By Catherine Plume, Executive Committee member, Sierra Club – DC Chapter, shared with permission from the SCDC newsletter.
While some people love gasoline-powered leaf blowers for their efficiency, as many abhor them for high-pitched noise they produce. But did you know that gas-powered leaf blowers are also a major source of pollution and a health hazard?
As of January 1, 2022, DC’s Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2017 prohibits the sale and use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in DC. The DC Chapter joined other environmental groups and concerned residents in advocating and testifying for the passage of this bill. Now, residents and landscape companies alike will need to abide by this law or be subject to a fine of up to $500. To help make the transition to cleaner electric and battery-powered leaf blowers, the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) is offering $50 residential rebates for qualifying electric leaf blowers and $75 rebates for landscaping companies.
Why is this legislation important? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that two-stroke gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment (including leaf blowers) produce high levels of hazardous air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2). Two-stroke engines are light-weight as they combine oil and gas in a single chamber, but they are also very loud and inefficient with as much as a third of the fuel spewed into the air as unburned aerosol. As testimony to the inefficiency of these machines, a 2011 study found that you’d have to drive a Ford F150 Raptor for 3,887 miles, or the distance from north Texas to Anchorage, Alaska to equal the amount of hydrocarbon emissions produced by a two stroke gas-powered leaf blower operated for only 30 minutes. Banning these machines from DC will help the District meet its 2050 commitment of eliminating fossil fuel combustion and achieving carbon neutrality. Meanwhile, people who operate these leaf-blowers breathe in these emissions. Landscaping company employees are at an even higher risk as they often operate these machines for hours each day and are exposed to much higher levels of pollution. Over time, these emissions can lead to a host of health issues ranging from cardiovascular disease, to strokes, and respiratory diseases. The noise they produce can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Electric and battery-powered leaf blowers are better for operator health and the environment, and they are quieter than gas-powered machines. According to the New York Times, with technological improvements, nowadays, the best electric leaf-blowers are on a par with or better than many gas blowers.”
And if you really want to be carbon neutral and even get some exercise, remember, that rake will still work, too!