Oak Park should ban gas leaf blowers

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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In response to James Whalen's opinion in the Sept. 18 Wednesday Journal ['Acoustical litter' is a health risk, Viewpoints], I'd like to add that leaf blowers contribute to particle pollution in the air due to their dirty exhaust and simple nature of blowing around debris at up to 200 mph. The ALA (American Lung Association) states that short-term increases in particle pollution have been linked to death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes, including strokes; increased mortality in infants and young children; increased numbers of heart attacks, especially among the elderly or those with heart conditions; inflammation of lung tissue in young, healthy adults; increased emergency room visits for patients suffering from acute respiratory ailments; increased hospitalization for asthma among children; and increased severity of asthma attacks in children. 

So, as our eco-minded Oak Park community continues to do all the wonderful things like set out rain barrels to recycle water, re-use shopping bags, drive efficient vehicles, and grow native plants in our yards to attract butterflies, we should also pay closer attention to the daily assault of fossil-fuel-burning, outdated combustion engine-type leaf blowers. 

If it costs a little more per month to ask our landscaping professionals to find alternative ways to clean up, we should be willing to pay it, for the sake of everyone's health. These types of engines have been banned in some waterways because of the pollution they cause to aquatic life. But every day for roughly nine months out of the year in this region, we are still tolerating these "aural monstrosities" as Mr. Whalen describes them, on our own front lawns. 

The village of Oak Park has a noise ordinance that pertains to leaf blowers, but because of an omission pertaining to specific noise levels, the ordinance has little value. 

As Mr. Whalen points out, other communities have taken their residents' health and noise concerns seriously, by completely banning gas leaf blowers. Surely there is something that our village officials can do to update its policies regarding these machines, but in the meantime we can all make better choices when it comes to lawn care and our health. 

Our village asks us to join the international movement to eliminate single-use plastics. Let's take that same mindset and use alternative ways to maintain the yards our kids play on.

Julie Laney

Oak Park

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Reader Comments

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Jillian Matson  

Posted: February 17th, 2020 11:42 AM

I agree with Van James Furniss! A ban makes sense since it appears these tools are damaging on several fronts and are often misused and over used. The comment made by VJF lays out the reasons perfectly. If you must to clear a large driveway for example then there are great electric ones available now and it is more neighborly. We can all stand to shift our practices for the common good.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 21st, 2019 3:36 PM

I went to my friendly neighborhood lawn mower/snow blower repair place. I found out that the 200 MPH figure is indeed correct. However, that speed is determined by the diameter of the tube plus force. Once the 200 MPH wind hits the non , the 200 MPH pressurized force hits the non pressurized end nozzle, the force is instantly dispersed and dissipated downward to well below 100MPH. Plus for every foot after the end of the nozzle the MPH drops by at least half, 100 to 50 to 25 to nothing. That's why the leaves don't blow away very far. What you think you know as compared to what you know from an well informed person with no dog in the fight.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 19th, 2019 9:42 PM

I have no dog in this fight. I mulch my leaves. Crushed leaves are the best fertilizer. I do question this 200 mph statement. Think of it, leaves get blown away at about 10 feet some 12 inches of the ground at 200 mph. Straw gets blown through fence post during tornados. You can put your hand over a vacuum cleaner without injury. Yet leaves get blown at 200 mph maybe 10 feet and they don't get crushed. I would like someone to cite there reference to the 200 mph question. I used a sand blaster to clean rusty auto parts and you can stop the sand with your bare hand. I just don't see leaves be blown at 200 mph and not crumble. Again, cite the source please.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: October 3rd, 2019 7:19 PM

Mr. Schuller I absolutely agree with you. I've observed the same scenario on my block as well. Our observations differ in one aspect however. Many of the workers I have observed wear minimal or no ear protection (ear canal plugs are pretty ineffective at this level of noise). I suspect that many of the workers don't wear effective protection because of cost of protection (minimum of $20) and lack of knowledge of the long term consequences of exposure to very loud noise (loss of hearing coupled with tinnitus). And Mr. Bankes. I know what 65 DB sounds like (normal conversation is 60 DB). I can assure you we are not dealing with 65 DB ... ever.

