I. A ZAP STUDY PROPOSAL RE BLOWERS DATED 5/2/99
PROPOSAL RE BLOWERS Only Version
dated 5/2/99 Purpose of Study: To determine the impact
of use of leaf and debris blowers on the mental and physical health
of the user, and other employees or persons working and living
in the vicinity. Where noise
and air pollution from Particulate Matter ("PM") is
being tested, it would be advantageous to include, as well, all
devices whatsoever that operate on the principle of blowing leaves,
grass clippings and related debris.Study
- All aspects of the use of each method should
be considered, from the purchase of fuel, loading fuel, spillage
and spillage fumes, preparing for use by starting and mounting
the blower, including the time the blower is running compared
to the time it is actually used, and maintenance.
- Subjects will not be apprised of purposes of
- Observations and monitoring of Workers using
blowers in the "real world" without being aware they
are being studied should be the basis for estimating how study
results will impact care for residential properties, large and
- Both those who oppose and those who promote
use of leaf blowers should be equally represented on a Task
Force and encouraged to give their feedback to a proposed study
before it is carried out. These people will be sensitive to
what has been left out of previous studies, which may render
those studies inaccurate.
Terms and Definitions:
- The all-inclusive term "Fuel" or
"Power Source" should be used, and as many as possible
fuels should be tested. Now these include gasoline, methanol,
- "Worker" means anyone using a blower
and may include those working with the user. This term may mean
gardeners, homeowners, residents, or anyone else.
- "Others" means anyone who is not
a Worker as defined above who are seen or unseen by the Worker,
who are inside, outside, or walking past who can smell or hear
the device, or be subject to fumes and air pollution emissions,
dust, particulate matter and other dislodged airborne debris
caused by the use of the device.
- "Hand Tools" means rakes, brooms,
and other tools which do not require sources of power other
than physical action. Worker and Others: Because the subject
of leaf blower vs other methods of debris and garden cleanup
seriously affects Workers and Others, studies which are conducted
to establish facts will only be valid if they take both groups
into consideration. Factors which seem to impact only the
Worker or only the Others actually have an impact on both groups.
Distances from the source of air pollution and
noise make a difference in mental and physical health, including
factors such as fatigue, psychological mood. These factors, in
turn, impact thinking, communication, and therefore, performance.
Depending upon what you are studying, it may be more advantageous
to be nearer or farther from the source. Taking a measurement
at only one given distance is not helpful. Studies should monitor
impact at several distances:
Upon the Worker using the cleanup tool, anyone
within 10 feet (since homes and open windows may be 5 feet from
a work area), the 50 feet which has been established for noise
monitoring purposes, and whatever the final distance might be
before a cloud of dust might settle in a typical neighborhood
on a breezy day to be at least 150 feet. Other studies show the
particulate matter as measured on a city-wide basis over a period
of time. We need to know how people are impacted based on Workers
using blowers in specific areas at specific times and for generally
the same length of time, and usually on a regular weekly schedule.
In the planning stage, request opinion of the Lung Association
and Asthma associations, to determine if this study might also
address some of their concerns, as it is planned or with slight
modifications or additional record keeping.
- Study of PM and emissions should include
their drift under various weather conditions and airflow.
- Time on task, and therefore expenditure of
fuel, should consider how long it takes to blow leaves and
debris in dry areas vs wet areas, and off of hard, smooth
or rough surfaces such as walkways and driveways, grass, and
bedding areas; compacted dirt, loose dirt, gravel. Under normal
operating conditions, how long the blower is actually running
as compared to how long it is actually in use.
- Differences between use in public use lands
(schools, parks, golf clubs, shooting rangers, public building
exteriors) and residential.
- Compare blower use time for various chores:
clean up of wet and dry paper, large debris, large and small
leaves, wet and dry grass and leaves, pods, palm dates and
dirt, small pebbles, dust.
- Analyze contents of dust and particulate
matter from various locations; e.g. near highways, highly
fertilized, composted areas. What is going into the air from
various settings. For instance, one residential neighborhood
vs a public land use area.
