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Get Off My Lawn

How a small group of activists (our correspondent among them) got leaf blowers banned in the nations's capital

James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.

April 2019 Issue

                               Kati Lacker

For a long time I thought the problem was all in my head. When I was growing up, I knew that a certain kind of noise was one I needed to avoid. Food blenders in the kitchen, hair dryers in the bathroom, a vacuum cleaner whooshing around—all produced an intense whining sound that, given the specific wiring connections between my ears and my brain, kept me from thinking about anything but the sound itself while it was going on. Over the years I lived by this code: I used high-performance earplugs if I needed to write or otherwise concentrate while sitting in some place that was unusually loud. I added noise-canceling headphones on top of the earplugs in really tough cases.

As time went on, the earplugs-plus-headphones protection rig became standard writing gear. That was because the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in my Washington, D.C., neighborhood evolved from a few hours a week during the leafiest stretch of autumn to most days of the week, most weeks of the year, thanks to the advent of the “groomed” look that modern lawn crews are expected to achieve. One of my longest-running themes as a journalist has been how changes in technology force people to adapt their habits and livelihoods. I thought I was doing my part, with gear that let me attend to my work while others attended to theirs. There even turned out to be a bonus: As other parts of my body went into a predictable age-related descent, my hearing remained sharp.

Then I learned several things that changed my thinking both about leaf blowers and, up to a point, about politics.  more>>>


Town passes law regulating leaf blowers

Dina De Giorgio (speaking) and the rest of the North Hempstead Town Board at its Jan. 29 meeting. (Photo by Teri West)

The North Hempstead Town Board passed a law regulating the use of gas leaf blowers at its meeting Tuesday evening.

The legislation bans the use of gas-powered leaf blowers on property within the town’s unincorporated areas between June 15 and Sept. 15. and requires that commercial landscapers obtain permits to work in the town.

It is intended to promote green landscaping practices, preserve public health and deter unlicensed landscapers, the law says.

The Town Board spent more than a year preparing the law. In March, it created an advisory committee that included landscapers, environmental activists and residents.

“I remember the first time this was brought up as a possibility and we had some very angry landscapers with us, but we promised that we would have a committee that would look at this from all the different angles,” Bosworth said.

Several people who had participated throughout the process thanked the council for its efforts Tuesday.

“You are helping to eliminate many public health problems,” said Dr. Bonnie Sager, who co-founded the Huntington Citizens Appeal for Leafblower Moderation advocacy group.

The law passed 4-0 with Councilwoman Dina DiGiorgio abstaining, citing the ethics code. She has relatives who are commercial landscapers who will be affected by the legislation, she said.

The law will not go into effect until the beginning of 2020.

The Town Board also unanimously passed a zoning change and an amendment to the housing, rehabilitation and property maintenance code.

The zoning code amendment modifies sections about parking and special use permits.

“Were hoping that by amending this that we’ll go a long way toward speeding up some of the permit processes,” Bosworth said.

The amendment also changes some definitions in the code, including that of attics, which “may be permitted to be constructed as, or converted into, habitable or occupiable space where the requirements of the district would permit a full story.”

One resident said he was concerned that would increase living space within homes to an additional floor.

“You’re able to use it now in a finished sense – put a chair up there, sewing machine,” said Building Commissioner John Niewender. “It in no way means it is for an apartment, living quarters, anything like that.”

The property code amendment is intended to “simplify and clarify” code requirements, according to the law.

One section regulates parking spaces and open areas. Boats may not be parked in front yards and junk vehicles must be in an enclosed space.

The code also requires maintenance of foundation walls, roofs, windows and chimneys among a variety of other upkeep requirements for buildings and business units.


Publication:  The Southampton Press           Jan 23, 2019  10:53 AM

Southampton Village Residents Rejoice Over Proposed Stricter Regulations To Landscapers

Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving. JD ALLEN

Cindy McNamara of East Quogue does landscaping work with her husband, Dan. The duo has one “big” client in Southampton Village that makes coming across the Shinnecock Canal worth it. 

But stricter regulations on construction, property maintenance and landscaping proposed by Southampton Village officials could change that, Ms. McNamara said. 

Southampton Village Board members unveiled two proposed laws at a joint public hearing on Tuesday, January 22: the first was a possible annual registration for landscapers, which the village had done in 2011 as a way to monitor who is properly licensed; and the second proposed time-of-day restrictions, in which construction and property maintenance work can be done.

The restrictions would include a summer ban for the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Municipalities across the South Fork have debated similar regulations to offer quieter neighborhoods, however landscapers whose jobs rely on the loud maintenance tools say they aren’t ready to make the switch. Plus, landscapers would have to pay a fee to get stickers for their vehicles to do work in Southampton Village—just like a beach pass.

Ms. McNamara contends the village is unfairly targeting a specific industry with the proposed laws. She added the summer ban on gas-powered leaf blowers was impracticable for small operations like her family business.

“We cannot afford to lose this one client in the village, but the cost and headache this resolution brings doesn’t make it worth it anymore,” she said to board members Tuesday.

The village’s two proposals and subsequent public hearing were held after six months of negotiations with residents, environmentalists, public health advocates, landscapers and industry groups. 

