Letter: Blown away

Posted 4/28/22

To the editor:

It’s that time of the year again. The onslaught of gas powered lawn equipment usage and associated hazards are upon us yet again. If you’ve ever had a peaceful morning …

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Letter: Blown away


To the editor:

It’s that time of the year again. The onslaught of gas powered lawn equipment usage and associated hazards are upon us yet again. If you’ve ever had a peaceful morning or a Zoom call interrupted by the roar of gas-powered lawn equipment, or had to take a detour during a walk, run, or bike ride to avoid the ear-splitting noise, and clouds of dust, allergens, and who knows what else, kicked up by a combustion-engine leaf blower, raise your hand — and know that you are not alone.

Gas powered lawn equipment has become such an offense to our ears and our lungs that hundreds of US municipalities have banned or limited their use. The time has come for Rhode Island communities to demand cleaner, quieter lawn and leaf equipment for municipal, commercial and residential use. 

Gas-powered leaf-blowers (GLBs), string trimmers, and hedge trimmers are horrifically polluting, given the antiquated design of the two-stroke engine that mixes oil and gas, burning some of it and aerosolizing the rest. Operating one Echo brand 2-stroke gas-powered leaf-blower for just 30 minutes releases carbon emissions equivalent to driving a Ford F-150 Raptor pick-up truck 3,887 miles  (Edmunds: Emissions Test: Car vs. Truck vs. Leaf Blower 2011). Growing evidence implicates the 2-stroke engine in increased risk of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, cancer, and other serious health conditions. Children, seniors, workers, and those with chronic illness are at greatest risk. A growing number of nations and municipalities are eliminating 2-stroke engines entirely based on these facts and the health costs associated with their use. 

Landscape Workers are particularly at risk for health problems from GLBs. They frequently work in teams (including simultaneously using multiple blowers) and often do not wear masks, eye, or hearing protection. They are exposed to extremely high levels of noise and pollutants on a frequent basis. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports legislation, which would prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from May 1 to September 30. Gasoline leaf blowers pose many unnecessary health risks and environmental hazards to children, who spend more time outdoors, and come in frequent contact from the pollutants and noise that the gas powered lawn equipment emit.

Alternatives to gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment are now readily available, including battery-operated lawn and leaf blowers, which are quieter and emission-free at the source. They are 40 to 70 percent quieter than gas machines and have close to 90 percent operating efficiency. Electric leaf blowers, which use rechargeable lithium batteries, are a doable and affordable solution for both individuals and landscaping companies caring for larger land plots. Lawn equipment manufacturers have created entire suites of tools (including backpack ones) with interchangeable batteries. A quick online search will reveal the huge variety of battery powered lawn equipment available today. Prices are quite comparable between gas and non-gas powered lawn equipment. 

The revolution in electric/battery powered lawn equipment is here now. Contact your local town government or town/city council and ask what is being done to reduce and/or eliminate gas powered lawn and leaf equipment. Demand more action and budget be directed to transforming your community away from gas powered lawn and leaf equipment. Some towns are already considering residential gas to electric swap-out programs, and requiring departments of public works to begin converting over to electric/battery powered equipment. Let us all work for a cleaner, quieter Rhode Island. We deserve it. We can do this!

George Voutes


Helpful resources: Working to eliminate gas-powered leaf blowers - Quiet Clean PDX: https://www.quietcleanpdx.org/

Electric/battery powered lawn care contractor, serving Providence RI and surrounding communities: https://www.cityestategardener.com/contact

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