My neighbor Edeltraut recently sent an email expressing concern that “allergy sufferers and asthmatics” who are already feeling the pain from weather-related pollens, are also suffering because of leaf blowers.
According to Edeltraut, the blowers “cause havoc with dust, dust, dust.”
I agree and so, I think, do most people.
Not Just Our Block
The subject line of Edeltraut’s email was: “problem on the hill? everywhere!”
Edeltraut and her dog walk about four hours a day. I’m exaggerating, but not by a lot. So when she says the problem is everywhere on the Hill, I believe her.
Other dog walkers, as well as joggers, cyclists, and parents walking with babies and children can attest to the fact that when there’s a dirt blower nearby, crossing the street doesn’t help.
Not Just That House
Actually, according to this statistic from the award-winning website Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles, all of the aforementioned parties would have to cross to the next street over to avoid the ill effects of what ZAPLA calls “dirt blowers”
“Use of a dirt blower at one residence may impact eight-to-fourteen neighboring properties with noise and air pollution," one report on the web-site states.
And what kind of air pollution?
Not Just Dust
You may not want to read the following while eating.
According to ZAPLA, here’s what the dirt blowers stir up (Italics mine):
“Leaf” blowers distribute debris and Particulate Matter (“PM”) for long distances. PM consists, in part, of fine dust particles, dried bird and other animal feces, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals, street dirt that can contain lead and carbon, and allergens such as molds, pollen, and animal dander.”
And considering the number of families who move to Mount Washington for a better quality of life for their children, it’s distressing to learn that, “PM is particularly harmful to children," not to mention the elderly and individuals with heart or lung problems, including asthma.
“Wasn’t there an injunction against blowers?” wondered Edeltraut.
Not that it seems to have done much good, but according to Los Angeles Municipal (LAMC) Section 112. 04 (c), "No gas powered blower shall be used within 500 feet of a residence at any time.” The ordinance became effective on February 13, 1998 and both users and the contractors who hire them can be fined.
So why are the leaf blowers still in use?
Not So Easy
The City of Los Angeles website (lacity.org) informs that: “Investigators may cite individuals that are observed using leafblowers [sic], If they are able to catch them in the act.”
The operative word here is “if."
Here’s what ZAPLA advises:
To report violations of the gas leaf blower ban in the City of Los Angeles:
1. Dial 311
2. That operator will connect you to the Report Line.
3. Report repeat violations in the future. If an LAPD car is in the vicinity, they may be able to respond. If not, your report(s) will be followed-up at a later date.
4. Be prepared to report the day of the week, the date, the time, the address, and the license plate on the gardener's vehicle, if any.
Persistence may make a difference with shutting down illegal gas blowers in the neighborhood. However, there’s still the problem of electric leaf blowers, which are legal but create just as much particulate matter.
Not Just Advice for Edeltraut
Edeltraut also asked if I had any thoughts about what to do.
For more information about the problems caused by leaf blowers, a good place to start would be the extremely comprehensive Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles website, which has far more information than can be conveyed in one short column, including pages on the effects of blowers on soil health and the (surprising!) economics of blowers vs. brooms.
Armed with knowledge, talk with the neighbors who are hiring the landscaping companies. Express your concerns about the health hazards caused by the blowers.
If your neighbors leave for work before the gardeners come, they may not know that dirt blowers are being used. They may be unaware of the quality of life problems caused by blowers. They may be unaware that blowers are illegal. They may be unaware that the leaf blowers are bothering you.
Finally, suggest the “leaf blower issue” as an informational/educational topic for neighborhood associations.
Edeltraut and Mount Washingtonians, there’s nothing to lose but the havoc of dust, dust, dust.