leaf blowers zero air pollution
research regarding leaf blower laws


Overview Conclusion

About 4 printed pages.



click here

ALSO SEE specific California Laws and Definitions of Machines.


Local Municipalities
The contentious response to the issue of blower bans and restrictions results in misunderstandings and ill will that takes some time to overcome.  Many people who would like bans are no match for the experienced, well-funded, highly motivated industry forces they will come up against.  The industry works for compromises that make it difficult to enforce even minimal regulations. 
Some towns have good compliance records.  Other towns find that compliance rate goes hand-in-hand with the rate of complaints to those in charge of enforcement.  How can enforcement officers know there are repeated violations without complaints and facts?  The Los Angeles report hot line (800 996-2489 or 213 473-4486) asks for the date and time of violations, as well as the address where they occur, and the license plate and description of the gardener’s vehicle.
Laws to take into Consideration in Los Angeles and California
Los Angeles City Ordinance. Chapter XI – Noise Regulation, Article 2 – Special Noise Sources,

Section 112.04

Re:  Powered Equipment Intended for Repetitive Use in Residential Areas and Other Machinery, Equipment, and Devices.
[Effective on February 13, 1998]
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection (a) above, no gas powered blower shall be used within 500 feet of a residence at anytime.  Both the user of such a blower as well as the individual who contracted for the services of the user, if any, shall be subject to the requirements of and penalty provisions for this ordinance.  Violation of the provisions of this subsection shall be punishable as an infraction in an amount not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00), notwithstanding the graduated fines set forth in L.A.M.C. Section 11.00(m). 

SECTION 112.05

Maximum noise Level of Powered Equipment or Powered Hand Tools.  Between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., in any residential zone of the City or within 500 feet thereof, no person shall operate or cause to be operated any powered equipment or powered hand tool that produces a maximum noise level exceeding the following noise limits at a distance of 50 feet therefrom:. . . (c )  65dB(A) for powered equipment intended for repetitive use in residential areas, including lawn mowers, backpack blowers, small lawn and garden tools and riding tractors.
“No person shall discharge from any source air contaminants that cause INJURY, DETRIMENT, NUISANCE or Annoyance to the Public.”  
(c) No person shall install, sell, offer for sale, or advertise any device, apparatus, or mechanism intended for use with, or as a part of, any required motor vehicle pollution control device or system which alters or modifies the original design or performance of any such motor vehicle pollution control device or system.  (d)  If the court finds that a person has willfully violated this section, the court shall impose the maximum fine that may be imposed in the case, and no part of the fine may be suspended. (f) No person shall operate a vehicle after notice by a traffic officer that the vehicle is not equipped with the required certified motor vehicle pollution control device correctly installed in operating condition, except as may be necessary to return the vehicle to the residence or place of business of the owner or driver or to a garage, until the vehicle has been properly equipped with such a device.  (g) The notice to appear issued or complaint filed for a violation of this section shall require that the person to whom the notice to appear is issued or against whom the complaint is filed produce proof of correction pursuant to Section 40150 or proof of exemption pursuant to Section 4000.1 or 4000.2.
[Penal Code, Section 7: the word “willfully,” when applied to the intent with which an act is done or omitted, implies simply a purpose or willingness to commit the act, or make the omission referred to.  It does not require any intent to violate law, or to injure another, or to acquire any advantage.]


Los Angeles
Many compromises were made by Los Angeles Ban Advocates, both before and after the initial ordinance was passed.  For instance, electric blowers are not banned.  The ban is not citywide, but only within 500 feet of a residence.  An existing noise ordinance limits electric blowers, as well as other regularly used lawn and garden equipment, to 65 decibels, as measured 50 feet away from the machine.  Yet, blowers are often used within five feet of a neighboring residence.  Warning letters are sent to both worker and employer for the first offense.  At the request of gardener associations, employers were added to the original ordinance, making them also liable for fines of their own.  The 1998 amended version reduced penalties from a misdemeanor, with possibility of jail time, to an infraction, and from a $1,000 fine to a $100 fine.  Enforcement was postponed until long after the ordinance was passed, to give gardeners time to “adjust” to the change.
Still, gardeners, a gardeners’ association, and industry went straight to Sacramento.  Three more years of time, effort and expense went into the defeat of five proposed state bills, which threatened all California bans and local rule regarding noise levels.
The physical and mental health of all California residents outweighed the preferences of industry and individual workers. 
Homeowners and other employers are responsible for knowing the law and making sure it is followed.  Yet, many Los Angeles employers have been told by their gardeners, and therefore believe, that there is no law; that there is a moratorium on enforcement. Or, workers may agree not to use a blower, but use it whenever they feel their employer is not around.
Blower supporters such as gardener’s associations claimed that homeowners and other employers would “force” them to use blowers. As previously noted, at their request, “the individual who contracted for the services of the user” was included in the fines assigned for the Los Angeles ban, and therefore, could be held responsible for violations. 
Homeowners and other employers have the right to instruct employees not to use blowers, even where they are legal.  If the employee protests, or is obviously disturbed, there should be a discussion about how this instruction can be followed to the satisfaction of both.

Although some gardeners have boasted of their violations to the press, in no case is it acceptable for a worker to ignore the law, just because the worker does not like it.  Years of effort, research and weighing facts on both sides of the issue went into the final vote in favor of a Los Angeles ban.  The Los Angeles City Council’s Environmental Quality and Waste Management Committee held two public hearings at which all interested parties had a chance to offer suggestions for making the ban workable, and formed a task force to review enforcement and public education.

