leaf blowers zero air pollution
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Potential Impact


Infants and Children

The Elderly and Others

Those Who Exercise Outdoors

About 4 printed pages.


Most at Risk

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“A Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers” California Air Resources Board, February (delivered May) 2000:
 “For exhaust emissions, the number of people potentially impacted is as high as the population of the state. . . “ and:

“The sensitive and probable risk groups for CO [carbon monoxide] include anemics, the elderly, pregnant women, fetuses, young infants, and those suffering from certain blood, cardiovascular, or respiratory diseases”

News article, regarding particulates: “The biggest risk is faced by the elderly and people afflicted with asthma, angina, pneumonia or other lung and heart ailments” (97.6.2)

Blowers create an illusion of usefulness

Blower Operators “In one study, high short-term exposures to CO [carbon monoxide] were found in people operating small gas-powered garden equipment (ARB 1992).” (ARB Report)
Even a gardener who opposed blower bans was quoted as saying, “It does bother me.  I have a thing with dust and fumes.” (98.1.10) But, he felt they were an economic necessity, even though “It’s come to people making a lot of noise and dust and you’re gone.”
Adequate eye, breathing and hearing protection can help and is recommended by OSHA and manufacturers.  Gloves are recommended to protect from burns, and possibly from exposure to toxic fuels and vibrations.  Also recommended are wrap-around protective goggles (not recreational sunglasses), earplugs and/or muff-type ear protectors, and respirator face-mask that covers mouth and nose (not a scarf over mouth or a painters mask) 
However, even then, there is no effective air filter for exposures to carbon monoxide and other air toxics. (ARB Report)  A decibel level of 65 at 50 feet might still be 100 or more next to a gardener’s ear.  Toxic spills while filling small tanks, and emissions during use of gasoline 2-stroke machines, are first inhaled by machine operators, as is the Particulate matter, consisting of molds, dried bird and rat feces, pesticides, gasoline and oil and fine dust particles that lodge deep in lung linings.
The ARB recommends more study of carbon monoxide and other air toxics created by the use of blowers, especially the exposure of operators, themselves.  Whether a blower user, or anyone else, is negatively affected by contaminants depends on the amount of exposure and the length of time of exposure.  It also depends on their own overall health and personal physical sensitivities to irritants.  “For the worker, the analysis suggests concern.” (ARB Report)
Infants and Children

A 1987 autopsy study of 15-to-25 year olds showed slight lung airspace inflammation in 75%, and severe damage in 27%.  54% had severe illness in either the bronchial glands or bronchial linings. (97.11.1)  And, a 1989 study estimated that “school age children, who represent only 20% of the [South Coast Air] basin’s population, experience more than 40% of the symptoms associated with exposure to ozone.” (97.8.1) (Also noted in another Source for both studies).
“For their body size, children inhale several times more air than adults, and they breathe faster. . . “ taking in more pollutants.
“Allergy is the primary cause of asthma. About 90% of children under 10 who have asthma . . .also have allergies.  . . .Childhood asthma is considered one of the two most common pediatric ailments for hospital admission. Asthma is defined as a reversible obstructive airway disease.”  (Allergy Control)
Small, growing bodies take in contaminants at a greater impact than do adults.   “In 1993, among children under age 5, black children were six times more likely to die from asthma than white children.”  Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN).  Their web site includes analyses of federal legislation and studies that regard children’s health.
CEHN points out that “Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental exposures because they are in a dynamic state of growth and can have greater exposures to toxicants than adults. Pound per pound of body weight children drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air.”   and “Children have increased oxygen needs compared to their size, they breathe more rapidly and inhale more pollutants per pound of body weight than adults. They often spend more time engaged in vigorous outdoor activities than adults.“ (CEHN)

Other good sources for information about Asthma, NIH, AAir, CDC, lungusa.

