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Blowin’ (Leaves) In The Wind

by Gail Greiner

As Nyack residents we have become accustomed to the sound of leaf blowers whirring and screaming at any given time on any given day of the week.  Maybe it’s an army of leaf blower wielders, or just a lone head-phone wearing operator sporting a backpack variety, oblivious to the health and well-being of his neighbors and himself. It only takes a quick Google to learn that leaf blowers are more than an annoyance, they are a serious health hazard for their operators and anyone within hearing or breathing distance. Below is just a partial list of the dangers leaf blowers pose:

Air Pollution

  • A single leaf blower operating for an hour emits as much pollution as as 40 cars idling during the same amount of time.
  • The owner’s manuals for leaf blowers warn that operators and anyone within 50 feet of a leaf blower’s operation should wear protective eye, ear, and respiratory gear.
  • Leaf blowers stir up over two pounds per hour per leaf blower of dangerous particulate matter including but not limited to cat, dog, and rodent feces, pesticides, and street dust which can include mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, nickel. (The American Lung Associate of Sacramento)

Noise Pollution

  • Leaf blowers exceed World Health Organization acceptable ambient noise levels by 20 decibels at 50 feet (WHO).
  • Leaf blowers exceed WHO noise levels by 50 decibels at the operator’s ear, a level sure to cause hearing loss and impact the operators’ health in general, particularly the cardiovascular system. (WHO and ‘Comments on Occupational Noise to the OSHA Standards Planning Committee,’ Alice Sutter, PhD and www.
  • Half the wearers of hearing protection don’t benefit because the fit is wrong or they don’t wear it consistently. (‘Noise, Ears, and Hearing Protection,’ the American Academy of Otolaryngology.)
  • Leaf blower noise is especially irritating for anyone within earshot because of its particular pitch, the changing amplitude, and the lack of control by the hearer. (Interview of Michael H.L. Hecker, a Los Altos phychoacoustician, et. all in The Sacramento Bee)

Taken all together, just this small amount of evidence makes it clear that leaf blowers at best detract from the quality of life and well-being of Nyack residents and at worst pose a serious health risk to residents and/or operators. A number of local communities from Greenwich, to Rye, to Dobbs Ferry have taken measures to ban leaf blowers or limit their use.

Environmental Committee

Nyack’s Environmental Committee, an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the Village Board has proposed surveying residents of environmental issues. Among the questions being considered are:

  • Limiting leaf blower usage to Oct 15-Dec 15 and Mar 15-April 15. Allowing only one machine at any one time on a 1/4 acre property.
  • Leaf blower noise: Phase in implementation of 65dB noise level machines.
  • Restricting leaf blowers to only blowing leaves only, not harmful dirt and debris.

The Mayor’s Recommendation

Nyack Mayor Richard Kavesh has requested the committee to get feedback from ‘as wide a sample of stakeholders as possible, landscapers included (10 or so),’ before a proposal by the sub-committee can be submitted to the Village Board.

Any comments posted here from residents, landscapers or business owners will be forwarded to the Environmental Committee.

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This article originally appeared in the June editor of The Nyack Villager. It is reprinted here with permission.

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Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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