Do noisy leaf blowers drive you mad?

Photo credit: David Long licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

You are not alone. Linda Robertson, The Miami Herald, writes about the scourge that is gas-powered leaf blowers. Robertson interviews south Miami resident Vicki Richards, a violinist and “connoisseur of sound” who is tormented by them. Richards laments,”You can’t play over it and you can’t play with it. I used to have house concerts, but nobody wants to hear ‘String Quartet with Leaf Blower.’” Indeed.

The problem isn’t just their ubiquity–and in southern Florida they are a year round menace–it’s also the quality of their sound. As Robertson writes:

Maybe it’s the oscillating pitch of the snarl or the persistence of the whine. Maybe it’s the sheer volume that puts [Richards] over the edge. Leaf blowers. Can they even be said to produce sound? Or merely an abomination of sound?

Robertson explains that leaf blowers were meant to be a labor-saving device, but now have turned into the thing that many people hate–but not the landscaping company owners who fight efforts to ban the gas-powered models. No, they claim that costs would escalate and their livelihoods would be adversely affected if gas-powered leaf blowers were banned, in whole or in part. There is no evidence that this is the case, however. In fact, according to Quiet Communities, there are more than 100 landscape companies now operating with electric equipment and manual tools at prices that are competitive. Just recently, BrightView, the largest landscape company in the U.S. purchased 200 commercial grade electric mowers, citing the environmental and health benefits. It may only be a matter of time before electric is the new norm for both mowers and handheld equipment.

In the end, the economic arguments against banning these loud and filthy instruments of torture are likely to lose ground, because electric counterparts are getting better and better and more than pay for themselves over time. On the other side, there are very real concerns about air and noise pollution and the impact gas-powered leaf blowers have on workers’ and residents’ health and the damage they do to a neighborhood’s soundscape and eco-systems. Recently, the state medical societies in New York and Massachusetts passed resolutions about the dangers of gas leaf blowers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised a warning about the noise levels and adverse health impacts of leaf blowers. As Vicki Richards asserts, “nothing compares to the dissonance of two leaf blowers going simultaneously that cuts through you like a serrated knife. That’s how you drive a person insane.”

The battle has just begun. To read more about efforts to ban gas-powered leaf blowers and to learn about alternatives, check out Quiet Communities, “a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting our health, environment, and quality of life from the excessive use of industrial outdoor maintenance equipment.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *