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Ban Leaf Blowers in the District of Columbia

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Gas-powered leaf blowers create more air pollution than a Ford pickup truck; their high noise level makes working at home or enjoying one's home impossible; they kick particulate matter into the air, including pollen, animal feces and garden pesticides.

People who sign this petition will have their names added to a letter (below) that will be sent to Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation. Please include what Ward you live in. Your name and Ward number will be added to the letter (but not your email address or other personal information.) If you prefer, you can email me at --Bill Adler

Dear Councilmember Cheh:

We were pleased to learn that you said on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show that you are considering legislation to curtail leaf blowers in the District of Columbia.

We would like to see a total ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in the District of Columbia.

Everyone is familiar with how unpleasant and disruptive leaf blower noise is. Leaf blower noise is a major problem for the increasing number of people who work at home, for parents with young children, for people who home, sick. When a gas-powered leaf blower is nearby, it can be impossible to sleep, work, use the phone, not to mention simply enjoy the use of one’s home. These blowers with their two-stroke engines emit a sound that’s particularly unpleasant, far worse than other common power equipment such as lawn mowers and snow blowers.

Leaf blowers subject pedestrians, including infants in strollers, to exceedingly high decibel levels. These blowers deprive people of the ability to use a sidewalk comfortably and safely.

Leaf blowers often travel in herds, too: Gardening companies frequently deploy multiple leaf blowers, and they are now using leaf blowers all year round, too; not just in fall, as once was the case.

Gas-powered leaf blowers create high levels of air pollutants. Edmunds recently tested leaf blowers and discovered that a two stroke gas-powered leaf blower emits over 23 times the amount of carbon monoxide andover 300 times the amount of non-methane hydrocarbons as a 2011 Ford Raptor pickup. Edmunds points out: “To equal the hydrocarbon emissions of about a half-hour of yard work with this two-stroke leaf blower, you'd have to drive a Raptor for 3,887 miles, or the distance from Northern Texas to Anchorage, Alaska.”

The full Edmunds study is here:

The third major problem with leaf blowers is that they disperse particulates into the air directly. Ordinarily, pesticides, fecal material, pollen and dust (once they’ve settled onto the ground) aren’t airborne pollutants. But they become airborne thanks to leaf blowers’ 180 mile per hour wind. Leaf blowers push particulate matter into the street and neighbors’ yards. In addition, lawn companies frequently use leaf blowers on the sidewalk and street, exacerbating this problem.

While a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers wouldn’t eliminate this last problem, it would lessen it: Electric leaf blowers produce a less powerful wind and disperse fewer unhealthy particles. Electric leaf blowers are also only moderately noisy, more akin to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Gas-powered leaf blowers are not a necessity. American lawns got along well without them for centuries. Leaf blowers are the direct descendant of a device invented in the late 1950’s to disperse agricultural chemicals. The powerful hot wind from a leaf blower can harm living grass. The problems that gas-powered leaf blowers cause --noise pollution and air pollution-- far outweigh the benefits, especially because there are good substitutes for gas-powered leaf blowers, namely rakes and electric leaf blowers.

There are those who say that a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers won’t work. In response to that, we note that people said that a bag tax and dog poop laws wouldn’t work. These and other environmental laws have improved our lives and environment, and a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers would, too.

You have our complete support, should you pursue a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.


Petition created by Bill Adler,


Bill Adler is the publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv.
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