Tag Archive: ban

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.”

Because the world isn’t noisy enough, someone created fidget spinners

Photo credit: Charmingco licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

But no worries, reason prevails: Fidget spinners banned from schools for making too much noise. For the uninitiated, a fidget spinner is a “palm-sized spinner containing ball bearings which can be flicked and spun around.” And why do they exist (other than to torment us)?  Actually, they were designed to help students with ADHD and autism and it’s thought that they help with concentration, but they became “a fad after YouTube bloggers gathered millions of views by performing tricks with them.”  So students who were playing with fidget spinners for fun and not to help them concentrate were interfering with students trying to concentrate.  While the linked story was about a ban at a UK school, you’ll be glad to know that fidget spinners are also banned in 32% of the largest high schools in the U.S. So far.

Noise isn’t just a city problem

On Banning Leaf Blowers.” Kaysen writes that “New Yorkers who leave the city for the suburbs often do so for three reasons: schools, space and silence.” But she adds that “silence, it turns out, can be a problem.” Why? Because while “suburban streets are certainly free of blaring horns, wailing sirens and, sometimes, even people…come springtime, they vibrate with the hum of lawn mowers, edgers, trimmers and leaf blowers; the accompanying noise continues until the last leaves fall from the trees in early December.”

So what can suburbanites do to quell the din?  Kaysen tells us that the Township of Maplewood, New Jersey is considering a ban on the noisiest and most noxious of a landscaper’s tools: leaf blowers. The township’s proposed ordinance prohibits commercial use of blowers from May 15 through September 30, and imposes strict limits as to use for the rest of the year. The ordinance also imposes fines, starting at $500 for the first offense.

The problem with leaf blowers is twofold. As Jamie Banks, the founder of Quiet Communities, a group that advocates quieter lawn maintenance equipment, states: “[I]t’s not just the noise. It’s the pollution.”  Kaysen adds that:

Most landscapers use leaf blowers with two-stroke engines, which are light enough to carry but produce significant exhaust and noise. The gas and oil mix together, and about a third of it does not combust. As a result, pollutants that have been linked to cancers, heart disease, asthma and other serious ailments escape into the air.

Despite there being alternatives–say, a rake?–there is pushback, of course. Residents who hate noise are facing off with residents who feel the ordinance will “hamstrung their gardeners, leaving their yards looking unkempt, with grass suffocating beneath piles of clippings.”  And landscapers insist that leaf blowers are essential, claiming that “when used properly, is not a nuisance.”  Used properly means at half speed, “which is significantly lower in noise volume, they’re much more efficient,” said Paul Mendelsohn, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.  Which makes us wonder why full speed is even an option.

Click the first link to read the entire piece.  It is well worth your time, particularly the bit about local hero Fred Chichester, 79, of Montclair, who, when he hears a leaf blower nearby, “gets into his 1998 Ford Escort wagon, one of his seven cars, and looks for the culprits, suing them in municipal court for violating the ban.” Fred then takes the landscapers to court, “about 20 times over the years.” And he usually wins.