See four-minute Video of blower in
|Type of Machine
The Air Resources Board
states that there are approximately 410,000 gasoline-powered
blowers in use in the state today. . . (99%) [of blower operators]
utilize two-stroke engines. Noise levels exceed 90 decibels
at the ear of the user. One study assumed that nozzle air
velocities ranged from 120 to 180 mph, and calculated that wind
speed at the ground would range from 24 mph to 90 mph, sufficient
to raise dust, and equivalent at the middle to high end speeds,
to gale-force winds. (Source)
See how two stroke engines work.
|Who Uses Blowers
||Virtually all professional
gardeners use engine-powered blowers. (Source)
A gardeners association representative noted that many Los Angeles
gardeners are recent immigrants (98.1.7).
Especially in the case of blower operation, they may be day laborers,
unsupervised, unwarned, unprotected and sometimes unpaid (98.11.1).
These workers may suffer from language difficulties. They may
not have been given proper safety training, or trained to use and
maintain blowers properly. In their eagerness to please, they
may not become aware of problems their blower use causes. Since
at least the 1980s many gardeners in Los Angeles
have been what the press has reported as mow, blow and go
upkeep workers. They mow lawns and trim bushes, then clean up
after nature and themselves.
Currently, many gardeners also take on all the responsibilities of
total care not only of the lawn, but also the plants. There
is a relatively new trend away from small, single-owner gardening
businesses, sometimes with a helper or two. Landscape companies
now manage several crews of two to six workers. Nearly 50% of
work crews consist of three or more workers, sweeping through
yards with power mowers, weed whackers and leaf blowers (98.10.1).
Workers remove and replace bedding plants as soon as flowers droop.
They either inform the property owners when fertilization is necessary,
or carry out the job automatically. They make changes in landscape,
and install or repair sprinklers. Many large landscape companies
make even properties with small lots look like Disneyland.
Employers may never see the workers who come to the neighborhood after
they have left for work, much less meet the landscape company owner
and/or the supervisor.
Because of this trend, terms may get confusing. A homeowner
who hires a specific worker has historically been an employer
(or customer). If that same homeowner or renter of a residence
hires a landscape company, he or she is now a client,
and the landscape company considers itself the employer of the worker.
For the purposes of this web site, unless otherwise specified, the
terms employer and client are used interchangeably
and mean the owner or resident of the property that is being cared
Also due to this trend of larger work crews, two blowers may be used
at once, enhancing the chance that, even if a newer, less polluting
blower is used, an older blower is also used.
|Where They Are Used
|While large commercial landscape
companies who oppose bans use blowers to maintain public places such
as parking lots and shopping malls, the L.A. ban of gas blowers is
within 500 feet of a residence. Therefore, this web site will
focus on residential use of blowers.
Zero Air Pollution (ZAP) conducted a random survey of
public opinion, Survey99, wherein
participants believe up to 60% of blower use is on hardscape. An industry
sponsored education video for blower operators shows more than five
times more blower use on hardscape than blower use on lawn and garden.
Yet, the voiceover at the end states blowers are an important
Lawn and Garden Tool.
Residential blower users, gardeners and homeowners alike, also appear
to value blower use on hardscape such as driveways more than their
use on lawn and garden bedding. Blowers became especially popular
during the drought year of 1976 to clear debris without using
water to hose down driveways, parking lots and other paved areas.
(98.2.4) This habit
grew amongst gardeners, even though water, itself, may have taken
longer to clear leaves and debris than would rakes and brooms.
Users most appreciate blowers, it seems, for removing grass clippings
from hardscape, and leaves from the top of and in between low-growing
hedges and other plants.
They are often used near open doors or windows to a residence, and
between the exterior brick or stucco walls of a house and cement walls
at property lines, amplifying sound, causing echoes and a higher rise
of dust than when used in more open areas.
|How They Are Used
|Blowers may be used on a
given property from 15-60 minutes or more. Two blowers may be
used at once, one to gather leaves, the other to follow along after
the lawn mower to gather or blow grass clippings off of sidewalks
and other hardscape.
