opinion being expressed here is on one side -- ban or modify blowers dramatically to cut down on the air and noise pollution. Since I'm now retired/work at home, I'm exposed to this neighborhood cacaphony on a daily basis. Remembering back when I was away at the office all day, I had much less awareness of the degree of the environmental insult. My sense is that those who are tolerant of it just to get their yards all cleaned up for the weekend, are also those who are away when it's being done. Of course, that doesn't mean that they are not exposed to the micro particulants when they come home, like the rest of us. If we can achieve pollution control in a major source like automobiles, there's no reason not to require that these ubiquitous blowers be controlled or replaced with alternative devices (rakes, brooms, new clean/quiet technology -- this is Silicon Valley after all). I would press my City Council and Palo Altos' to ban the blowers now -- even if this means moving to rake and broom in the short run while acceptable new technology is developed to replace them.

Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 1, 2015 at 7:49 am

As someone who works from a home office, I am also appalled at the daily onslaught of noise, dust, and exhaust from these obnoxious and unnecessary devices. I agree with “More than enough” that anyone who is away at work during the day probably isn’t even aware of what a problem this has become in our otherwise quiet neighborhoods.

I am personally in favor of an outright ban on leaf blowers in Menlo Park and think there would be significant support for such a ban. In fact, I recently posted a poll on this topic in our Allied Arts Nextdoor group. Out of 25 total respondents, 68% were in favor of an outright ban, and an additional 16% favored a ban if it didn’t increase the cost of their garden service or compromise the look of their yard. Only 16% were opposed.

While we are waiting for the City Council to institute a outright ban, you should be aware that the current city code (chapter 8.07) requires that leaf blowers only be used from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, from 11 am to 3 pm Saturday, and never on a “Spare the Air” day. In addition, only “Certified Leaf Blowers” may be used in Menlo Park. A certified leaf blower is defined as one that is “measured at sixty-five (65) dB(a) or less at a distance of fifty feet (50’) by an independent laboratory per American National Standards Institute ("ANSI") standard B175.2-1996, as certified by the manufacturer. (Ord. 895 § 3 (part), 1999).”

It is my understanding that very few leaf blowers meet this standard, and it is likely that most gardeners in Menlo Park are already in violation of the ordinance. If we could get the police to enforce the existing ordinance, at least the noise from leaf blowers would decline. Unfortunately, until we get an outright ban, the dust, toxic particles, and exhaust will remain.

Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I rake & don't have a gardener. My neighbors on both sides use garden services with gas (or kerosene?) blowers, one of which has chokingly noxious emissions. Guess where they both end up blowing their debris?
At least ban gas-powered blowers. For what the gardening guys get paid cumulatively, they can invest in better equipment.

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Los Gatos has a really sensible policy - Web Link

Gas powered blowers are banned, electric blowers must meet noise limits and be used during reasonable hours (similar to the MP ordinance)

Posted by Clint
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 1, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Leaf blower noise is way more annoying than the fleeting Surf Air overflights. Surf Air does not bother me but having blowers operating from various yards around me, several on the same day, probably add up to an hour of almost continuous disturbance.

Blowers are the most vexing type of noise because of their non-intermittent nature.

Posted by And Besides
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 1, 2015 at 3:10 pm

And besides, the drought has created very dirty and dusty streets so the clouds of dirt in the air makes for large clouds of dust. As a cyclist, I have to hold my breath to bike through these dust explosions. Many people are removing their grass and replacing with drought tolerant plants. The soil under these plants need protection from mulch and a leaf blower strips exactly what the plants need.

Ban leaf blowers completely. Bring back real gardeners who understand healthy gardens.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 1, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Bring back real gardeners who understand healthy gardens."

That will happen when people are ready to pay for it. That's what killed the ban the last time. Everyone thinks it's a great idea until they find out how much more it's going to cost THEM.

Posted by danna
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Sep 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm

We have become prisoners in our own homes. In Portola Valley we don't even have silence on weekends. It is a constant onslaught. What the article does not address is that these leaf blowers destroy the very gardens on which they are used. They destroy soil. It takes many years for the homeowner who doesn't undertsnad gardens to see that their properties fail to thrive, nothing grows. But it happens. Menlo park and Atherton are losing tons of trees. Leafblowers. Nothing grows in your gardens and they now and then pour on miracle grow. See what it looks like in five years. You will have a desert.Ry
So they are horribly unhealthy, terrible for the atmosphere and ozone, violate most noise ordinance decibels. And kill the very gardens upon which they are used. WHY? Are we subjects to this nightmare?

Posted by Joseph ashton
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:32 pm

We all agree that the leaf blowers are causing extreme anxiety and is very invasive and unhealthy for humans and gardens and makes it impossible for some of us to work at home. SO WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP TO GET THEM BANNED???

Posted by Milica Boghunovich
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2015 at 9:10 am

Whether gas-operated or electric blower (publicly used)the health-hazard impact is not diminished because any type of blower blows toxic and carcinogenic dust particles in the air that are causing more and more health problems - these particles are directly blown into our respiratory system daily. More and more law-suits are going to arise due to the negligence of the city heads ( I am form Los Angles County) who have chosen the cheapest and the deadliest way to "clean" the streets and parking lots.

Posted by Sebastian Vale
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2017 at 8:54 pm

I bike in L.A. as much as possible. I try to turn when I see a leaf blower ahead, but it's more than likely yet another leaf blower will be on that block. I ride through the cloud of oil, gas, dog poo and poison, the same cloud that's entering all the houses for babies, elderly, and everyone else to inhale. Powerful engines toss the junk 30 feet up or more, and most "gardeners" just move debris to the street or the next yard whose leaf blower will return it tomorrow. Tiny plants get uprooted, the land becomes more vulnerable to scorching, and the gardeners get cancer. When I get home, I realize I've left open my window and all my stuff is covered in grime the same as my house exterior from the neighbor's leaf blowers. When do we finally were these off as a failed experiment? Lots of Ill-intending terrorists do less damage than these things. Enough!

Posted by Cyndy Crogan
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2017 at 8:20 am

We live in a redwood forest in Santa Cruz. Prior to the rainy season the redwood feathers are reduced to a fine dust. This is the time of year when winds come up and drop thousands of redwood feathers. Neighbors and maintenance crews use blowers which produce fine clouds of dust at least sixty feet high on a daily basis. For the last five days I have had a serious sinus infection and have not been able to work. I am self employed and this takes a substantial toll on my income. For some reason people think their surroundings should be absolutely spotless in the redwood forest. Instead of allowing the feathers to decompose naturally as they have for thousands of years they remove them. Green Waste employees have said to me "we throw your forest away". I would not be surprised if someone told me my life along with this redwood forest is being cut short by the use of these blowers.

Posted by whatevr
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2017 at 10:21 am

It's time for MP or perhaps the county to revisit this major health concern. It is time to ban the use of these public nuisances. Protect your residents city council.

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