Leaf Blowers and Air Quality

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Gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment is an important source of toxic and carcinogenic exhaust and fine particulate matter. [BNE]

A study published in the November 2019 issue of BMJ found that even small increases in PM2.5 (particulate matter) exposure were linked with substantial health care and economic costs. Link: HTHCSPH

According to the Lung Association, a leaf blower causes as much smog as 17 cars. [Lung Association]

Gasoline operated leaf blowers produce reactive hydrocarbons. On the basis of available human and animal evidence, it is concluded that reactive hydrocarbons, formed during incomplete combustion can cause acute irritation, neurophysiological symptoms and respiratory symptoms. There is also evidence for possible immunological effects and exacerbation of allergic responses to known allergens. Chronic animal inhalation studies show a spectrum of dose-dependent chronic inflammation and histopathological changes in the lung in several studies. [WHO1]

A two stroke leaf blower emits 299 times the hydrocarbons compared to a pickup truck [EET].

Many hydrocarbons are volatile (VOCs) and participate in smog formation. [ARES]

Gas-powered blowers emit carbon monoxide which is a toxic air pollutant. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by incomplete combustion. It is very difficult to separate the potential effects of carbon monoxide from those due to other respiratory irritants. Individuals working with gas-powered engines are also exposed to high concentrations of other combustion components of smoke and exhaust. [WHO2]

A two stroke leaf blower emits 23 times the carbon monoxide compared to a pickup truck [EET].

Gas-powered blowers produce nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides can create environmental health hazards when they react with sunlight and other chemicals to form smog. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide react with substances in the atmosphere to form acid rain. [National Library of Medicine]

A two stroke leaf blower emits two times the nitrogen oxide compared to a pickup truck [EET]

Ozone is created when heat and sunlight react with nitrogen oxides and Volatile Organic Compounds [WUSL].

When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs. Relatively low amounts of ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and, throat irritation.

Other health hazards: premature death, cardiovascular effects, asthma, lower birth weight and decreased lung function in newborns [EPA1]

Gasoline exposure is associated with renal and liver cancer, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myeloma, heart disease and irritant effects [EHP]

The particles in diesel exhaust are suspected of being carcinogens because of the elevated lung cancer rates found in occupational groups exposed to diesel exhaust.[USDOH]

As emissions controls on automobiles have become so effective, the relative contribution of small-engine emissions to overall air pollution has increased. While automobiles are typically operated between 100 and 1000 times longer than small engines, such as leaf blowers, their emissions are 100 to 1000 times lower [MSU]

By the year 2020, air emissions from lawn care equipment in California are expected to exceed the air emissions of all the cars in California [CAL-EPA]

Outdoor air pollution kills more than 800,000 people a year and sickens many more. Ambient air pollution is a major health risk, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular mortality.[ESC]

Leaf blower operators may be exposed to potentially hazardous concentrations of CO and PM intermittently throughout their work day. While exposures to CO and PM may not have immediate, acute effects, the potential health impacts are greater for long-term exposures leading to chronic effects.In addition, evidence of significantly elevated concentrations of benzene and 1,3-butadiene in the breathing zone of operators leads to concern about exposures to these toxic air contaminants.[CAL-EPA]

New York is the largest net importer of early mortality caused by out-of-state air pollution. (We can’t do much about that but we can address pollution caused locally.) [NYT]

Leaf blowers are an obvious source of particulate matter emissions.[FPP]

Particulate matter is the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air many of which are hazardous. This complex mixture includes both organic and inorganic particles [EPA]

A study led led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published in 2019 found that even small increases in PM2.5 (particulate matter) exposure were linked with substantial health care and economic costs [HTHCSPH]

Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter is a major global health concern.[PNAS1]

The majority of studies reported reduced birth weight and increased odds of low birth weight in relation to exposure to carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter less than 10 and 2.5 microns.[SD_AAP]

Airborne magnetite particles in the brain may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease[SR_A]

Research has shown that UFPs transported in the blood are primarily deposited in the liver, where they may cause oxidative stress which can damage cells and eventually lead to liver cirrhosis or even cancer.[NCBI_AL]

Ultra fine particles can enter deeper into the alveoli; they are more prone to deposit in the lungs, and can cause inflammation in the alveoli and exacerbation of existing respiratory diseases in more vulnerable individuals such as asthmatics, children, and those suffering from circulatory or respiratory diseases.[TFO][NCBI_A]

Epidemiological studies have consistently shown an association between particulate air pollution and not only exacerbations of illness in people with respiratory disease but also rises in the numbers of deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease among older people. [TL_AP]

Early life exposure to Particulate Matter was associated with a reduction in fundamental cognitive abilities, including working memory and conflict attentional network. [EHP1]

Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including: premature death in people with heart or lung disease,nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat aggravated asthma, decreased lung function,increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing. [EPA]

Legacy heavy metals from past industrial activity combine with traffic paint; asphalt; and bits of tires, brakes, and car parts to create toxic dust on our roadways.[MS]

A group of Italian researchers does posit the idea that SARS–CoV–2, the virus behind the covid-19 pandemic, might be getting a helping hand from atmospheric pollution.[LSUB]

People with Covid19 who live(d) in U.S. regions with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less polluted areas, according to a new nationwide study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.[HCSPH]

Workers can not protect themselves from toxins emitted by leaf blowers:

He (landscaping) worker has little control over the equipment he must use. [PF]

The American Lung Association gives the State of New York poor air quality ratings with an F grade for the greater metropolitan areas [State Of The Air]

The American Academy of Pediatrics, NY Chapter 2, asks action against gas-powered

leaf blowers for the sake of our children’s health and that of all the residents and workers in NYS. [AAPNY]

Medical Society of New York calls for leaf blower ban. [MSSNY]

Air Pollution Impacts Brain Cognition [Gu]