Noisy, smelly gas leaf blowers must go

Posted 12/15/22

It's time for us to ban gas leaf blowers. They are hazardous to our health, significantly contribute to air pollution, and are a waste of money.

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Noisy, smelly gas leaf blowers must go


It's time for us to ban gas leaf blowers. They are hazardous to our health, significantly contribute to air pollution, and are a waste of money.

Gas-powered leaf blowers are noisy, smelly, and a seemingly unsolvable cost of living in a leafy neighborhood. But over 100 communities across America have already decided to phase out gas leaf blowers. And it's not just tawny townships like Princeton and Maple Shade. In 2018, residents of Washington, D.C., organized a successful campaign to phase out their use. 

As Mt Airy and Chestnut Hill residents, we may think this is just the price we pay for living in a neighborhood abundant with trees. The stink of fumes calls into question the belief that being outside is healthy when the blowers are in use nearby. Their obnoxiously loud noise robs us of Autumn’s natural tranquility. Their continued use seems out of step with our environmentally-friendly neighborhood values: According to a 2011 study, using a gas leaf blower for just half an hour spews as much pollution as driving from Philadelphia to Alaska in a pick-up truck.

Gas leaf blowers - whose obsolete two-stroke engines spew unburnt oil and gas - emit a toxic brew of carcinogens and particulates, including carbon monoxide, smog-forming nitrous oxides, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, and ultrafine particles.  These increase risk of lung cancer, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.  And if they are introducing these risks into our neighborhoods, imagine the negative health effects on the lawn care workers who use the machines all day. 

Since all the leaves have to go somewhere, what can be done? Cleaner, quieter and powerful electric leaf blowers are less costly to run than their dirty gas counterparts. Homeowners can purchase a plug-in model for as little as $50 at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Wirecutter raves about some of the newer battery-powered models: 

Professional lawn maintenance companies will also benefit from making the switch: Not only will they be taking better care of their workers (by reducing exposure to hearing-loss-inducing gas blowers and toxic fumes), they will be saving money!

Lawn care companies can choose from a wide range of battery powered blowers. And commercial-grade models are as powerful as gas-powered ones. (Anyone who claims that electric motors are not as powerful has not seen the almost frightening acceleration of the new electric Ford F-150 in those truck commercials.) Although commercial lawn care companies will need to purchase multiple batteries to work efficiently, the reduced operating cost of electric blowers pays for itself within a year of service. Fact is, running a gas blower all day costs a lot of money. In an economic analysis just published, the investment in new electric equipment - including  batteries needed for an entire day’s work - pays for itself in just 10 months! 

Two months ago, we launched a petition on to ban gas leaf blowers in Philadelphia, asking City Council to enact legislation to phase out their sale and use in the city.  The petition quickly gained signatures from all over the city, totaling nearly 800 by early December. On Jan. 12, we will begin the next phase of our campaign - organizing citywide to ask City Council to take action. Please visit our website to register for the meeting, sign our petition, and help us make Mt. Airy & Chestnut Hill quieter, cleaner and healthier for all of us.

Anne Dicker is co-founder of the QuietCleanPhilly campaign, a social activist, and a community leader who lives in Mount Airy. She is a board member of West Mount Airy Neighbors and the co-leader of Mount Airy Tree Tenders.

Seth Lieberman is co-founder of the QuietCleanPhilly campaign and a member of Germantown Jewish Centre’s Green Team. He runs the firm Leadership Breakthroughs, developing scientific and medical leaders in Academic Medicine and R&D organizations.