LETTER: Got the leaf blower blues

This contraption was wielded by a city worker intent on wrangling all of those pesky leaves into a pile.

Ah, autumn! A time for crisp air and contemplative walks. For peace and quiet … or not.

A few years ago, as I walked meditatively around the labyrinth at Lakeside Park enjoying a splendid fall day, my reverie was abruptly disturbed by the cacophony of a noisy leaf blower. This contraption was wielded by a city worker intent on wrangling all of those pesky leaves into a pile. More recently, my quiet reading time on our front balcony was shattered by the grating sounds of a neighbour’s noisy leaf blower.

Perhaps I’m just a cranky curmudgeon, but then again if you look at the facts, there are a number of good reasons to reconsider this machine. According to the Canadian Lung Association, leaf blowers can stir up lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury in street dust. Exposure to these heavy metals can cause damage to humans, especially children. Gas-powered leaf blowers also generate more than 75 decibels of noise even at a distance of 16 metres away.

Not only are unprotected eardrums at risk, but studies have shown that loud noise causes stress and human bodies react by increasing adrenalin, thereby elevating heart rates and blood pressure.

Leaf blowers can also disturb plants by ripping off leaves and blowing away mulch from beneath shrubs and trees, depriving roots of nutrients.

Beneficial insects like ladybugs, spiders and ants can be killed. And, finally, according to the California Air Resource Board, the carbon monoxide emitted from a gas-powered leaf blower operating for half an hour is equal to that emitted by an average-sized car over 700 kilometres.

Once upon a time, human-powered rakes could be heard gently gathering autumn leaves. Let’s restore the rake to its rightful place. Out with the new, in with the old.

Dianne Harke


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