More on leaf blowers

In recent years the scratching sound of the leaf raking was music to my ears. However, since the 1970s, the soundscape has been replaced by the leaf blower. To the landscape contractor and Alameda gardeners in our schools and neighborhoods, the leaf blower is a gift from God, saving hours of tedious raking and grooming.  To many others, it is an abomination. 

When a neighbor’s mow-and-blow brigade arrives, with two or three gasoline-powered blowers fully vented, it robs us from the comfort of peace in our own homes and becomes a cacophony of these blowers sometimes for hours on end, even at its quietest idling speed. 

It appears that residential owners and the city, here in Alameda, have no power over the nuisance noise of these blowers.

Since residents have turned over care of their yards to gardeners, what was once a weekend exercise by homeowners, is now a weekday and weekend day-long noise assault on our neighborhoods.

Although there are other noise irritants with airplanes, barking dogs, music, etc., the leaf blower is a major culprit. The most powerful models can create a stream of air exceeding 200 mph and with noise levels as high as an ear-piercing 112 decibels.

A recent study measured the sound from a commercial-grade gasoline blower at various distances. Even from 800 feet away, the noise was above the 55-decibel threshold at which sound is considered harmful by the World Health Organization. Another problem is that the machines emit a low-frequency sound that is not measured conventionally but which travels long distances and penetrates building walls.

Some jurisdictions have laws banning or restricting leaf blowers but most cities and counties — including Alameda — don’t address blowers specifically but have noise ordinances that ostensibly establish when and how much noise can be made before running afoul of the law. You will find, if you put it to the test, that local authorities, as a rule, are unable to effectively enforce the laws. Why?

Fueling this ineffectiveness is a mindset that, if you live in an urban environment, you put up with noise!   Cities don’t have to be cacophonous and noise isn’t just an irritant; these blowers harm one’s health. Studies have shown that tens of millions of Americans are at risk of hypertension and heart disease from the effects of noise.

“Is Alameda blind to the fact that it is most likely causing significant health effects also?” Not to mention the destruction of peace and quiet in our own homes and schools.


Maria Angle