In August, residents complained about the excessive noise gas-powered leaf blowers make. Local landscaping companies packed the boardroom to defend their industry. Currently, Southampton Village does not have any ban on blowers, but has noise standards in its code. In a residential district from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., sound cannot exceed 65 decibels, and most blower brands peak way over that.

Residents renewed their complaints this week.

“The noise is really intolerable,” said Walter Skretch, a village resident. “This summer was surround sound at its best. When it was over, I had that ringing in my ears like after a band played. That’s not the quiet community we all want.”  

Some village officials, like Mayor Michael Irving, and residents want landscapers to transition to battery-powered electric leaf blowers with the hope that they are quieter in addition to being emission-free.

But battery-powered leaf blower aren’t much softer—the quietest one runs at about 65 decibels, according to several industry reports. Having 65 decibels of sound is nearly as loud as running a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. However, they do provide a more environmentally friendly and health-conscious solution, with reduced gas emissions and particulate debris. 

“What we have proposed is not written in stone. I am trying to make a law that is amicable to you, the landscapers, and amicable to the residents. But the majority of the complaints I get are about you guys,” Mr. Irving said to the landscapers in the boardroom, which packed Village Hall to defend their industry. 

The board wants to limit all related work to be done within the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays. All work would be prohibited on Sundays and on federal and state holidays. From May 15 to September 30, landscapers would be banned from using gas-powered leaf blowers on residential yards. The village fire marshal’s office would be charged to enforce the code.

In addition, walk-behind leaf blowers are prohibited, and no more than two hand-held or backpack leaf blowers could be used at a time, unless the property is larger than a half-acre.

Violating the nuisance and gas-powered leaf blower laws could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 15 days. Punishment for invalid registration could result in fines between $250 and $2,500 depending on the number of times a landscaper has violated the law. Village officials can also revoke a landscaper’s registration.

Golf, beach and tennis clubs—and municipal employees responding to an emergency or cleaning up after a major storm—would be exempt from the restrictions. Swimming pool maintenance and snow blowing do not fall under the proposed regulations. A homeowner would also be exempt while working on their own property.

If the measure for annual enrollment is approved, individual landscapers will need to submit a completed registration form with a payment of $100; a business would pay $250. All landscapers would be required to have a valid and current Suffolk County Home Improvement License as well as provide copies of any certificates for using pesticides or fertilizers.

The board is considering certain changes to the proposed laws to allow in-kind home improvement licenses, including from Southampton and East Hamptons towns. The county license excludes the towns in its coverage, which is why landscapers double up or work without receiving county certification if they just work within the towns.

Notably, representatives for the Nassau Suffolk Landscape Grounds Association, a trade group that represents professional landscaping and gardening services on Long Island, fully supported the two proposals—with some caveats. 

H. Pat Vogues echoed the McNamaras, saying the cost to register annually is too steep for landscapers. For instance, landscaper Phil Fox employs 26 people, and would need to pay thousands of dollars to get his trucks and crew registered. Worse, he asked, is how the village’s one code enforcement officer would be able to handle nearly six, 10-hour shifts.

“A law without enforcement is a joke,” Mr. Vogues said. 

His wife, Pat Voges, offered the village assistance in helping to teach and certify landscapers in consumer affairs law, pesticide regulation and disposal practices. 

Landscapers gave the board additional notes for their consideration, including creating an incentive for them to purchase battery-powered leaf blowers, such as reducing or waiving registration fees, and for the village to have a strategy for how to deal with lawn clippings and waste. Lawn clippings are a valuable source of nitrogen, and could save landscapers a fortune if they didn’t have to remove them from properties, Mr. Voges said. 

For the McNamaras, if the proposed laws stay the way they are, it would mean their business would suffer.

“A blower to me is a 10 minute job,” Mr. McNamara said. He prides himself on buying the top-of-the-line equipment for him and his wife, so the two of them can get every job done efficiently for the few, but valuable accounts they have. 

“It was real quiet when I was kid,” said Mr. McNamara, who grew up in Water Mill. “It’s not quiet here anymore. There are a lot of people out here now.”

At the end of the night, board members continued the public hearing to their March 14 meeting, with the hope that laws will be in place before summer.


North Hempstead revises proposed ban on leaf blowers, some equipment

A committee working on the proposal included landscapers who felt switching to battery powered-devices would be costly.

By Khristopher J. Brooks @americanglow Updated January 23, 2019 8:17 AM

North Hempstead Town Hall on Oct. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

North Hempstead officials plan to present a revised version of their ban on gas-powered landscaping equipment during a public meeting next week. 

Residents complained last summer about the noise and pollution gas-powered equipment create in neighborhoods, prompting the town council to propose a ban. The proposed ban, which applied to commercial landscapers only, would have prohibited the use of leaf blowers and other motorized landscaping tools — even the electric variety — before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on weekdays, and before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Gas-powered blowers and equipment would have been completely banned between June 1 and Sept. 30.

Town council members were set to vote on the ban in October, but heard pushback from landscapers. Supervisor Judi Bosworth then created a committee charged with revising the proposal. The committee — made up of landscapers, residents, and environmentalists — held its final meeting earlier this month and has sent recommendations to the town, Bosworth said. 

"This has been a long time coming," she said. "I look forward to reviewing this proposed legislation in its final form."

