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GUEST OPINION: Time to ban this health threat: Leaf blowers

  • Shepherd Bliss

‘‘Avoid using leaf blowers and other dust-producing equipment to cut down particulate matter,” recommends the California Air Resources Board. Why?

Simply put, leaf blowers kill. “Approximately 65,000 premature deaths from cardiopulmonary causes may be attributable to particulate air pollution each year,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That's only people. Leaf blowers also kill bees, butterflies, insects, plants and wildlife. They are hazardous to human health and to the ground itself.

Also known as debris blowers, these industrial machines explode and then fire up at more than 100 mph hour and kick up chemicals, fungi, spores, animal fecal matter, molds, diesel soot, allergens and other toxic substances. They combine to compose deadly particulate matter.

Leaves, on the other hand, are one of nature's miracles. They tie it all together. They rise from the ground, reach to the sky and bring life to the Earth. Leaves do many good things — manufacture food for trees and other plants, use the sun's energy to transform carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and decompose water into oxygen and hydrogen. The resulting complex compound, glucose is the universal and basic energy source for all living organisms.

Leaves fall to the ground and remain there, literally digging in. They beckon one of their partners — rain — and soften drops when they hit the ground protected by a carpet of decaying leaves, which retains the water. Even when brown and dead, their transformative work continues—first as mulch, then as compost, and eventually integrating into the topsoil.

This is why, though it is difficult to determine exact figures, around 400 U.S. and 100 California municipalities have already banned leaf blowers. Carmel banned them in l975. Other cities restricting them include Los Angeles, Sacramento, Palo Alto, Mill Valley and Tiburon. So millions of humans are already protected. But no Sonoma County city bans them, yet.

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