In 1997, a government study ("The Relationship between Selected Causes of Postneonatal Infant Mortality and Particulate Air Pollution in the United States,” Woodruff, et. al.) found that infant mortality seems to increase as Particulate matter (PM10) increases.  In a letter to the White House, CEHN, states, “This is just one of numerous medical and scientific studies indicating that air pollution contributes to respiratory disease and early death.”  (CEHN, letter)
The Environmental Working Group and Physicians for Social Responsibility used the Woodruff, et. al. data for a report on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  In highly polluted areas, babies were 26% more likely to die of SIDS than those in areas with cleaner air.  Some experts believe that Particulate Matter could cause 500 cases of SIDS nationwide per year, with the highest number of deaths estimated as taking place in Southern California.  PM contributes to SIDS deaths, where it is believed babies’ heart and respiratory rates slow and their blood pressure drops.  The Environmental Working Group (CEHN) (97.7.2)

At best, PM is an important environmental stressor, warranting further investigation.  Fugitive dust distribution caused by the use of blowers warrants further investigation, especially because it often is initiated only a few feet from nursery windows and strollers. 

The Elderly
and others
Individuals with Cardio-Pulmonary Problems,
or with
Low Immunity.
or with
Pre-existing conditions

“The elderly and those with heart and lung disease are at greatest risk of premature mortality due to particulate air pollution.  Their lives might be shortened by one to two years on average in more polluted areas.” and:
. . .
“. . .studies show that particulate matter causes respiratory symptoms, changes . . .and pulmonary inflammation which can lead to increased permeability of the lungs. ..Increased permeability might precipitate fluid in the lungs in people with heart disease . . .” and:
. . .
“. . .mediators released during an inflammatory response could increase the risk of blood clot formation and strokes.” and:
. . .
PM exposure “. . .might also increase susceptibility to bacterial or viral respiratory infections, leading to an increased incidence of pneumonia in vulnerable members of the population.” Natural Resources Defense Council.
“People currently thought to be at greatest risk from exposure to ambient CO [carbon monoxide] levels are those with ischemic heart disease who have stable exercise-induced angina pectoris (cardiac chest pain).” (ARB 1992, U.S. EPA 1999b).
Particulate matter poses the greatest risk to the elderly and those w/ asthma, angina, pneumonia or other lung and/or heart ailments.
A 1997 Kaiser Foundation Research Institute study of Southern California found that, for every 10 microgram increase in coarse particle pollution, hospitalizations for chronic respiratory problems rose by 7%.  Hospitalizations rose by 3.5% for patients with acute respiratory disease and by 3 % for patients with cardiovascular disease.  In or near Southern California communities where AQMD was taking daily pollution measurements, “maximum effect was on people with preexisting diseases.  The 7% increase is considered “a big number, almost twice what has been reported in other studies.”  “A surprisingly big increase.”  (97.11.7)
A California Environmental Protection Agency study in the Coachella Valley showed a 1% increase in deaths and 2.5% increase in emergency room visits for pneumonia per 10 microgram increase in coarse particulates. (97.11.7)
ASTHMA and allergy sufferers may need additional medications on days with high ratings of PM and/or when several nearby properties are groomed in one day.  The National Institutes of Health has concluded, “Environmental control to reduce exposure to indoor and outdoor allergens is critical”

Read more about Asthma at the National Institute of Health website, and scan our References Links page for Asthma groups which may not be cited in our text.

People Who Exercise Outdoors: 
The Air Quality Management District’s web page puts out TOMORROW’S SMOG REPORT.  Read all the tables, or scan down to easy to read “good, moderate, unhealthful” section.
Athletes exercising outdoors may suffer reduced performance levels at .12 ppm level of ozone.  Even if young and healthy, they may be one of the most vulnerable to the effects of ozone and other environmental pollutants they inhale (AQMD).
When ozone levels reached above .12 ppm, it took many days after the ozone episode had passed for the lung function of children at summer camp to return to what it had been before the episode.
Children spend more time outdoors than do adults.  When they exercise, they breath faster, and through their mouths.  Air pollutants are not filtered as they are with nose breathing.