Sunday, January 13, 2013

“Second-Hand Dust” - Leaf Blowers: A Very Real Health Hazard To Everyone.

                                                                          Photo courtesy AP

When I was a child, my three brothers and I were the gardeners in our father’s eyes.  We had a push mower with no internal combustion engine, we edged by hand, and everything was swept up and put into the trash can.  Every house on the block took care of its own yard maintenance. Only one family on the block had a gardener, a very meticulous Japanese man, who took the whole day to maintain that property, and he always left that yard cleaner than when he got there.  However, things on the landscaping scene have vastly changed - And not for the better.  There really are no real gardeners, anymore.  Now, it is an army of people who “Mow, Blow & Go.”  And, they are slowly killing all of us.

Debris and Particulates which should have been safely resting in a landfill after a typical yard clean up are now blanketing the environment and the linings of every person’s lungs.  The number of tons of particulate matter now in the air column and blanketing our cities has to be beyond astronomical, and it is a major health hazard to every living creature.  How did this happen, and just who is responsible for this danger?

Say Goodbye Clean Air 

                                                                                The Enemy

Well, one of the single largest violators of clean air is an evil beast known as the Leaf Blower.  Why is that?  Well, all one has to do is analyze how this man-made piece of hell operates, the people who operate them, and the facts are plainly obvious.  One fact we can be certain of is that the leaf blower was definitely invented by a lazy human.  Its sole purpose is to essentially move large quantities of dirt, dust, leaves, twigs, trash, and God knows what else, around planet Earth, and in almost every case, the dirt is swept under the proverbial rug.  In plain English – It is an effective way of moving debris from one area and depositing it into another, all without that pesky chore of a thing called the Clean-Up.

An unscientific survey of the issue during my regular bicycle rides has shown the problem exists on a massive scale, too.  I have observed at least 95% of personnel using this fiendish device deposit the wares of their work into, and onto, city streets - All without batting an eye at the mess they have just made.  It is like a tennis match in respects to the volley.  “Gardener” number one cuts, mows and blows everything into the street.  “Gardener” number two then does the same next door.  Across the street, “Gardener” number three simply blows back what number one and two sent across the street in the first place.  The natural breeze and motor vehicles takes care of the dispersion around the neighborhood.  And, this goes on street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, county by county, and so forth. 

That is a whole lot of particulate matter, folks.  And, in what sane and rational world is this not littering?

When is Second-Hand really Second-Hand?

We have all heard of these things called cigarettes, right?  And, I am sure we have all heard of this thing called “Second-Hand” smoke and how it is supposedly lethal to Public Health.  Additionally, smoking and smokers are looked upon as the Anti-Christ (I don’t smoke personally) by the media and by health care professionals.   So, with the entire social stigma associated with smoking, how the heck do leaf blowers get off without notice when the effects are massive, widespread, and immediate to all living things?

In fact, since smoking and second-hand smoke is an issue every walking human is familiar, with billions of dollars in penalties exchanging hands between tobacco producers and lawyers for selling a “Dangerous” product.  Additionally, if there are now massive restrictions on a still-legal activity, said to be mortally dangerous to life itself, then why the heck has no one taken a serious, hard look at the particulate matter in the air we all breath tainted by leaf blowers?  Seriously, in another case of human hypocrisy, how can there be such an overlooked thing as the air ALL of us breathe?  I mean, it’s not like we can step outside or leave the room on this one.  We are stuck with the air mass we have to breathe.
You ready for more hypocrisy?  Well, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) wants to muffle the outflow from bakery ovens, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - A true oxymoron when you look at their mission and evaluate their results) chases every last vapor of gasoline down the part-per-billion.  However, when it comes to hundreds of thousands of leaf blowers in Southern California alone, well, “Nothing to see here, folks.”

Well, someone finally did take notice.  And then… Nothing.

My own personal vehicle after the "Gardener" used the Leaf Blower.  Remember, we are all breathing these debris.

There was actually a study conducted by the State of California EPA and Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B.) regarding the potential health hazards of leaf blowers, and the dangerous conclusions of the study, as well as the lack of action by the agencies thereafter, will frighten any reader.  The conclusion of the report was the MAJOR HEALTH HAZARD these contraptions constitute via the massive amounts of debris they introduce into the air mass and the toxins they emit.  In fact, the manufacturers of the leaf blowers themselves caution the use of the machines for any purpose other than blowing leaves into a pile for proper disposal.  They are not, repeat, “Are not to be used to sweep and clean any area for any reason.”  It is on the labels, instructions and on the manufacturers own websites in plain English for all to read.  However, probably 99% of their operators use them for sweeping and cleaning purposes.  If there ever was a case for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to get involved for misuse of a product, well, this is certainly it. 

For your viewing pleasure, here is the link to the study dated February 2000:

Here is the link to the CARB Leaf Blower main page:

In a later CARB study, it was estimated that by 2013, leaf blowers will have added 156 thousand tons of particulate matter to the atmosphere.  Again, can anyone please explain how this landscaping tool is a good thing?  If a fixed industry polluted on this magnitude, they would be shut down for good.

And, for those who may claim the particulates were there to begin with, well maybe, however, they are not being picked up and properly disposed of.  Debris are just being moved around and pushed farther than they would have gone on their own.   

Not only are these dust blowing people harming our lungs, they also can block traffic lanes while “Working,” and forces cyclists and pedestrians to alter course or wait until the cloud of dirt has settled before passing.  And yes, many of the violators are contractors working for government agencies at the City, County and State level.  Not good, folks.

To fully understand and personally experience the magnitude of the problem, get out and take a bicycle ride, a run, a walk, or simply leave your car outdoors overnight.  Your lungs will notice the former, and your car will verify the issue with the latter.

The madness needs to stop – Now!  Besides, this planet belongs to all of us, not just those whom are in a hurry to get their yards “Clean.”

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