Letter to the Editor – Leaf Blower Noise Level Concerns

The use of gas powered leaf blowers reminds me of second hand smoke. We used to smoke in our homes, restaurants, air planes, hospitals…anywhere. Then we discovered the danger of second hand smoke. It took years to change the laws even as innocent bystanders died of cancer.

I live in a small house with my 86 year old mother on a strip of modest homes in Pocantico Hills, a hamlet within The Town of Mt. Pleasant. This row of homes is surrounded by two churches, a fire house and several larger properties that allow multiple leaf blowers to run simultaneously for long periods of time.

Here are the finer points of Mt. Pleasant’s ecode 360, “Unnecessary Noise”. The police department will not provide you with this information.

  • During the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., noise levels within any residential-zoned district shall not exceed 65 db(A)’s or an L10 in excess of 60 db(A)’s.

Leaf blowers run at about 90 decibels. A sound meter on my phone registered noise from two leaf blowers across the street at 79 decibels from my property line.

Recently I had to endure the noise of five industrial strength blowers next door working for three hours. The noise was nothing less than assault. We are often driven from our properties to escape the low frequencies that go through walls and cement. The air had smelled fresh. By the time they left I was eating dust and and toxic emissions. Our “guaranteed right to peaceful enjoyment of our property” is being violated.

Ecode360 also states:

139-19.  No person shall cause or permit the creation of any unnecessary noise exceeding 55 db(A)’s on any street, sidewalk or public place adjacent to any school, church, senior citizen center or authorized day-care center while in use or adjacent to any hospital at any time, provided that signs are displayed so as to identify such zone.

We are seniors over 80, infants and young children, a pregnant mom, a boy with asthma, one with autism, a paraplegic, a PTSD sufferer, dogs and wild animals. This community is a microcosm of the larger society. Must we put up signs? There are infants and young children who have to endure the pollution while their parents are working in Manhattan where leaf blowers are illegal.

Below are some statements extracted from research findings on leaf blowers and health:

  • Children’s Environmental Health Network –Noise from sources such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers can result in hearing loss, stress, high blood pressure, headaches, sleep disturbance, reduced productivity, mental health problems, and reduced quality of life.
  • Harvard Medical School – The noise that causes sensorineural hearing loss is usually not one deafening bang but decades’ worth of exposure to the high decibel accessories of daily life: leaf blowers, car horns, traffic, movie theater sounds, and so on.
  • Massachusetts Medical Society – Gasoline-powered leaf blowers pose health risks to both workers and the general public.
  • Medical Society of the State of New York –Recommends guidelines that would dramatically reduce the toxic emissions and noise level of gas leaf blowers for reasons of health.
  • Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, Mount Sinai Hospital, NYC – Leaf blowers create large volumes of airborne particulates, many of which are respirable. Inhalation of these small airborne particles can provoke asthma and other respiratory diseases in children and can increase the severity of chronic lung disease in our elderly. Some of the other potential pollutants from leaf blowers and internal combustion power tools are carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and ozone formed from some of these other pollutants. Even lower-level exposures have been associated with respiratory and central nervous system effects.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Being around too much loud noise — like using a leaf blower or going to loud concerts — can cause permanent hearing loss.

If the beautifully maintained Central Park can do without leaf blowers entirely, so can Mt. Pleasant.

Susan Angst
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591

4 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Our privacy is invaded, the tenet of law that says we are entitled to the peaceful use and enjoyment of our homes is obliterated, we are assaulted with deafening noise and our health is put at risk every day, so grass clippings and detritus can be dispersed for a few hours.
    Watch and share with our legislators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRsYRen6nVE&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR34c21z4g_0PEliDv5Vex8rvSSd827YQdG6ychfY2B-314j9AvkI7DkjfE

    1. Thank you for sharing. I have not met anyone who likes blowers, even those that hire landscapers to use them on their property. I hope members of the community will join me and speak at Town Board meetings and share videos and information such as this video.

  2. About twenty years ago group of citizens got Scarsdale’s Town Board to pass a law prohibiting leaf blowers. Landscape contractors sued and won because in the judge’s ruling he said that you can’t discriminate between a leaf blower and any other two cycle gas powered engine as they were essentially the same in terms of function and noise. So, if you’re willing to cut your lawn with an old push mower, some sheep or just let it grown long then have at it. For the rest of us with busy lives this isn’t a realistic option and lawn mowers and gas blowers are a trade off we have to make. What I would suggest is what I’ve managed to do with my neighbors: contract with a single lawn maintenance firm to come and do everyone’s yard on the same day. That way you only have a few hours of misery (time to go have coffee down in Sleepy Hollow?) and then the rest of the week is quiet.

  3. John. Thanks for your reply. What did we do before leaf blowers? Yards still looked pretty nice I think with quieter old fashioned methods. I agree though that the two stroke gas powered mowers should also go by the wayside.

    I started my own company called Unicorn Lawn and spent about $2000 on all electric and human powered machinery. I have an Ego electric mower and trimmer, hedge clipper and might get an electric blower although I love the work out a good broom and rake offer. Your yard is my gym. My favorite mower is the reel mower. My fourteen year old neighbor said “It feels like you are actually doing the work rather than the machine”. His seven year old sister cuts the lawn with it.

    There are many people who are confined to their homes and work at home. If I can maintain my lawn quietly then you can too. I will not be driven from home so my neighbors can have their way. I will fight for my right for peaceful enjoyment of my yard and for the many children in the neighborhood to have clean air and quiet to play in. But I do appreciate the conversation and sharing of ideas. Thank you very much. Susan

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