- Compare use techniques; i.e. leaves and debris
blown straight ahead, or up against a curb, solid wall or
fence with spacing between boards.
- Compare emissions at various blower speeds,
velocity and/or volume.
- In addition to known respiratory problems
associated with high Particulate Matter ("PM"),
research existing studies and report on the dangers or lack
of dangers of inhaling dried dog, bird and other animal feces,
insecticides, oil and gasoline residue and other components
Studies which compare various sources of energy
(gasoline, electricity, and other fuels for machines, and physical
activity for machines or water, rakes and brooms) should consider
noise pollution, air pollution, ground pollution, and the physical
affects upon Workers of using all methods.
Time considerations should take into account all
aspect of the use of blowers, as noted in page 1 "Study Considerations"
Tools should be monitored as they are commonly
used by both experienced and inexperienced Workers, since it must
be assumed that recommendations from this study may be read, but
not followed by all future users. The best tool for the job. Combining
machine and physical activity.
Short and Long-term Health Considerations
- Fuel emissions from an operating machine;
Spillage vapors when filling a tank.
- Physical stress in starting, lifting, mounting,
and wearing and using a blower;
- Noise levels at normal use distance from Workers
- Particulate Matter height, time to settle,
under various conditions, on various surfaces.
- Physical activity necessitated by filling tank,
starting, mounting and using and/or carrying the blower, removing
- Mental stress regarding difficulty of use of
- Worker compliance with manufacturer health
and safety recommendations and understanding of which type earplugs
and masks will protect them.
- Worker compliance with manufacturer recommendations
regarding use distance from unprotected
Workers and Others
Fuel emissions at a 10 ft. and 50 ft. distance, from operating
machines. Spillage runoff from filling a tank.
Fuel evaporation into air.
Sleep deprivation from noise specific to blowers Noise levels
at 10 feet and 50 feet.
Particulate Matter height, distance, girth at 10 feet and 50
feet under various conditions, on various surfaces.
Time to settle back to earth.
Physical activity and stress of having to move to quieter, healthier
location and of washing cars and housecleaning more often.
Allergy susceptibility over a period of time, as people who have
no allergies develop them due to having reached their tolerance
Physical cumulative symptoms of allergies and asthma and need
for medications based on ambient high PM. Fear and startle reactions,
particularly in children and the elderly, caused by sudden loud
Mental Health Considerations
Pride in work skills tied to Worker expectations,
employer expectations. Stress re judgments/opinions of
self and others regarding use of power tools over hand tools.
Hesitation/fear of discussing with employer documented increased
work-time caused by change in work tools, as it relates to increased
compensation and/or decreased expectations or decreased workload.
Results of sleep deprivation on work performance, coping levels,
concentration of night shift workers, those suffering from illness,
mothers of infants. Mental and Physical impacts of the startle
reaction. Unacceptability of odors of fumes/emissions or noise
may cause lack of concentration, anger, frustration. Interrupted
communications cause lack of focus.
- Stress re noise levels: 62 dB-87 dB at 20 feet
is equal to a loud group address.
- 65 dB is acceptable sound level for working
around business machines and half of people trying to sleep
will experience difficulty.
- 70 dB causes people to have to shout at a distance
of 6 feet and makes telephone conversation difficult.
- 75 dB is sound level of maintenance shops and
garages and a raised voice is required for conversants two feet
- 80dB makes it difficult to think clearly. May
result in some stomach contraction and increase in metabolic
- 85 dB Shouted communications are possible at
three-four feet. Telephone use difficult. Some hearing loss
occurs in range of 300-1200 Hz. some cognitive performance decrement
can be expected, especially where decision making is necessary.
Goals and Results:
What are the goals of employers and Workers
using various methods, and what are the final results? Do the
results meet not only immediate, but long term goals. A thorough
study would use the above considerations to compared all leaf
blowers, whatever their fuel, with all other methods of leaf and
debris cleanup, i.e. vacuums, mulching mowers, rakes, brooms,
water. However, a comprehensive study limited to gas and electric
blowers can set benchmarks for comparison with future studies
regarding traditional and combined clean up methods such as rakes,
brooms and mulching mowers.