Air and noise pollution come from many sources, including many small
sources. This web site is concerned with the contribution towards these
problems made by leaf blowers.
Potential health effects from exhaust emissions, fugitive dust,
and noise range from mild to serious. and, "Blower use is
so prevalent that many people who are so affected may not realize they
are at risk from emissions, dust and noise in their neighborhoods.
These irritants, if not the cause itself, may be contributors to poor
health." A Report to the
California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts
of Leaf Blowers, presented February 2000 by the California Environmental
Protection Agency, Air Resources Board, Mobile Source Control Division.
Los Angeles residents dont pay much attention to neighboring activities
they feel dont concern them, until something unusual alerts them
to trouble, or until they are disturbed to the point of distress.
Those of us who had made the connection between cause and effect were
the first to ask neighbors and their workers for some consideration.
Most of our polite requests were ignored or laughed at over the years,
resulting in the formation of grassroots groups that brought the facts
to the City Council.
|A Matter of Choices
|Leaf blower operators have the choice
to use electric or gas models, or even to use other equipment for
gathering leaves, grass clippings, dust and debris. Citizens
and policy or lawmakers have the choice of whether to allow or reject
blower use. However, residents have no choice whether to breathe
the polluted air that blowers create and/or distribute right next
door to us, or several blocks away.
|Unique Conditions in Los
|The South Coast Air Quality Management
District website explains the unique conditions faced in Los Angeles,
where Thermal inversions act like a lid over the basin. Bright
sunshine and warm temperatures cause some pollutants to react with
each other, forming even more pollution. Different types and levels
of air pollution can cause everything from watery eyes and fatigue
to respiratory disease, lung damage--even cancer. (AQMD)
As noted in our Overview Conclusions, page 19 of the Air
Resources Board Report , explains, Fine particles remain
suspended in the air for long periods and can travel great distances.
PM10 may remain suspended for hours to days in the atmosphere.
These are emissions to which persons in the near-downwind-vicinity
would be exposed, for example, residents whose lawns are being serviced
and their neighbors, persons in commercial buildings whose landscapes
are being maintained or serviced, and persons within a few blocks
of the source.
The following general physical reactions and discomforts associated
with the use of blowers may be created or intensified by the cumulative
amount of blower emissions, fuel spills, fugitive dust and noise
found in Los Angeles.
||With the law behind us, we are now
less timid about approaching neighbors and/or their gardeners to
insist on compliance. If there is a need to report repeated
violations, once the blower operator has been informed of the ban,
we feel no remorse in making repeated reports of their willful disregard
for the law to the Los Angeles toll free hotline (800) 996-2489
or (213) 473-4486.
|POTENTIAL HEALTH CONCERNS
REGARDING THE USE OF LEAF BLOWERS
|General Physical Reactions
|Headaches, dizziness, weakness and
nausea, constriction of airways, coughing, sore throat, reduction
of capacity of red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body, upset
stomach or ulcers, difficulty sleeping.
Noise can cause an upset stomach or ulcer, contribute to premature
birth of babies and to indifference. In one study, when a
lawnmower was running, no one stopped for a woman needing help.
When it was shut off, people hastened to help her. (Conservation
|Asthma, hay fever and other allergy
reactions include sore throats, shortness of breath, giddiness,
bronchitis, lung inflammation, infections and decreased breathing
capacity. (NRDC, APO.4)
Nasal allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose, eyes, ears
and throat, clear, runny nasal discharge, stuffy nose, red, watery
eyes, and sore throats, coughing, tiredness, stomachaches, headaches,
and tenderness in cheeks and forehead.
Related problems stemming from allergies may be sinus infections
(sinusitis), eye inflammation (conjunctivitis) nasal polyps, ear
infections (otitis media), asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
All of these, individually or together, can bring about irritability
and, therefore, behavior changes.
Asthma can be triggered by mold,
pollen, dust, pets, cold weather, and/or smoke, which cause the
lining of air passages in lungs to become inflamed and swollen.
Symptoms can be chest tightness, coughing, difficulty breathing,
and/or wheezing. (99.1.1)
The Childrens Environmental Health Network calls attention
to the fact that asthma Affects 4.8 million people below
age 18 in the U.S. . . .Accounted for 198,000 hospitalizations
under age 25 (in 1993). (CEHN)
According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC),
asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood.
The annual hospitalization rate for asthma among those under age
25 increased 28% (from 16.8 to 21.4 per 10,000 population) between
1980 and 1993. The annual age-specific asthma death rate
increased 118% (from 1.7 to 3.7 per million population) between
1980 and 1993. (G6)
An Asthma in America survey in 1998 showed that, in
Los Angeles itself, 46% of asthmatic children went to emergency
rooms for asthma attacks in the past year. 44%
of those surveyed in Los Angeles said attacks forced them to miss
school or work, compared w/ national average of 25%. (Asthma
in America) and (98.12.1)
50% of Los Angeles asthmatics are limited in sports and recreation,
36% in normal physical exertion, and 29% are limited in social
Pollens, dust, molds which have fallen to or reside on the ground
can be blown up and resuspended over and over again for periods
long enough and for distances far enough to carry them into homes
and lungs of asthmatics.
Check through our References Links
page for sources regarding asthma health organizations and links.
|11.8 million people in America are
affected by allergies that result in symptoms, which may be severe
enough to disrupt life. They make it difficult to concentrate
and to work. Allergies tend to run in families, and one in
five children who visit pediatricians has a major allergic disorder.
People who have never been allergic may still develop symptoms after
their own, individual tolerance level for a particular allergen
(commonly dust, mold, animal dander or bee stings) or fumes such
as perfume, has been exceeded at some point in their life.
(Note: Reactions to fumes such as perfume may be considered as a
sensitivity rather than a true allergic
Type 2 allergies cause cerebral and behavioral reactions, and can
be caused by foods and odors from inhalants or chemicals (including
perfume, car exhaust, smoke), which can cause or intensify brain
malfunctions. An excess of exposure can cause dizziness, confusion,
irritability, frustration, fatigue, anger, indifference, decreased
concentration, lack of motivation, memory loss, unusual sensitivity
to sounds and odors, a feeling of spaciness, slurred speech, difficulty
in concentration, and minor personality changes. Or
more extreme reactions such as Depression, paranoia, extreme
fatigue, hyperactivity, delusions, hallucinations, panic, amnesia,
blackouts, manic, phobic and violent responses. (Allergy
Relief Program p.64) and (Nasal
House dust and house dust mites, microscopic molds, animal dander,
fur or feathers, tree, weed, and grass pollens and molds cause most
common Type 1 allergies. Blowers may distribute even mushroom
spores through a neighborhood. (Allergy
Relief Program p.42)
Mold can cause both acute and long-term serious effects. Stachybotrys
fungus is one of hundreds of thousands of outdoor fungi that can
cause serious health problems, such as migraine headaches, coughing,
swollen eyes and fatigue when it moves indoors, and reactions that
can develop into asthma. (99.10.3)
It gives off toxic spores that can be inhaled, grows quickly in
damp, poorly ventilated places like heating ducts, sheet rock and
crawl spaces; In 1994, a link was found, with unusually high
exposure, between Stachybotrys atra and infant deaths from pulmonary
hemorrahage - hemosiderosis, or lung bleeding. (99.10.3)
Blowers may introduce these molds, along with dust and odors, into
homes where damp conditions could cause them to proliferate.
Eczema (rash, dry, or itchy skin) can result from an allergic reaction
to exposure to dust, pollens, molds and animal dander, or from indoor
and outdoor air pollution. It can lead to serious skin lesions.
One researcher said, Natural environmental toxins have received
little attention in the United States. Now we have evidence
these toxins can and do produce a serious, sometimes deadly, illness
in vulnerable infants. (99.10.3)
Again, pollens, dust, molds and animal dander which have fallen
to or reside on the ground can be blown up and resuspended over
and over again for periods long enough and for distances far enough
to create allergic reactions in people who are far from blower activity,
even bringing these allergens into nearby homes. In addition,
gasoline fumes may be so strong to passersby and neighbors as to
|Nearly 6,000 Los Angeles residents
a year may die from lung or heart problems aggravated by breathing
the gritty air pollution. . . . . More than die
from auto accidents, as well as AIDS and breast cancer, combined.
