leaf blowers zero air pollution
research regarding leaf blower laws
 


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Survey 99

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY and RECOMMENDATIONS

In residential neighborhoods, blowers operated by landscape workers and homeowners create obvious noise pollution and clouds of air pollution. The one operated across the street as I write this is measuring up to 78dB at a distance of over 70 feet.

A survey, Survey99, was created by the ZAP Education Committee to determine opinions and perceptions of California residents regarding the use of leaf blowers (sometimes "blowers" herein) for residential landscape maintenance. With the assistance of a marketing consultant, an unbiased, nonjudgmental survey was constructed. The order of questions was designed to avoid influencing answers to subsequent questions. Virtually all surveys were taken, at random, at public places such as beaches, malls and a farmers' market.

Participants consist of a wide variety of income groups. All were over 18 years of age, and nearly equal between those over and under 45 years of age. Participants reside in California in a residence they own or rent. The 53 Participants represent 38 different zip code areas.

Highlights of Survey99 Responses

Many people are at home when blowers are being used in their neighborhoods. They are directly exposed to blower noise and pollution not only from their own property, but also from neighboring properties. That could add up to from 6-9 properties. A large proportion of these properties consist of hard surfaces ("hardscape"), such as sidewalks, walkways, driveways, carports, patios, decks, porches and street gutters.

  1. Health Concerns - Participants. In a majority of households, someone has one or more health conditions which are particularly sensitive to dust, mold and other irritants contained in the Particulate Matter which, once made airborne by blowers, cannot be contained. A majority of Participants are aware of the health concerns that surround the use of leaf blowers. "This secondhand noise is every bit as irritating as the secondhand smoke from cigarettes."

  • Over two-thirds of all Participants are disturbed by the noise and/or the odor of gas fumes of blowers in their neighborhoods.

  • In a typical week, nearly two-thirds of all Participants change their daily routine due to the imposition of blowers. Of this group, 56% do so often or daily. 75% of all Participants would like to see more restrictions on blowers.
  • 62% of all Participants would like to see blowers banned, while only 15% disagree.

  1. Violations of blower bans. Because of widespread noncompliance with blower bans, some Participants living in a city with a blower ban were not aware the ban was still in force. Participants who knew there was a law were very irritated by the fact that there was a lack of compliance and enforcement.

Of Participants who have had blowers used on their property in the previous 12 months:

    • 84% reported that work crews consist of more than one member, and that
    • 74% of blowers used are gas.

  1. Health concerns - workers. Blower manufacturers recommend the use of protective gear for eyes, ears and face for everyone within 50 feet of an operating blower. The widespread noncompliance with this minimal safety precaution is a subject that calls for more research and action on the part of manufacturers, distributors and worker safety regulators.

In general, landscape workers do not request pay increases and employers do not seem to offer them. However, three-fourths of Participant employers indicated a willingness to discuss pay adjustments,(#54) and all Participant employers who had been asked for a pay increase agreed.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Legislation and Further Health Studies:

The primary recommendation of ZAP is that there be a minimum three year moratorium on all California statewide legislation which regards operation of gas powered garden equipment, and in particular blowers, while health studies are designed, funded (by grants if necessary), completed and reported. Private groups which could assist in such studies include the Lung Association and groups concerned with Asthma.

2. Protective Gear Education:

ZAP recommends that manufacturers and retail distributors of blowers and safety gear and gardener associations make available information regarding safety gear recommended by health experts. Why it should be worn, where to find it, how much it might cost. Workers should be encouraged to protect themselves.

Manufacturers of blowers may have warnings in their user manuals. The lack of compliance shown by Survey99 and other studies confirm that, though a purchaser may read the manual, it cannot be presumed the end user will even have access to it.

ZAP believes the health of landscape workers has an economic value. We believe worker health concerns greatly outweigh any possible timesaving from the use of blowers.

Manufacturers of safety gear might provide local government business licensing agencies with information to be handed out.

Retail distributors of blowers could prominently post in their business establishments warnings, definitions of protective gear recommended by health experts, and carry those recommended types of gear.

Gardener and/or landscape associations could purchase safety gear in large quantities in order to provide it to workers at a discount. Where workers cannot afford such gear, perhaps their associations could offer financial grants which would provide such safety gear for free.

3. Further Studies.

Focus Groups. ZAP recommends the use of professionally designed and administered focus groups to clarify public attitudes toward landscape maintenance alternatives, including power equipment, standards of appearance, environmental and health impacts. Representatives of interested groups should be encouraged to comment during the survey design phase..

Nonrandom Studies. The Public at large wants to be heard. People who heard ZAP was doing a survey wanted to participate, but had to be turned down for this random study. Even amongst Participants chosen at random, "I hate those machines" was often heard. The decision whether to "Agree" or "Disagree" in various strengths with Survey99 statements regarding stronger legislation or bans was based on Participant's assumptions regarding the effect those acts would have on gardeners and other workers, not on Participant's own welfare.

Attitudes of Gardeners. What prevents them from wearing protective gear? Lack of knowledge? Disbelief that there is a need? Lack of opportunity or funds to purchase such gear?