Heinz Schuller from Oak Park  

Posted: October 3rd, 2019 5:11 PM

Wow Steve that's great news, if only that rule was enforced at any time in the years I've lived here. Because on our street, when the double-wides roll in, usually before 8am, a gang of house-vibrating blowers ignites like a Metallica concert. I've measured the typical blowers used next door at 120-130dB at about 10 feet away. That's why the workers wear ear protection.

Steve Bankes from Oak Park  

Posted: October 1st, 2019 5:43 PM

I have great news, they are already banned. "The use of gas-powered leaf blowers emanating more than 65 decibels or failing to meet federal emission regulations is prohibited from June through October. The ban applies to both landscapers and homeowners. Gas-powered blowers that emanate fewer than 65 decibels and meet emission standards may be used during the ban if they have been tested and approved by the Village. For more information call 708.358.5700 or email publicworks@oak-park.us." You're welcome.

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: September 30th, 2019 5:08 PM

Let's also ban motor vehicles (they too are loud and pollute too!), cell phones and all chargeable electronics (they are annoying, and those lithium or cadmium batteries are terrible for water tables and have a half life), let's also ban pets (enslaved animals should be freed and they expel methane!) and electric lights (light pollution is a crime, and think of the energy we'll save). Oh, and let's ban grocery stores -- you should all be growing your own food not that processed stuff. Have I missed anything? Any other modern conveniences that annoy anyone?

Van James Furniss from huntington  

Posted: September 28th, 2019 5:56 PM

VJF for Huntington CALM http://huntingtoncalm.org/ Gas leaf blowers have extremely inefficient two stroke engines. These engine spew their oil/gas emissions, directly in to our air, which contain four of the World Health Organizations top ten carcinogens: benzene, 1-3 butadiene, toluene and formaldehyde. They also produce 5lbs of fine particulate matter for every hour of use. The noise levels are above acceptable amounts even at 50 feet according to the WHO, NIOSH, EPA, and OSHA. They aerosolize rodent feces, pesticides, fungicides, mold spores, heavy metals and other unsavory materials into the air. The gas spilled refueling gas leaf blowers ends up in our ground and surface water. They kill pollinators and beneficial soil microbes with hot air jets blasting at over 200mph. Really can't we live with a few grass clipping? The risks far outweigh the benefits if you can call blowing debris around a benefit. Workers are sacrificing their future health for an artificial esthetic. https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/575800/gas-leafblowers/ Gas leaf blower use fossil fuel and contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions, ground level ozone, and global warming. Thinks of the millions of lawns and public spaces being maintained on a daily basis across the county. It is time to reevaluate our lawns and how we maintain them.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: September 25th, 2019 10:19 PM

Most snowblowers and lawnmowers sold today are four - not two - cycled gasoline engines. There is no comparison between the pollutant effect of a two vs four cycle gasoline engine. Presently there are reasonably powerful electric alternatives to two cycle gasoline leaf blowers. Although my landscaper tells me neither he nor his competitors provide them. The best alternative is to insist on a human powered rake ... like old times. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/how-bad-for-the-environment-are-gas-powered-leaf-blowers/2013/09/16/8eed7b9a-18bb-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: September 25th, 2019 9:55 PM

don't forget the snowblowers

Tom Leeds  

Posted: September 25th, 2019 9:29 PM

Why not all 2-stroke yard care tools. Weed whackers, chain saws and lawn mowers. They all give off the same pollution and kick up particulates. And in the case of all of these they actually make their own particulates as a function of their job.

Jakob Eriksson  

Posted: September 24th, 2019 11:31 AM

Agreed. Ban them now.

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