However, instead of being used in conjunction with rake and broom,
they have replaced those tools. A commonly observed work technique
is the blowing of individual pods, leaves and small debris together,
gathering and re-gathering wayward leaves that fly beyond the designated
pile, perhaps moving it all from one end of a property to another.
They have been used to move large pods across thick grasses and heavy,
wet leaves along a gutter, where a rake would take much less time.
These poor work habits may be seen so often due to the use, as noted
above, of day workers unused to the machines, or not properly trained.
Many professional gardeners gather leaves on lawns more efficiently
than the above example. Dust and debris are another matter.
Besides blowing dust and debris upwards into nearby open windows,
they blow it to, or it settles on, properties on either side of, or
situated at a lower level than, the one which is being serviced.
Blowers are sometimes left running while a user walks to another location
or attends to another chore. Once the machines are running,
operators do not seem to combine their use with rakes and brooms.
|Long before health studies
showed more serious concerns, complaints about blowers stemmed from
their inconsiderate use and noise. The amount of fugitive dust
(See Definitions of terms), emission odors
and the decibel level that reaches neighbors depends on the size of
the property, the number of trees and leaf dropping plants, the size
of the driveway and other hardscape or dirt areas, the amount of grass
clippings which fall onto that hardscape, and obstructions such as
tables and chairs, potted plants, toys or gardening equipment left
on the ground.
The urging by manufacturers and other related businesses, that blower
operators follow their instructions, warnings and suggestions for
making blower use tolerable to bystanders and neighbors, has worked
to some extent. Landscape companies and some gardeners try to
be courteous when someone walks by. Most, however, are not even
aware of the chaos and tension they cause while they concentrate on
their work. They are busy, looking where they are going; for
errant grass clippings on the sidewalk and leaves hiding under bushes,
or for the last speck of dust. When they feel rushed, power
is increased, making even more noise, and blowing debris even over
fences and walls into neighboring homes.
But, the industry attempt at education does not reach
most hired-help blower users. Advice contained in industry publicatons
and manufacturer's User Manuals may not have been read by the purchaser,
much less the laborer who actually uses the machine.
In some neighborhoods, blowers inconvenience someone at least once
to Others Caused by Blower Use
|1) Having to get up
to close a door or window to keep out fumes, dust and debris and/or
2) ... and then having to turn on otherwise unnecessary air
3) Having to turn up the volume on radio, music and television;
4) Moving to another room in order to hear and/or concentrate
on a conversation or to use the phone;
5) Being awakened, or having children awakened prematurely from
regularly scheduled sleep time or naps;
6) Increased housekeeping, especially where an inhabitant has dust,
mold, animal or plant allergies;
7) Leaving yard work or an outdoor place of relaxation to retreat
8) Crossing the street, perhaps several times daily, in order
to avoid blowers
(heard from joggers and parents
of small children);
9) Inability to use clothes lines instead of dryers for laundry;
10) Necessity of washing cars, fencing and exterior of house
more than otherwise required.
|Impacts on Neighboring Properties
|In most of Los Angeles,
use of a dirt blower at one residence may impact eight-to-fourteen
neighboring properties with noise, and air pollution from fugitive
dust, emissions and fuel spills.(See
Presentation) People inconvenience themselves to get
out of a blowers way or beyond its uproar in order to avoid
these adverse impacts.
The trend toward two-income families, has resulted in more disposable
income, but less free time. Gardening chores are
hired-out, even by residents of not-quite middle class communities
half of participants in Survey99
are not home when their landscape work is being done once each week.
Therefore, they are not aware of how disrupting it can be to their
neighbors when mower, blower, edger and trimmer are all operated at
the same time or one right after the other for up to an hour on their
More than an inconvenience, however, are the health and
quality of life problems which may be created or amplified by blower