Particulates are small enough to lodge in lungs and aggravate
respiratory and heart disease.
The above L.A. Times information from environmental reporter Marla
Cone stem from research by the Natural Resources Defense Council,
quoted below. (97.6.2)
The Natural Resources Defense Council
defines Particulate matter as the deadliest air pollutant.
They used research by Harvard and the American Cancer Society, and
pollution data from the Environmental Protection Agency for their
Approximately 65,000 premature deaths
from cardiopulmonary cause may be attributable to particulate air
pollution each year. Estimated Annual Cardiopulmonary
Deaths Attributable to Particulate Air Pollution in the Los Angeles-Long
Beach area in 1989 was 33,825 vs 1,458 deaths from auto accidents.
These rates are the highest in the nation! (NRDC,
Both air pollution and noise can increase blood pressure.
In turn, the heart rate and the rate of breathing are changed.
Studies show that particulate matter causes respiratory
symptoms, changes in lung function. . .and pulmonary inflammation.
. .might precipitate fluid in the lungs in people with heart disease.
. .mediators released during an inflammatory response could increase
the risk of blood clot formation and strokes. and PM10 exposure
. . .might also increase susceptibility to bacterial or viral
respiratory infections, leading to an increased incidence of pneumonia.
. . .In the presence of preexisting heart disease, acute bronchiolitis
or pneumonia induced by air pollutants might precipitate congestive
heart failure. (NRDC, APO.4)
Elevated concentrations of ambient particulate
air pollution have been associated with increased hospital admissions
for cardiovascular disease.. . . risk of MI [myocardial infarction]
onset increased in association with elevated concentrations of fine
particles in the previous 2-hour period. In addition, a delayed
response associated with 24-hour average exposure 1 day before the
onset of symptoms was observed American
Heart Association Abstract and (01.6.1).
|Shortened Life Span
|Higher Mortality Rates: sudden infant
death syndrome: higher infant mortality rates. birth defects,
genetic mutations, premature birth, cancer, leukemia, have all been
linked to air pollution.
|Some antibiotics increase risk of
hearing damage and/or loss due to noise.
See Noise is an Emission, Too section.
Among the basic human needs are
rest, silence, solitude (privacy). People need rest, silence
and/or solitude for relaxation, which is needed to become refreshed.
All of these are required in some degree in order to feel satisfaction
and happiness. (Human
Sleep is disturbed by blower noise, long after the noise ceases.
Rest and solitude, whether indoors or outdoors, are interrupted
by the need to move away from the fumes, dust and noise of blowers.
The resultant distress, frustration, fatigue, and anger .
. .may seriously affect moods, attitudes and eventual response
to the environment. .. (Human
Theres little doubt that noise makes some people aggressive
and less able to handle frustration. . . (01.6.2)
Behavioral allergic reactions to fumes and dust, mold and animal
dander produced and/or spread by blowers are noted above, under
|Workplace Injuries and Exposure
|The highest incidence of failure to
wear protective gear in any workplace is by landscape and yard maintenance
workers. Even where some semblance of gear is worn, it seldom
meets the minimum standard recommended by manufacturers and OSHA.
A handkerchief, scarf or painters mask may not protect workers
from fugitive dust and its Particulate matter. Respirator
masks that have a secure fit, with no leakage where dust can enter,
Sunglasses do not offer the coverage or strength of recommended
wrap-around protective glasses or goggles.
The headset of a portable radio will not protect hearing.
Good earplugs, and/or ear-muff type protection that fits correctly
are recommended for the noise which may be as loud as 100 decibels
near the operators ears, even if the machine boasts a much
lower dB level at 50 feet.
Leaf blower operators, themselves, are the first, most frequently,
and most highly exposed, to blower and fuel pollution.
|Other facts may be found
See the NoNoise Leaf
Blower Facts, Leaf Blowers and Health: Letter to California ARB (pp.
6 - 14)