Bonnie Sager, co-founder of the clean landscaping advocacy group Huntington CALM, served on the committee. She said residents and environmentalists spent time explaining the benefits of battery-powered lawncare equipment to landscapers. Residents were pushing for restrictions because they object to the noise and fumes created by the gas-powered equipment while landscapers felt switching to battery powered-devices would be costly.

"The landscapers were concerned about their livelihood," Sager said. "But what we tried to press is that, if they did a cost analysis, you could break even as soon as nine months."

 H. Pat Voges, governmental affairs chairman of the Nassau Suffolk Landscape Grounds Association, said the group and its 1,600 members are not opposed to the committee recommendations that will be proposed.

“We’ve been working with them at the town for almost a year now and we’re OK with it,” Voges said. 

The town will share the committee's recommendations at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at town hall in Manhasset. Town council members could vote on the recommendations that day.

Bosworth said the ideal legislation will be a compromise between landscapers and residents seeking cleaner air and quieter mornings.

"This was a difficult thing to move forward," Bosworth said. "but we wanted to do what's right for our residents as well as those who are in the landscaping business and our environmentalists." 

By Khristopher J. Brooks @americanglow
Khristopher J. Brooks is a Detroit native turned New Yorker who has covered the Town of North Hempstead since January 2017.


Tonight: Council to consider a ban on gasoline-powered leaf-blowers

Dave Boyce
Uploaded: Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 8:47 am

It's been a long time coming, but the Portola Valley Town Council, when it meets Wednesday, Jan. 9, will consider banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers, along with the harmful practice of using electric blowers on soil surfaces.

The council's advisory panel on environmental matters, the Sustainability & Environmental Resources Committee, included a ban as one of several recommendations in revising town policy on the use of leaf blowers.

The council meets at 7 p.m. in the Historic Schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road. Also on the agenda, a study session on financing roadwork in town.

A flyer published by the town last September said that the two-stroke engines that power leaf blowers can generate, over one hour, greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a car trip from Los Angeles to Denver; can produce noise of up to 112 decibels, equivalent to a car horn heard at 3 feet away; can distribute toxic compounds such as formaldehyde and hydrocarbons; and can propel dust particles at speeds comparable to hurricane-force winds.

The sustainability committee has been studying issues around the use of gasoline-powered blowers since September 2017. A staff report by Town Manager Jeremy Dennis notes a February 2018 council directive to come up with recommendations.

The policy recommendations, in addition to banning gasoline-powered devices, would restrict blowing to surfaces that are hard, such as concrete and asphalt. The committee also recommends several other steps:

• Explore the idea of a noise-level certification system for electricity-powered blowers.

• Provide residents with the opportunity to test the blowers at Town Center.

• Initiate a second round of educating the public on the benefits of using electricity-powered blowers.

The town-issued flyer, published in both English and Spanish, promoted electricity-powered blowers and asked residents for their ideas on incentives to persuade gardeners to switch. Feedback was "limited," Dennis said in his report.

He noted that if the council implements changes to town regulations, staff would prepare materials to update customers at local stores that sell landscaping equipment.

The sustainability committee also discussed a trade-in program to encourage a switch to electric from gasoline-powered leaf blowers, but needs council feedback on such a program, including identifying a source of funding, Dennis said.

As to the use of blowers, whether electric or gasoline-powered, on soil surfaces, resident and landscape architect Danna Breen has repeatedly described to the council the deleterious surface-hardening effect brought about through the use of the blowers on soil. Breen said she plans to attend the Jan. 9 meeting.

Soil moisture is essential to keeping landscaping alive over dry months, she said in a 2015 Almanac interview. The key to moist soil is a blanket of detritus, particularly dead leaves, and the key to maintaining that blanket is keeping leaf blowers away from the area, she said.

That Portola Valley is just now coming to this consideration of a ban surprised her, Breen said recently.

When the council discussed the matter in September 2018, Planning Commissioner Craig Taylor expressed concern for gardeners losing the use of their tools and the importance of finding a reasonable way forward.

Among the suggestions to the council at the time: phasing in policy changes over a period of years, and establishing a certification program by which the town could inspect blowers and issue decals for those that meet the town's standards.



Something’s Wrong With Fall in America
Nov 14, 2018 | 22 videos 
Video by The Atlantic

With all the problems plaguing America today, it can be difficult to prioritize which to address. But just because a problem may not be headline-worthy doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

Take gas-powered leaf blowers, for example.

In a new Atlantic Argument, writer James Fallows advocates for phasing out the machines—which emit noise up to a dangerous 112 decibels—in favor of quieter and safer battery-powered leaf blowers.

This shift, says Fallows, “has community interest, worker interest, public health, and technological momentum on its side. To really ‘make America great again,’ we need to ban gas-powered leaf blowers.”
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Authors: Vishakha Darbha, James Fallows
About This Series
Ideas and provocations from our contributors


Town of Huntington, NY - News Details

11/15/2018 - Lupinacci Reminds Residents of Leaf Blower Hours of Operation, How to Report a Noise Disturbance
Huntington – Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci issued a friendly reminder to residents and landscapers operating leaf blowers in the Town of Huntington.

“As you perform your fall cleanup projects, please adhere to the Town’s acceptable hours of operation for leaf blowers,” said Supervisor Lupinacci. “The Town strives to balance the needs of property owners who wish to maintain their properties with the rights of residents who wish to enjoy their homes in peace.”

