Heard that? This is the sound of the leaf blower ban

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for more than 100 million yearsThe trees shed their leaves each autumn, creating a protective layer of duff provides cover For snails, bees and butterflies. Rotting leaves made the soil fertile and provided nutrients Back to the trees. Even today fallen leaves provide a profit harvest festival – Unless they are destroyed with a leaf blower.

Across the United States, some 11 million Leaf blowers roar every year, destroying delicate debris with 200 mph winds. Their distinctive, whining drone is hard to avoid. But bans on leaf blowers are spreading across the country, allowing a few lucky spots to experience the season as nature intended.

A complete ban on gas-powered machines has recently come into effect Washington DC, Miami Beach, Florida; And evanston, Illinois. California will stop selling gas-powered blowers next summer. their hum will also be silenced portland And seattle In the coming years. Barring the sudden acceptance of leaf-strewn lawns, rakes and battery-powered tools will gradually take their place.

Long the dream of noise-sensitive people everywhere, restrictions began to lift in 2020 after pandemic lockdowns forced office workers into their homes. People found out after being stuck in their neighborhood all day beauty of birds singingAlso a new hatred for the sound of leaf blowers.

Communities that have tried and failed to ban the devices are now starting to have success, said Jamie Banks, co-founder and president of Quiet Communities, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing noise pollution. Said: “There’s a lot of consensus about doing something about it.” Today, more than 200 towns across the United States ban leaf blowers, although many have placed limits on how many hours or what time of year people can operate them.

Another factor behind the proliferation of bans is that research shows that leaf blowers emit shocking amounts of air pollution. California Air Resources Board It has been estimated that running a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour produces the same amount of smog pollution as driving a Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Denver. How is that even possible? Many leaf blowers use extremely inefficient “two-stroke” engines, which mix oil and gasoline and produce as little as A third That fuel in the form of an aerosol without burning it. The old design is cheap, powerful and really fast and dirty,

“I certainly think people underestimate the risks,” said Michael Brauer, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia.

A Study A 2015 study found that lawn mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers and other lawn equipment accounted for a quarter of all emissions of cancer-causing benzene in 2011, the most data available. They are also responsible for 17 percent of volatile organic compounds and 12 percent of nitrogen oxides. primary pollutant were responsible for smog 20 million tons About planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions 4 percent How much emissions did passenger cars emit in 2011?

“The big picture is that cars have gotten cleaner and cleaner and cleaner and cleaner, and these kinds of devices haven’t,” Brewer said. “And so it has become apparent as a more significant source of pollution.” Because vehicle regulations have become so strict in California, for example, small, off-road engines such as those found in leaf blowers emit more smoke-producing emissions than all others. 14 million passenger cars In the state.

Even their noise poses health concerns. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers operate at a low frequency, allowing noise to travel long distances and penetrate walls. “People can’t get away from the sound,” Banks said. “So you go into your house, you close your windows, you close your doors, and you can still hear it.”

A Study A 2017 survey conducted by Banks and the EPA found that commonly used lawn equipment was louder than the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of 55 decibels up to 800 feet away. And every 5-decibel increase in average daily noise levels around people’s homes leads to a 34 percent increase in heart attacks and strokes, according to harvard research In 2020.

So why was such a dangerous device launched in the first place? Machines such as the first leaf blowers, invented in the late 1940s, were not intended to blow leaves – they were backpack crop duster, is for spraying pesticides. Then someone came up with the brilliant idea of ​​removing the chemical canister so that the machine could just blow away the debris. This invention coincided with the growth of suburbia after World War II, when laying a carpet of grass around your house became part of it. American Dream, Fallen leaves were seen as a nuisance that needed to be removed: they covered the green lawn that everyone wanted to show off and made sidewalks slippery in the rain.

So in the 1970s, Kyoritsu Naoki, the Japanese company that invented the crop duster, started selling exactly what people wanted. Lawn care turned into a huge industry, and reaction soon followed: As early as 1975, Carmel, California banned the machines altogether; By 1999, 20 cities in California outlawed them, although it took some time for this trend to spread to the rest of the country.

Then those restrictions have their own reaction. In 1998, leaf blowers were banned in Los Angeles neighborhoods provoked protest, where gardeners, many of whom were recent immigrants, held a hunger strike in front of City Hall and argued that the ban was a severe blow to their jobs. Today, the fight to save gas-powered leaf blowers has become more organized. In May, Republican Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp signed a law Prohibiting local governments from regulating gas-powered leaf blowers differently from battery-powered leaf blowers. it is reflected Laws in dozens of states Which prevents cities from restricting natural gas connections to new buildings.

Of course, swapping out a gas for electric blower is not as easy as it may seem. Landscapers have adopted a business model that allows them to go door-to-door quickly – a job that can drain batteries faster, meaning fewer workers are required. swapping batteries Two or three times in one shift. “It’s just going to take them longer to do the same thing,” Banks said. “So either the customer pays for that extra time, or they relax their aesthetic expectations and say, “Okay, just do a cursory cleanup, but we can live with leaves on the ground.” And electric-powered lawn equipment still has a long way to go: In California, despite all the restrictions on gas-powered equipment, they 6 percent Equipment used by lawn care personnel.

While there are battery powered versions generally cheaper Compared to gasoline, it is expensive for landowners to purchase new equipment to comply with the restrictions. Some local governments that have banned gas-powered leaf blowers have also tried to help reduce the costs of switching: Ahead of a 2024 ban on the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers, California set aside Is $27 million To purchase power equipment for small landscaping businesses; Washington DC. introduced a rebate program For this very purpose.

It’s worth noting that the status quo also comes at a cost for lawn workers: They are subject to the worst air and noise pollution from the equipment they use. “It’s as if you’re sucking exhaust out of a car’s tailpipe,” Brauer said. “If you’re using a leaf blower that’s what you’re doing.”

This article was originally published in grain to grind But https://grist.org/solutions/leaf-blower-bans-air-pollution-noise/, Grist is a nonprofit, independent media organization dedicated to telling stories of climate solutions and an equitable future. Learn more here grist.org

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