The Reasons Behind the Great Leaf Blower Debate

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Love the Green Biz, Dec 15, 2017.

  1. Love the Green Biz

    Love the Green Biz LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,092

    I came across this article in Total Landscape Care and would like to hear from everyone their thoughts on its conclusions:

    The reason why leaf blowers are singled out as the noisiest landscaping tool
    [​IMG]Jill Odom | December 14, 2017

    Photo: Wikipedia

    The crusade against leaf blowers may feel like it has been waged since the machines were invented, but studies may have found the reason why people hate the sound so much.

    Landscapers often feel persecuted for simply trying to do their job with the best tools available, but it really isn’t their fault.

    A study published in the Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies explored the characteristics of sound from gas-powered leaf blowers. Unlike lawn mowers or snow blowers, which have a similar dB(A) (A-weighted decibels), leaf blowers have been found to have low frequency components that allow it to travel long distances and penetrate building walls.

    This filtration of leaf blower noise through outer walls seems to be one of the reasons that makes it more irritable than other lawn care equipment.

    “Our finding helps explain why so many people are complaining about the effects this noise is having on their health and quality of life,” said Jamie Banks of Quiet Communities and co-author of the study. “At these levels, operating even one gas leaf blower can affect an entire neighborhood.”

    The study looked at the decibel level from the origin point to 800 feet away. While the leaf blowers were over 100 dB(A) at the source and decreased over distance, the low frequency component persisted at a high level.

    “From a community perspective, the sound ratings supplied by manufacturers do not take frequency into consideration,” said co-author Erica Walker, a recent graduate of the doctoral program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Our findings suggest that reporting more on a sound’s character may be a step in the right direction.”

    Currently, dB(A) is the standard used to rate equipment noise and the metric most communities use when setting regulatory policies.

    “We now know that this metric breaks down in instances where there is a significant low frequency noise component,” Walker said.

    The International Institute for Noise Control Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering have pointed out dB(A) is insufficient for describing the impact of sound that contains a strong low frequency component.

    Another element of the dislike for blower noise is the seemingly helpless nature of the victims.

    Last year, a survey of 1,050 residents in various Boston area neighborhoods found that a majority felt they could not control the noise nor get away from it.

    “That’s a very vulnerable place to be in,” Walker told The Washington Post. Another 79 percent believed that no one cared that it bothered them.

    A growing number of people are becoming sensitive to low-frequency sound and the sound can cause serious health effects including vertigo, disturbed sleep, stress, hypertension and heart rhythm disorders.

    “When harsh noise hits, instead of reaching out to greet the world with open ears, we shrink back into shells, or try to; in truth, the ears can’t shut, nor like the eyes turn away,” wrote Kenneth Maue in the 1997 Right to Quiet newsletter. “Noise controls space like an occupying army, travels through walls, enters homes, molests bodies, violates privacy, stops thoughts, batters each of us into isolation.”

    The World Health Organization recommends general daytime outdoor noise levels should be 55 dB(A) or less, but 45 db(A) is needed to meet sleep criteria. Healthful sleep can be impaired by noise even if the sleeper is not awakened.

    Some may think that residents are simply being petty when they complain about leaf blower noise, but the Centers for Disease Control acknowledges leaf blowers as a source of harmful noise that can lead to permanent hearing loss.

    “People need to recognize this type of noise is not just an annoyance; it is a public health problem,” Banks said. “We need to think about prevention.”

    h&m GARDENS likes this.
  2. jc1

    jc1 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,394

    Too many home owners spend days blowing leaves with under sized under powered hand leaf blowers. The neighbors are then irritated by the time a landscaper shows up. Because they already heard it all weekend.
    iand, weeze, KerbDMK and 1 other person like this.
  3. Love the Green Biz

    Love the Green Biz LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,092

    True. I've had the experience with a neighbor blowing all weekend with a whiny underpowered home lite.

    Have you had any towns near you talking about and/or implementing blower restrictions or bans?
  4. Wye Oak Tree

    Wye Oak Tree LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,493

    Not around here yet, but there are some towns in other states (as you might know) that have enacted bans against gas powered blowers during certain times of the year or day of the week (Sundays).
    It made me think whats a landscaper to do? Battery powered options, for all their current flaws, are much quieter. This guy is using a dewalt and it's pretty quiet.
    Love the Green Biz likes this.
  5. Love the Green Biz

    Love the Green Biz LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,092

    He makes good points. For everyday use most of the year go battery. Use gas for the heavy load until electric catches up. Electric is a no brainer for the most part.
  6. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,128

    Ive been in the business just about my whole life, just get some impaired hearing and live life like they dont exist!
    Blainethompson and like this.
  7. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,128

    for get about the blowers, whos the chick?
    Blainethompson likes this.
  8. Wye Oak Tree

    Wye Oak Tree LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,493

    I dunno, but clickbait for sure!
    TrainingWheels, hort101 and weeze like this.
  9. Valk

    Valk LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,938

    What bugs me the most when I'm indoors is when the operator varies the RPMs too often. Throttle up...throttle down...throttle nauseum. To me as an innocent bystander, it is easier to tolerate if WOT (or any constant RPM) is chosen and simply left there. Yeah, we all know that's not practical, but thought I'd throw this opinion into the ring, fwiw.
    oqueoque and knox gsl like this.
  10. jc1

    jc1 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,394

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