To file a leaf blower noise disturbance complaint, use the Town’s At Your Service portal on the Department of Public Safety page:

To speed up the Town’s ability to enforce Town Code, leaf blower noise disturbance complaints should include the following information:

·         Date(s) and approximate time(s) of violation(s)
·         Address where the violation is occurring
·         Whether it is known if the property owner or a landscaping company is operating the leaf blower
·         If a landscaping company is operating the leaf blower, if possible, include the name and any known/observed contact information for the company

The Town Code permits the use of leaf blowers for two hours per day on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM and for one hour per day on weekends and legal holidays between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Leaf blower usage outside of those hours and time limitations will be deemed a noise disturbance.

We strongly suggest you e-mail council members to ask for legislation because the gas leaf blower situation is so much more than just hours of operation.  


Fumes, pollution and ruined Sunday mornings make leaf blowers a nuisance. But they’re also dangerous. The emissions and fine particulate matter these devices kick up are hazardous to the health of both gardeners and homeowners. All for the sake of moving leaves from one corner of a lawn to another.

As a teacher, I frequently hear the drone of leaf blowers from within my classroom. The noise is distracting enough while trying to discuss Brontë or Tolstoy, but outside, where I often eat lunch under the treetops, the nonstop noise seems to broadcast a dire warning: These pristine grounds come at a terrible price.

Most leaf blowers use two-stroke engines—lightweight, compact, cheap sources of power for lawn mowers, tree trimmers and snowblowers. The problem with these crude motors is that their intake and exhaust functions occur at the same time, meaning the fuel mixes with oil. A large share of the gasoline is then spewed out unburned, as an aerosol in the exhaust. Such fumes have been found to increase the risk of cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Children playing outdoors and people who work from home frequently contend with this menace, but landscapers suffer the most. Since many don’t wear masks, they breathe in fumes, dust and spores while enduring hours of high-volume engine noise—another health risk. According to a study by Edmunds, an automotive-information site, hydrocarbon emissions from 30 minutes of leaf blowing are comparable to those of driving a pickup truck from Texas to Alaska.

Leaf blowers also pose a severe threat to the living leaves still attached to trees and bushes—collateral damage from blowers aimed at the ground. Air blasts of up to 200 miles an hour can demolish the habitats of bees and other insects and small creatures, which are essential to their ecosystems. The dead leaves that blowers target also help prevent moisture from evaporating at trees’ bases, and nourish the soil that sustains plant life. I might ask my students to consider the irony here: A tool meant to beautify our city parks, backyard gardens and highway meridians is actually destroying them.

Landscape associations and manufacturers insist these hyperpolluting lawn tools aren’t bothersome or harmful if used properly and protest that leaf blowers are necessary for the hard work of removing leaves and debris. It’s true that dead leaves on a lawn don’t disintegrate, and a return to the rake doesn’t seem likely.

Leafy trees and green lawns should no longer be our gold standard: We need to rethink our yards entirely. Each fall, let leaves die on the ground, allow deciduous trees to generate new growth, and consider adding a rock garden with succulents or other “hardscapes” that don’t require leaf upkeep, and also save water. Outdoors, sustainable is beautiful.

Ms. Bernhard is a writer and teacher in New York.


What can we do? Call or email members of our town board. Speak out at the next public meeting.


Consumer group recommends electric lawnmowers

May 14, 2018 03:54 PM
(NBC News) A leading consumer group recommends that your next lawnmower purchase be a battery-operated, totally electric machine.

"Electric mowers are really starting to cut as well as their gas counterparts," said Consumer Reports' Senior Editor Paul Hope.

For the first time ever, Consumer Reports has more electric lawnmowers than the gas models at the top of its annual recommended-buy list.

"The great thing about electrics is that they start instantly every time as long as the battery is charged. These batteries are going to last somewhere around 1,000 cycles. That's enough for 10 to 20 years of cutting," said hope.

Along with lasting up to an hour on as little as a 30-minute charge, another benefit is using the same battery from the lawnmower to run trimmers, a chainsaw and even a leaf blower.

Even though battery-operated, electric yard tools may cost more, advocates say the money saved on gas and engine maintenance is worth it.

Read more:


NEWSDAY,  May 14,2018


The sound of silence

Posted on January 26, 2018 by Bob Edwards 

Council can accomplish things when it sets its minds to it. An earlier example was Council’s vote to ban the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in Sonoma. That ban went into effect one year ago this month.
The ensuing Silence has been deafening. Blissful. Peaceful. Delicious. Snooze-in-your-hammock deafening.
The 2017 leaf crop, the first since the ban took effect, is now history. Landscapers and homeowners gathered, bagged and hauled all the leaves away lest a Tourist slip on one and lose her wallet. Thanks to the ban, for the first time in living memory it all happened quietly—without ear-shattering, carbon-belching, #@*% gas-powered leaf blowers.
Despite warnings from Free Marketeers that the Collapse of the Republic would follow any ban on gas leaf blowers, nothing of the sort happened. No landscaper was driven out of business or into financial ruin. No homeowner went into cardiac arrest while using rakes, brooms and whisper-quiet Electric Blowers. No one’s property became a fetid Mumbai hell-hole of leaves, vermin and decay which wasn’t already in that condition before the ban.
The only post-ban difference was . . . Silence. Gorgeous. Hear-Yourself-Think. Snooze-in-Your-Jammies, Kiss-the-Dog, Cuddle-the-Cat… Silence.
A local wag noted that the valiant efforts of a small band of residents—‘Sonoma CALM’—to rid the City of obnoxious gas-blowers was so successful that an outspoken opponent of the ban left town for Nevada, leaving only words in cyberspace to remind us how toxic things were in Sonoma before the ban.
Ah, silence.


