Abcarian: Add this to the list of things I'll never miss: The gas-powered leaf blower

Abcarian: Add this to the list of things I'll never miss: The gas-powered leaf blower (via @latimesopinion)

10/17/2021 2:33:00 PM

Abcarian: Add this to the list of things I'll never miss: The gas-powered leaf blower (via latimesopinion)

Gas-powered leaf blowers were banned more than 20 years ago but L.A. didn't enforce the order. A new state law will prohibit their sale.

In 2019, the Atlantic’s James Fallows noted that the gas-powered leaf blower’s two-stroke engine is “a piece of obsolete machinery… it sloshes together a mixture of gasoline and oil in the combustion chamber, then spews out as much as one-third of that fuel as an unburned aerosol.” That aerosol contains three top carcinogenic compounds: benzene, butadiene and formaldehyde. I couldn’t find any research on the prevalence of asthma and lung disease in gardeners who use gas blowers, but I bet it’s relatively high.

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Blowers also send all kinds of gross stuff into the air: mold, fungus spores, pollen, insect eggs, heavy metals, animal feces and fertilizer products.And, did I mention they are unbelievably loud?Studies have found the loud, low-frequency growl poses risks to workers’ hearing and carries over long distances.

Noise is known to cause long-term health effects. It increases stress hormone levels, which are implicated in high blood pressure, heart disease, hearing loss and lower test scores for children.Los Angeles has never enforced the ban. Police have more pressing things to do.

Rogelio Tapia, a Los Angeles gardener since 1980, told me he uses both gas and electric blowers, depending on what customers prefer.“If you use a broom or a rake, it takes a long time,” he said. “I mean, most of the people try to save money; they don’t offer to pay more.” As it is, he added, “We don’t make too much money.”

::On Oct. 9, among the hundreds of bills signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom was one that will blessedly phase out the sale of “small off-road engines” by 2024. That category includes not just gas-powered leaf blowers but also pressure washers, chain saws and generators.

Once again, our state is at the forefront of environmental reform.California moves toward ban on gas lawn mowers and leaf blowersCalifornia will outlaw the sale of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers and chain saws as early as 2024 under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“It’s time we phased out these super polluters and help small landscaping businesses transition to cleaner alternatives,”said Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, who co-wrote the bill with Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park). They also secured $30 million in the state budget to help gardeners transition to zero-emission equipment.

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As soon as I read this news, I reached out to Pepper Edmiston, who has been fighting to ban all leaf blowers in L.A. since — I kid you not — 1977. At the time, she was living in Brentwood next to a home where gardeners blew leaves around a tennis court twice a week. “I had all these screaming kids, and dogs and ducks, but nothing bothered me like the noise of those blowers,” she said.

Edmiston, who founded Happy Trails, a camp for kids in foster care, moved to Pacific Palisades in 1990, where she teamed up with two couples who were also anti-leaf blower, Peter and Joan Graves, and George and Diane Wolfberg. (Peter Graves was the famous actor; George Wolfberg was the city’s chief administrative analyst.)

At City Council meetings, said Edmiston, if any reporters were present, Graves would announce, “This is MissionPossible!”One time, she said, they brought a gardener into the council chamber and had him start his gas blower, whereupon then-Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky yelled, with an expletive, “Get that … thing out of here!”

About 18 months ago, she and her husband, Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, attended a meeting of the Police Commission to plead for enforcement of the leaf blower ban.Homelessness was on the agenda that day.“Obviously,” said Edmiston, “we felt our issue was irrelevant in the face of the housing crisis. It was a sobering experience for sure.”

Thankfully, we don’t have to choose between housing our most vulnerable and protecting the health of gardeners and our city’s air quality. Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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