What We Learned About Laws
Compliance with a new law
is more likely . . .

. . .in municipalities where all blowers are banned. It is easily noticed if a blower is used at all, fewer violations occur, and complaints are more likely to be made. 
. . .where the penalty, as it is actually carried out, is costly and/or inconvenient for the violator,
It will outweigh the benefits he feels he gains by ignoring the law.
If the fine is likely to be reduced by the court, the system, or the payment procedure, for any reason, it should be set high. 
It would be very inconvenient to the violator, to be required to take time from work or leisure to appear in court for repeated violations.
. . .where the penalty escalates for subsequent violations.
Workers are more likely to think twice before committing repeated violations.
. .where public opinion is strongly against the use of blowers and people discuss it openly.
Neighbors will be more inclined to speak directly to violators and their employers.
. . .where employers specifically instruct that blowers are not to be used,
It is less likely that a banned blower will be used when the employer is not home, especially if the penalty ignoring this instruction is the loss of the job.  It has been found that employers need to repeat this instruction over time.
. . .where it is made known to enforcement agencies that the general public is behind the law, and wants it enforced.
Enforcement officers will feel they are making a difference.
This is most easily accomplished when residents register complaints and report each and every violation.
. . .where the law is immediately put into action.

Workers who are going to continue to use banned or restricted blowers will do so, when and where they wish, whether there is a “breaking in” period or not. 

Residents in Los Angeles became confused by the postponement of the well-publicized ban.
Those who respect the law, will comply immediately.  It does not take long to pick up a rake and broom, to purchase an inexpensive leaf vacuum or convert an existing dual-purpose blower to a vacuum.

Ordinances Suggestions
The intent of the officials who pass ordinances, must be clear.  An ordinance must not be open to more than one interpretation, if it is to hold up in a court of law.  To be more specific than the Los Angeles definition, consider the following:
  • Consider “excluding” all others from a law that permits a specific activity or machine. 
  • “No such tools are allowed except for _____”
  • If only electric blowers are allowed, then a clear ordinance would so indicate, and then exclude all blowers not run by electricity or battery, rather than trying to define the fuel used on other blowers. 
  • This type of ordinance should also forbid the source of the “electricity” to be a generator.  It defeats the purpose of banning gas blowers to allow electric blowers to be run by gas generators.
  • “…which creates uncontained artificial air flow above a height of ____ feet at any time and under any condition”,
  • “. . .which airflow can be distributed a distance of ____ feet within ___ minutes”;
  • “…which redistributes and suspends dust, dirt, particulate matter, emissions in the air”; ….
    (or, “ . . .which is capable of redistributing and suspending dust, dirt, particulate matter, emissions in the air.”
  • ”which airflow, when viewed by a reasonable adult, appears to contain dust, debris, and any other matter which, once airborne, cannot be restrained or regulated by the operator of the machine or device.”

Phrasing regarding the term “air pollution” could include the fact that it “. . .includes, but is not restricted to ….(dust, dirt, feces, mold, particulate matter, hydrocarbons)…made airborne by the machines which are the subject of this act/ordinance/bill”.

There is no question that further unbiased studies of health impacts of the use of blowers, and unbiased economic analyses, would be of service to both ban advocates and blower supporters, even if they differ in interpretations of the results of such studies.  Unfortunately, blowers are a part of our world.  Perhaps such studies would ease specific concerns on one or both sides.  Or, study results might help one side or the other see that there really are problems that need to be avoided or worked out. 
We know that, “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.” (ARB Report)
There are no studies on landscape and hardscape fugitive dust as it affects operators and immediate neighboring properties and their occupants.  It would be helpful to know what the dust drift contains in specific areas of the city, how far and how high it drifts, how long it is suspended in the air. 
Existing noise studies, together with decibel readings from blowers, show potential problems for users, bystanders and neighbors alike.  However, studies showing real world distance readings and personal reactions do not exist, to our knowledge.  For instance, blowers in operation are usually closer to unprotected co-workers, closer to inhabitants of the property on which they are used, closer to several neighbors, and closer to pedestrians, than their 50-foot distance readings would indicate, and they are operated under conditions far different than is called for by the ANSI testing standards.
Behavioral studies would show the importance of exposure, including length of time.  Where the work crew is more than one, is it better to use one machine at a time (more racket for shorter period), or all at once?  Would it be better for neighbors to co-ordinate work days and get it all over with on one day?  What is the best way for people to deal with the imposition of blowers just outside their homes?
As noted, economic “studies” of work-time comparisons for leaf, dust and debris gathering investigated by ZAP seemed to be more opinion, rather than fact, and even those did not relate to residential landscape practices.  It would be interesting to know the pay range for this type of work in various parts of the country or the city, taking into consideration how many days a week or month are scheduled, how long each work visit is, and the comparison of property sizes.
If you have read this far, you probably have a personal interest in this issue.  Please come back to participate in the survey we hope to have available in the near future. At the time this website was launched, there are two other interesting surveys. The LINKS survey on lawn care equipment is on the League for the Hard of Hearing site. The link to the Inventions We Love to Hate survey is also listed there. Leaf blowers lead this list by November 2001.