As Nyack residents we have become accustomed to the sound of leaf blowers whirring or screaming at any time, on any day. Maybe it’s an army of leaf blower wielders, or just a lone head-phone wearing neighbor sporting a backpack, oblivious to the health and well-being of neighbors or self.
It takes only a quick Google to learn that leaf blowers are more than an annoyance; they are a serious health hazard for their operators and anyone within hearing or breathing distance. Below is just a partial list of the dangers leaf blowers pose:
Air Pollution—A single leaf blower operating for an hour emits as much pollution as 40 cars idling during the same amount of time. (http://www.greenwichcalm.org/apps/blog/show/6583443-health-hazards-of-leaf-blowers)
Leaf blowers stir up over two pounds per hour per leaf blower of dangerous particulate matter including but not limited to cat, dog, and rodent feces, pesticides, and street dust which may include mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel. (The American Lung Associate of Sacramento)
Leaf blowers spew a number of toxic chemicals including but not limited to carbon monoxide, benzene (a known carcinogen), 1,3 -butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde (possible carcinogens). (California Air Resources Board, “A Report to the California Legislature on the Potential Health and Environmental Impacts of Leaf Blowers,” http//www.epa.gov/oms/regs/nonroad/equip-Id/hhsfrm/f00007.htm)
Noise—Owners’ manuals warn that operators and anyone within 50 feet of an operating leaf blower should wear protective eye, ear, and respiratory gear. (http://www.nonoise.org/quietnet/cqs/leafblow.htm)
Leaf blowers exceed the World Health Organization’s acceptable ambient noise levels by 20 decibels at 50 feet.
Leaf blowers exceed World Health Org noise levels by 50 decibels at the operator’s ear, a level sure to cause hearing loss and impact the operators’ health in general, particularly the cardiovascular system. (World Health Org and “Comments on Occupational Noise to the OSHA Standards Planning Committee,” Alice Sutter, PhD and www. nonoise.org)
Half the wearers of hearing protection don’t benefit because the fit is wrong or they don’t wear it consistently. (“Noise, Ears & Hearing Protection,” the American Academy of Otolaryngology.)
Leaf blower noise is especially irritating for anyone within earshot because of its particular pitch, the changing amplitude, and the lack of control by the hearer. (Interview with Michael H.L. Hecker, a Los Altos psychoacoustician, et al. in The Sacramento Bee.)
Taken all together, just this small amount of evidence makes it clear that leaf blowers, at best, detract from the quality of life and well-being of Nyack residents and, at worst, pose a serious health risk to residents and/or operators. A number of local communities from Greenwich, to Rye, to Dobbs Ferry have taken measures to ban leaf blowers or limit their use, as have over 300 communities nationwide.
Environmental Committee On April 12, 2010 volunteer members of the newly formed Village of Nyack Environmental Committee, an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the Village Board, held their monthly meeting. On the agenda were ways to implement a survey of residents on environmental issues. From that meeting the “Noise and Air Quality” sub committee was formed. These were the issues they brought to the table:
1) Leaf blower usage: Limit leaf blower usage to Sept 15 to Dec 15, and then only allow one machine at any one time on a 1/4 acre property, as enacted in some local communities.
2) Leaf blower noise: phase in implementation of (quieter) 65decibel noise level machines.
3) Leaf blower application: Blow leaves only, not dirt, garbage, grass clippings, snow, etc.
The Mayor’s Recommendation On April 21, 2011, at the most recent meeting of the committee, Mayor Kavesh requested that the committee attempt to collect feedback from “as wide a sample of stakeholders as possible, landscapers included (10 or so),” before a proposal by the sub-committee be submitted to the Village Board.
A Call to Action If you are concerned about the impact leaf blowers have on the community, or if you are a landscaper and would like to voice your opinion, this is your opportunity. Contact Environmental Committee Chair Deborah Turner at (845) 480-9006.
Gail Greiner is an English teacher and private tutor. She has been a Nyack resident for 5 years.