leaf blowers zero air pollution
research regarding leaf blower laws
 

Preface

General Physical Reactions and
Discomfort


Respiratory Difficulty

Asthma

Allergies

Cardio-Pulmonary Difficulty

Shortened Life Span

Hearing Loss

Altered Behavior

Blower User Workplace Injuries and Exposure to Contaminants

About 6 printed pages.

 



General Physical Reactions and Discomfort

click here

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. (66 pages).
 
Los Angeles residents don’t pay much attention to neighboring activities they feel don’t 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.
 

Blowers create an illusion of usefulness

PREFACE
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 Angeles
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. 
Taking Responsibility 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
WHAT PHYSICAL SYMPTOM
General Physical Reactions and Discomfort
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 Law Foundation)
Respiratory Difficulty
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)

And:
 
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

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 Children’s 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 activities. 
 
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.

Allergies
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” body response.)
 
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 Allergies)
 
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 be nauseating.
Cardio-Pulmonary Difficulty
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 report.
 
“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, APO.3)
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.
Hearing Loss
Some antibiotics increase risk of hearing damage and/or loss due to noise.

See Noise is an Emission, Too section.
Altered Behavior

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 Factors)

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 Factors) 
 
“There’s 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 Allergies.

Workplace Injuries and Exposure to Contaminants
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 painter’s 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, are recommended.
 
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 operator’s 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 at http://www.nonoise.org

See the NoNoise Leaf Blower Facts, Leaf Blowers and Health: Letter to California ARB (pp. 6 - 14)