Users offered quieter blowers Machines a way to bypass noise By Susan Abram, Staff Writer LA CRESCENTA - In an effort to rid residential neighborhoods of air and noise pollution, air quality officials Tuesday launched the first in a series of leaf blower exchanges for landscapers, gardeners and other yard work enthusiasts. About 300 people paid $200 each to ditch their outdated, ear-splitting, cough-inducing machines for quieter, low-polluting brands that retail for $460. The event, sponsored by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, took place at Toro's Lawnmower, Garden and Chain Saw Center off Foothill Boulevard. "A lot of professional landscapers and gardeners know they get a lot of flak about blowers," said Laura Toro, owner of the garden shop. "Anything that offers cleaner fuel, that is quieter and is very lightweight will make a lot of difference." Dan Andrus was among those who made the switch. "It's quieter," said the landscaper, one of the last customers of the day. "You're not going to have the ear problems in 20 years." Andrus, who runs All American Landscape in La Crescenta, said shelling out an extra $200 for the tool was a good compromise to meet various regulations on leaf blowers still imposed in some cities across the state. "I think the biggest danger (of a ban) is landscapers are going to go back to hoses and waste precious water," he said. The AQMD's goal is to retire 1,500 blowers and cut 14 tons of pollution. A typical backpack-style blower can pollute the air as much as 80 new cars driven during that same year, experts say. Five more exchanges will be held throughout Southern California in the next few days. Garden equipment generates about 6 percent of the region's smog-forming pollutants, compared to the 76 percent created by vehicles, including cars, trucks, trains and planes, AQMD officials have said. In recent years, state regulators have cut pollution from lawn mowers and chain saws as well. Barbara Alvarez, owner of Golden State Landscape Inc. in Valinda, said she purchased a half-dozen blowers seven months ago, and already her crew of 10 has given them a thumbs-up. Alvarez has worked to get statewide legislation that would make it illegal for cities to ban blowers, an essential tool for gardeners, she said. "It is an excellent blower," she said. "I haven't had one complaint from any customer. I myself can stand next to it and have a conversation." Staff Writer Kerry Cavanaugh contributed to this story.