Last month the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously resolution No. 1249-2017 to study the feasibility of using alternatives to gas powered maintenance equipment.  

Whooooo Hoooo!

Intro. Res. No. 1249-2017 Laid on Table 3/28/2017 Introduced by Presiding Officer, on request of the County Executive and Legislator Hahn, Anker, Fleming
WHEREAS, the County of Suffolk has made environmental protection and water quality a top priority; and
WHEREAS, the County is always exploring opportunities to reduce nitrogen pollutants entering our ground water supply; and
WHEREAS, national organizations including the American Green Zone Alliance, as well as local organizations such as Huntington Citizens Appeal for Leaf-blower Moderation, identify gas-powered leaf-blowers as a concerning source of pollution; and
WHEREAS, South Pasadena, California, working with the American Green Zone Alliance, have completed a three-year conversion of their gas powered equipment to all low- noise, zero-emissions equipment; and
WHEREAS, locally, the Village of East Quogue has also begun studying the efficacy of such a conversion, as well as developing a pilot program; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Public Works is responsible for the maintenance of all grounds at County facilities; now, therefore be it
1st RESOLVED, that the County Department of Public Works is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to take such action as may be necessary to complete a Study for the Feasibility of Using Alternatives to Gas Powered Maintenance Equipment, pursuant to Section C8-2 (A) of the Suffolk County Charter; and be it further
2nd RESOLVED, that the Department of Public Works will report their findings and recommendations to the County Executive and the County Legislature, within 120 days of the effective date of this resolution; and be it further
3rd RESOLVED, that this Legislature, being the lead agency under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”), Environmental Conservation Law Article 8 and Chapter 450 of the Suffolk County Code, hereby finds and determines that this law constitutes a Type II action, pursuant to Section 617.5(c), (20), (21) and (27) of Title 6 of New York Code of Rules and Regulations (“NYCRR”), in that the action constitutes routine or continuing agency administration and management, not including new programs or major reordering of priorities that may affect the environment, by the gathering of information, including basic data collection and research, and preliminary planning processes necessary to formulate a proposal for an action, but does not commit the County to commence or approve an action; since this law is a Type II action, the Legislature has no further responsibilities under SEQRA. The Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is hereby directed to circulate any appropriate SEQRA notices of determination of non-applicability or non-significance in accordance with this resolution.
DATED: April 25, 2017 APPROVED BY:
/s/ Steven Bellone
County Executive of Suffolk County

Date: May 2, 2017 

Ken Spaeth, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
Hofstra School of Health Sciences

April 18, 2017

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in support of proposals to restrict gasoline leaf blowers (GLBs).  As an internist and occupational medicine physician who is trained in public health, I recognize that gasoline-powered lawn equipment - particularly the leaf blower - is extremely harmful to health and to the environment. Many institutions and municipalities in New York and elsewhere have implemented restrictions on gasoline leaf blowers without any serious economic or other consequences. Some of the organizations which have already come out in support of such regulations include the Medical Society of the State of NY, the Long Island Chapter of the American Lung Assoc., American Cancer Society, Asthma Coalition, Breast Cancer Coalition, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Grass Roots Environmental, and others. 

Gasoline-powered leaf blowers (GLBs) pose multiple health and environmental hazards.  The use of leaf blowers for cleanup and routine landscape maintenance is exposing us all unnecessarily to pollutants and noise.  Gas leaf blowers are primarily 2-stroke engines which have no emissions controls, are inefficient at burning of fuel, and are highly polluting.   Americans spill 17 million gallons of gasoline each year filling lawn equipment. That’s more than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.  Gas lawn equipment is poised soon to surpass cars as the worst air polluters in California, according to recent research.

There is good medical evidence implicating the emissions spewed forth and particulates blown up by the leaf blowers in increased risks of early death, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, some cancers, and other serious health conditions.  Children, seniors, those with chronic illness, and landscape workers are at greatest risk.

When compared to an average large car, one hour of GLB use emits 498 times as much hydrocarbons, 49 times as much particulate matter and 26 times as much carbon monoxide.

The major health and environmental hazards of gas leaf blowers are:
·       Exhaust pollution
·       Fine particulate pollution
·       Noise pollution
·       Environmental degradation, including water pollution and small animal habitat destruction  

*     Airborne pollutants released or churned up the GLBs include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - Benzene, 1,3 butadiene,  acetaldehyde,  and formaldehyde. These are HAPS: Hazardous Air Pollutants (defined by the US EPA as pollutants that cause or may cause cancer or other serious health effects.)   Also released are nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, which are considered “Criteria Pollutants” (harmful to public health and the environment). Even low level exposures have been associated with respiratory and central nervous system effects. GLB pollutants such as hydrocarbon vapors, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide react in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground-level ozone, the major component of smog, and a known respiratory irritant and risk factor for cardiovascular disease.  Also released is carbon dioxide which is a potent Greenhouse Gas.

