Make Leaf Blower Ordinance in Princeton a Priority in 2021
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Make a leaf blower ordinance in Princeton, New Jersey a priority for 2021.
Current leaf blower use in Princeton, a near constant part of our daily lives, demands more rigorous regulation. The most common blowers utilize one of the dirtiest, most polluting types of engines in the world. They are an invasive source of noise pollution, and, especially with more Princeton residents working and schooling from home due to the COVID pandemic, the problematic issue of leaf blowers is gaining rapid momentum in the community. The health consequences of their use, both to landscape workers and the community, are well documented.
Let's make Princeton quieter and cleaner for our residents, landscape workers, and our planet.
The two-stroke engine used in most gas-powered leaf blowers are the same engines used in two-stroke scooters, which a study in the journal Nature Communications called "super-polluters."
The New York Times reported that 30 minutes of using a two-stroke engine leaf blower produces the same hydrocarbon emissions as driving a pickup truck between Maplewood, NJ and Juneau, Alaska. And according to estimates from the US Environmental Protection Agency, emissions of smog-producing substances from [two-stroke] leaf blowers, mowers, and other small off-road engines were 81 percent as high as the amount from standard cars in 2016.
These engines are not permitted in our cars, due to environmental regulations. And yet they are permitted in lawn machines that are used almost continuously for the entire work day, throughout the year, to blow around not only leaves but dirt, sand, debris, and particulates.
Health Consequences for Children and Adults
“Studies have demonstrated," noted a 2013 paper in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, "that children with chronic aircraft, road traffic or rail noise exposure at school have poorer reading ability, memory, and academic performance.”
In a study of over 1 million people in the neighborhood of Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany, people subjected to background noise of more than 40 decibels had an increased risk of heart disease, kidney failure, and dementia compared to residents living in quieter areas.
While leaf blowers are on average 70-75 decibels at a distance of 50 feet (and louder at close range, which is routine), the sound profile of leaf blowers have low frequencies that allow it to travel longer distances than other machines with the same decibel level (e.g. electric blowers, mowers), as well as penetrate the walls of buildings.
In Munich, a study found that after a new airport opened, stress hormone levels soared in children. Their epinephrine levels rose 49 percent, norepinephrine more than doubled, and their systolic blood pressure went up by five points on average.
Gas blowers create high levels of formaldehyde, benzine, fine particulate matter and smog-forming chemicals which are known to cause dizziness, headaches, asthma attacks, heart and lung disease, cancer and dementia. Blowers, both gas and electric, can create clouds of industrial pollutants, pollens, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, dried animal feces, dust, and demolition debris such as lead and asbestos.
A Civil Rights Issue
Those who are most vulnerable to the health consequences of gas-powered leaf blowers are the people who operate them - usually low-wage, undocumented immigrants without legal recourse or medical insurance. This is not only an environmental and community health issue - it's a question of social justice. Landscape workers are exposed to hours of 100+ decibel noise right by their ears (the WHO recommends a 55 decibel outdoor limit for health and hearing safety); they are the ones who inhale for hours each work day the toxic cocktail of chemicals and fumes listed above.
Dr. Robert Meyers, a prominent ENT physician and professor at the University of Illinois, said, “When I see a crew using gas leaf blowers, I think: ten years from now, they’ll be deaf—and who will take care of them then?”
Princeton is a sanctuary city that cares deeply about human rights. We need to act according to our values. Princeton can lead the way with an ordinance that protects the health of landscape workers. Their futures should not be sacrificed so that privileged Princetonians can have unnaturally manicured lawns.
Other Cities Have Taken Action
Over 200 cities and towns throughout the country have enacted bans or restrictions on this single piece of equipment, including 60 cities in California; Aspen, Carbondale, and Westminster, CO; Arlington, Evanston, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Wilmette, and Winnetka, IL; Brookline, MA; Maplewood, NJ; Washington, DC; Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry, Great Neck Estates, Greenberg, Larchmont, New Rochelle, Russell Gardens, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, White Plains, and Yonkers, NY; and many others.
And it's not just municipalities. Big-campus universities like Harvard and Yale are actively transitioning to battery-powered leaf blowers.
Online you can find many testimonies and statements by owners of landscape companies that use only electric equipment to maintain both small and large properties, who are doing a thriving, successful business on the East Coast, charging prices that are competitive with gas-equipment companies. Their machines are quieter, lighter, with zero emissions, and do the job efficiently and effectively. 
A leaf blower ordinance in 2021. The public wants it. Our planet and our children’s future world desperately needs it. Social justice and human compassion demand it.
Contact email: LBOrdinance2021@gmail.com
(11) [See Appendix B] Statements from D. Delvanthal, owner of MowGreen LLC, Fairfield, CT; A. Hawley, manager of Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening, Shirley, MA; G.P. Carrette, owner of Ecoquiet Lawn Care LLC, Concord, MA
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