Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

LEAF BLOWERS – Bad For the Environment and You

Leaf Blowers emit as much pollution in one hour as driving a 2016 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles.

Upwards of 170 American cities in 31 states (as well as five cities in three Canadian provinces) have some kind of leaf blower restrictions already in place. Credit: Dean Hochman, FlickrCC.

EarthTalk®, from the Editors of E – The Environmental Magazine

Those leaf blowers sure can be annoying, just for the noise alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using a commercial-grade, gas-powered leaf blower for just two hours can cause hearing damage and repeated use is a sure recipe for permanent hearing loss. And when you factor in the air quality damage from the inefficient gas motors on the models commonly used by maintenance workers and landscapers everywhere, it gets personal as it becomes a serious health issue.

California’s statewide Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) reports that the best-selling commercial leaf blowers emit as much smog-forming pollution during just one hour of use as driving a 2016 Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles. CalEPA adds that landscape workers running a leaf blower are exposed to ten times more ultra-fine particles – invisible to the eye but easily lodged into the lining of your lungs – than someone receives standing next to a busy road.

And these aren’t isolated, hyper-localized problems, as experts warn that within a couple of years, smog-creating emissions from leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other small gas-powered non-vehicular engines will eclipse smog emissions from cars and trucks on the American road.

But rest assured, there are some rumblings of change. Upwards of 170 American cities in 31 states (as well as five cities in three Canadian provinces) have some kind of leaf blower restrictions already in place. maintains a list of cities across North America and beyond that have some kind of restrictions on the books.

And of course, there are cleaner, quieter ways to clear yard debris and leaf litter. Getting out the rake and broom is a sure-fire way to stay on your neighbors’ good side by avoiding all that pollution and noise. And it’s a great way to get some productive exercise on a fall day. Even better, get the kids off the couch and away from the screens to lend a hand.

Another alternative is to use an electric lawn vacuum which sucks up leaf litter and other yard debris (instead of blowing it around) with a lot less noise and without causing smog. That said, an electric leaf blower—either battery-powered or corded to an outlet—can get the job done with less noise and no spewing (albeit with less oomph).

Given recent outcries about leaf blowers, manufacturers have responded with new models that address many consumer concerns, as well as those of neighbors. For example, Echo’s PB-250 was designed from the ground up to eliminate annoying noise frequencies and operate more efficiently while maintaining the flexibility of gasoline as a fuel. Husqvarna, Stihl, Black & Decker and Toro also have newer models which comply with most of the recently adopted leaf blower ordinances around the country. Check out the city of Burlingame, California’s listing all models of leaf blowers that max out at 65 decibels in volume for quieter (and in many cases less polluting) models.

Contacts:; Echo PB-250LN Handheld Gas Blower,; Burlingame’s “65 Decibel Machinery List,”

EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss.

2 comments to LEAF BLOWERS – Bad For the Environment and You

  • I live in Westchester County, NY. The county and my town both have “no idling” law for autos. Can you create this stat: “A WORKER OPERATING A 4-STROKE GAS POWERED LEAF BLOWER FOR 30 MINUTES IS EXPOSED TO THE SAME POLLUTION OF xx 2016 TOYOTA CAMRYS IDLING FOR 30 MINUTES”
    A eye opening stat like that would put pressure on landscape company owners to not expose their workers to pollution. Homeowners might act too. And I see county and town officials being forced to act on leaf blowers, given that they have an “no idling” law on the books. Thank you. Please help.

  • Thank you for your concerning words, John. We will share your comment in our upcoming September 27th edition of Green Energy Times. This is indeed a topic and issue that is worth taking note of! The “no idling’ law in VT and NY is definitely an issue we wish would be addressed more seriously. It is a definite cause of many health issue, let alone the emissions idling adds to the environment. Don’t be afraid to speak out and also let businesses where you see idling as a problem know about your concerns and request that they put us No Idling signs. Every effort is worth it.

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