*     Fine particulate matter (under 2.5 microns, which easily get into the lungs and even in to the blood stream) has been linked to all-cause premature death, heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, and lung disease – including asthma attacks - and can increase the severity of chronic lung disease in the elderly.  Two-stroke engines account for the vast majority of fine particulate pollution in landscape maintenance. This particulate matter remains suspended in the air for hours or even days and is too small to be visible. 

*     Noise from leaf blowers are orders of magnitude – since decibels are on a logarithmic scale - beyond those deemed safe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  Noise is more than just an annoyance; exposure to constant or high levels of noise can cause countless adverse health effects. These include stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption, and lost productivity.  Studies have shown that excess noise in and around hospitals interferes with healing.  Other research demonstrates that children in classrooms abutting noisy outside areas do worse on standardized tests than similar children in classrooms in quieter areas. The EPA states that “noise degrades quality of life by impairing communication and social interaction; reducing the accuracy of work, particularly complex tasks; and creating stressful levels of frustration and aggravation that last even when the noise has ceased.”

*     Environmental degradation
o   The high velocity air jets of leaf blowers can destroy nests and small animal habitats; desiccate pollen, sap, and other natural plant substances; and injure or destroy birds, small mammals, and beneficial insects.
o   Leaf blowers damage plants, remove beneficial topsoil and mulch, desiccate and compact soil, diminish plant health and contribute to the spread of invasives. This increases the dependence on use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
o   Landscape workers or homeowners frequently blow debris into roads, where it can enter storm drains and end up polluting our waters.

Alternatives and Common Concerns
Alternatives include commercial grade lithium ion battery or other electrical equipment, or rakes and brooms.  Landscaping businesses have been shown not to suffer financially if they trade gas equipment for these other choices.  Newer commercial grade lithium-ion battery blowers contain less toxic metals than other types of batteries which may contain lead or cadmium, they are generally categorized as non-hazardous waste and can be recycled. Li-ion battery elements are considered safe for incinerators and landfills.

For all these public health reasons, I concur with all the health and environmental organizations which support restrictions or bans on the use of gasoline leaf blowers, and believe it is a win-win effort for all. 
Ken Spaeth, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
Hofstra School of Health Sciences


Oyster Bay Town Hall is shown in this photo taken on Sunday, March 27, 2016.  (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

The use of gas-powered leaf blowers could be restricted in Oyster Bay to address problems with noise and air pollution, Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said Tuesday at the town board meeting. 
“We’re going to do something about this,” Saladino said. “You will clearly see changes to our code in a way that suits the needs of all.”
Saladino said he has reached out to Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano for information about that city’s ordinance which prohibits the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to Sept. 30. 
Planning and Development Commissioner Elizabeth Maccarone said the gas-powered leaf blowers, as opposed to quieter and lower-powered electric blowers, cause problems for residents. 
“When you drive around you see the dust ball, the dirt, the fertilizer and all that is being thrown up into the air and the children are outside playing, people are trying use their back yards,” Maccarone said. “It’s the noise, it’s what being thrown up into the atmosphere.”
Plainview resident Greg Siragusa told the board on Tuesday that he’s concerned about the health and quality of life impact from “the invasion of leaf blowers into my neighborhood.”



On Banning Leaf Blowers

Monty Rakusen/Getty Images

New Yorkers who leave the city for the suburbs often do so for three reasons: schools, space and silence. The silence, it turns out, can be a problem.
Most suburban streets are certainly free of blaring horns, wailing sirens and, sometimes, even people. But come springtime, they vibrate with the hum of lawn mowers, edgers, trimmers and leaf blowers; the accompanying noise continues until the last leaves fall from the trees in early December.
In Maplewood, N.J., the desire to keep all that space manicured is on a collision course with a longing for quiet.
Disgruntled residents say that noise from lawn equipment rattles windows and eardrums, while the fumes pollute the air. Landscapers and other homeowners, meanwhile, insist that the equipment is necessary to maintain a town that looks as if it’s from a Norman Rockwell painting, with Tudor- and Queen Anne-style mansions framed by green lawns and leafy trees.
Now Maplewood is considering a ban on one of the noisiest and dirtiest tools in the landscaper’s arsenal: the leaf blower.
On March 21, the Township Committee will vote on an ordinance to prohibit commercial use of blowers from May 15 through Sept. 30. The rule would expand a pilot program enacted last spring, increasing the fine for violations to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for the second offense. Stricter limits would be set on the days and hours that professionals could use blowers the rest of the year. If it passes, Maplewood would join a growing number of communities that have curbed the use of leaf blowers.
The noise “is just something that gets into your bones and even when it stops, you’re still hearing that sound,” said Jamie Banks, the founder of Quiet Communities, a group that advocates quieter lawn maintenance equipment. “And it’s not just the noise. It’s the pollution.”
Lawns are a big deal in the suburbs, especially in a community where a four-bedroom house can cost over $1 million. Town council meetings attracted dozens of anxious landscapers and frustrated residents. On a local Facebook page, SOMa Lounge, residents complained that the pilot ban hamstrung their gardeners, leaving their yards looking unkempt, with grass suffocating beneath piles of clippings. Supporters of the rule cheered the silence.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought this leaf blower issue would have been so controversial,” said Nancy Adams, 59, the deputy mayor of Maplewood and a driving force behind the new rule.
Leaf blowers are beloved and reviled for the same reason: They are powerful. Strapped in a pack to a worker’s back, these blowers plow through leaves, grass clippings, debris and light snow, making it possible for a landscaper to quickly clear a property. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report lists leaf blowers as a common noise that can contribute to permanent hearing loss.
Most landscapers use leaf blowers with two-stroke engines, which are light enough to carry but produce significant exhaust and noise. The gas and oil mix together, and about a third of it does not combust. As a result, pollutants that have been linked to cancers, heart disease, asthma and other serious ailments escape into the air.
In 2011, Edmunds, the car reviewer, compared a two-stroke-engine leaf blower with a Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck, finding that a half-hour of yardwork produced the same amount of hydrocarbon emissions as a 3,887-mile drive in the truck. In other words: Blow leaves from your lawn, or drive from Maplewood to Juneau, Alaska. Your choice.
Landscapers say that the leaf blower is an essential tool and, when used properly, is not a nuisance. “If they’re used at half speed, which is significantly lower in noise volume, they’re much more efficient,” said Paul Mendelsohn, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. As for the leaf blower bans: “I really don’t think they’re fair,” he said.
Two seemingly unrelated trends may also be contributing to the problem. The number of people working from home is growing and so too is the lawn care industry. Between 2002 and 2016, the number of professional ground maintenance workers, including supervisors, grew by 85 percent to 1.6 million, according to Quiet Communities.
What does it look like when those two forces collide? For that, I spoke with Susan Greeley, 48, a film programmer who works out of her three-bedroom house in Maplewood. She moved from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, three years ago in search of quiet but has instead found this: Every Tuesday, the landscapers arrive at 8 a.m. For the next seven hours, they move from one house to the next, filling her home with cacophony.
At times, the noise is so loud she has to retreat to the basement to take work calls, and she is unable to watch the films she needs to review. “We were basically trapped in our home with this deafening noise and this disgusting smell,” she said. “It’s far beyond an annoyance.”
Last year’s ban, she said, “was fantastic,” reducing the intrusion substantially.
But landscaping troubles are not universal. After all, misery is relative. Erika Imranyi, 38, a book editor who moved from Jersey City to South Orange, next to Maplewood, in November finds her new neighborhood “eerily quiet,” although she has yet to experience a suburban summer.
“There was one car alarm in Jersey City that would go off constantly,” she recalled. “It would honk for a few minutes and then stop, and you’d have this moment of relief, and then suddenly it would start again and you’d think you were losing your mind. I’ll take a leaf blower any day.”
James Nathenson, 68, a retired banker who lives in Maplewood, said, “It’s never been to me an issue that is worthy of a lot of agitation.” Instead of passing new laws, Mr. Nathenson suggests that the town enforce existing rules that limit hours and decibels. “See how that works,” he said.
Indeed, enforcement can be a problem. Nearby Montclair has had a similar ban in place since 1994, and some landscapers flout it, arguing that it is unevenly enforced, partly because the town uses leaf blowers to maintain public property. “I don’t look at it as breaking the law, I look at it as I’m doing my job,” said Richard Galioto, an owner of King and I Landscaping in Bloomfield, which services Montclair. Mr. Galioto is a vocal critic of the policy, which he thinks is discriminatory. “I’ll do it 365 days a year if I have to,” he said.
So that leaves people like Fred Chichester, 79, of Montclair, to play the role of leaf blower police. When he hears the blowers roar, he gets into his 1998 Ford Escort wagon, one of his seven cars, and looks for the culprits, suing them in municipal court for violating the ban. He has taken landscapers to court about 20 times over the years.
“The local judge knows him well,” said his wife, Patricia C. Kenschaft, 77, a retired math professor who mows her lawn with a manual reel mower. “He usually wins.”
Ultimately, landscapers say that restrictions breed shabbier results. “The properties aren’t as pretty as we’d like them to be,” said Alan Bella Jr., a landscaper who services Maplewood. “It comes down to cosmetics.”
Cosmetics, though, are a matter of taste. Must a lawn be perfectly clean to be perfect?
More sustainable plantings, for example, require less maintenance. Leaving leaves and grass clippings to mulch in place would reduce the need for blowers, and add nutrients to the soil. And landscapers could invest in cleaner and quieter equipment. “There are other ways to do the job,” Dr. Banks, of Quiet Communities, said. “Landscaping used to be more than scorched earth cleanup.”


Kathy and Pat Quirk, of East Moriches, take a stroll around the circular path at the East Quogue Village Green on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2016. East Quogue's village green has become the first municipal park in the eastern United States to become a Green Zone.  (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskervas)

Workers would use electric, emissions-free equipment for routine maintenance
Town would be first on East Coast to join American Green Zone Alliance

The sound of loud lawn mowers moving around a neighborhood park is set to soon become a thing of the past for some residents of Southampton Town.
Officials plan to turn the East Quogue Village Green into the first Green Zone in the eastern United States by next year. The designation is certified by the American Green Zone Alliance, which defines the zones as an area of land — such as a park, hospital or school campus — where routine maintenance is performed relatively quietly and emissions-free using electric equipment and manual techniques.
More than 25 Green Zones have been created on the West Coast by the Massachusetts-based alliance. Councilwoman Christine Scalera is behind the effort to have Southampton be the first municipality on the East Coast to join the group.
“I came up with it because we had gotten a lot of residents saying they were unhappy with the constant droning of leaf blowers,” Scalera said in an interview last week. “That led to discussions about how they were gas operated (therefore very loud) and how they were putting emissions into the environment.”
Scalera said she learned of the alliance’s efforts and thought Southampton would be perfect for a Green Zone.
 “We’ve been leading by example in Southampton, particularly when it comes to the environment,” Scalera said.
Dan Mabe, the alliance’s founder, president and CEO, said it has been proven on the West Coast that commercial-size properties can be maintained without gas-powered equipment at the same level of quality and at lower cost.
Scalera said representatives from the alliance have been visiting Southampton to determine how maintenance of the East Quogue Village Green can be changed. She said the site was chosen because of the varied numerous things that have to be done to maintain the property.
“We picked a place that uses leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, mowers — a full gamut of things,” Scalera said, adding that officials are considering replacing the town’s gas-powered equipment with electric counterparts.
Town workers had an opportunity to test some electric powered products and were enthusiastic about what they saw.
TownsTown of Southampton photos 
Mat Mordente, crew leader at the town’s parks department, said he looks forward to “exploring the use of mowers and handheld tools that would reduce or eliminate our exposure to the fumes produced by fossil-fuel powered equipment.”
Scalera said that once the full assessment is completed and the cost of implementing the program is determined, a proposal to purchase any new equipment would be considered for the 2017 budget.
Similar programs may come to other areas of Southampton if the changes work in East Quogue, Scalera said.


Southampton Creating the First Green Zone® on the East Coast

From left to right:  Matt Mordente crew leader Parks Department; Kristen Doulos Town Parks Director; Dan Mabe, head of AGZA; John Erwin, Parks Maintenance Supervisor; Dr. Bonnie Sager, Co-founder Huntington CALM; Jamie Banks, Executive Director, Quiet Communities


August 10, 2016. Town of Southampton, NY.  With the unanimous approval of her fellow Town Board members, Councilwoman Christine Scalera initiated the eastern United States first municipal park in becoming a Green Zone®.  The Town of Southampton Green Zone will be located at the East Quogue Village Green in the hamlet of East Quogue. A Green Zone, certified by the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), is a defined area of land, such as a park, hospital, or school campus, where routine maintenance is performed quietly and emissions- free using electric equipment and manual techniques. More than twenty-five Green Zones have been created by AGZA on the West Coast.  Quiet Communities, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization, is bringing the concept to the East Coast. 

According to Councilwoman Christine Scalera, “Creating Green Zones in our town’s municipal parks is an excellent way to demonstrate leadership in emission reduction and noise control.” Town workers had an opportunity to test some electric powered products and were enthusiastic about what they saw. Mat Mordente, crew leader at the town’s Parks Department, looks forward to ”exploring the use of mowers and hand held tools that would reduce or eliminate our exposure to the fumes produced by fossil-fuel powered equipment.” The project will be completed in Spring 2017.

The growing availability of commercial grade lithium battery powered equipment makes it possible to transition away from fossil fuel-based equipment.  “Going quiet and emissions-free is beneficial for our health, environment, quality of life, and even our pocketbooks” says Jamie Banks, Executive Director of Quiet Communities.  Although the upfront cost of commercial lithium battery equipment is higher, substantial savings from avoided fuel and maintenance will more than make up for it. Her colleague Dan Mabe, head of AGZA, agrees. “On the West Coast, we have proven that commercial sized properties can be maintained without gas-powered equipment at the same level of quality and at lower cost.” With Southampton as a leader, Quiet Communities’ New York Chapter head, Bonnie Sager believes that other towns will follow suit. “This is just the beginning of a movement on Long Island and New York State. We will reduce our carbon footprint and improve the health of our workers and our neighborhoods. We applaud Southampton town council for their foresight and leadership.” says Sager.


The Medical Society of the State of New York recently passed, a landmark resolution addressing the negative health effects of the toxins and harmful noise created by gas leaf blowers. Suffolk County has received an "F" in air quality from the American Lung Association for the past 15 years. In one hour, one gas leaf blower produces as much smog as 17 cars. One half hour of one gas leaf blower's use is equal to one car driving 440miles. Gas leaf blowers utilize a highly polluting 2-stroke engine of which 30% of the blower's fuel is sent into our air. India, Indonesia, Malaysia and other developing countries are eliminating 2-stroke engines because of the high pollution and serious health effects they produce.
It is crazy, that we in our developed nation, actually pay landscapers weekly to deposit toxins, carcinogens and fine particulate matter from gas leaf blowers, even when there are no leaves, right to our front doors.
Tell your landscaper and town council to ban/restrict gas leaf blowers so we can all breathe easier.


A reminder---
The Town of Huntington has posted a new, survey about Gas Leaf Blowers.   Filling out the survey is CRITICAL in order to  bring about the change we have asked for.   Click Here for Town of Huntington Survey   If you have questions or concerns you can contact us before  filling it out at

In conjunction with the survey, a Public Service Announcement has been filmed and is available for viewing on-line as well as on the town TV channel .  It educates about why residents should support  summertime restrictions.  Watch the  PSA by clicking here


Huntington CALM goes on a field trip to the Long Island Horticultural Research Lab to see state of the art Lithium Ion commercial lawn equipment.

Riding mower with solar array that adds running time and qualifies for tax credit.