It's Fall and Leaf Blowers Are Heard Across the Land

It's Fall and Leaf Blowers Are Heard Across the Land

The complaints are that they are loud, polluting and more irritating than even the most raucous parties the people next-door might stage.

Leaf blowers.

In a season when nature sets out a brilliant pallet of purple-crimson-orange-yellow leaves that shimmer on crisp New England days, the sound of leaf blowers resonates throughout Cambridge, pitting neighbor against neighbor, with advocates of raking arguing against advocates of...well, blowing.

Now, the city council is wading into the fray with a proposed partial ban on gas-powered leaf blowers that might not resolve the argument but may help keep the peace in Cambridge's leafy neighborhoods.

City Councilor Henrietta Davis has put forth an ordinance that would prohibit commercial contractors from using leaf blowers or leaf vacuums in residential neighborhoods and curtail residents' use. Residents would be able to use leaf blowers only from April 1 to May 1 and Oct. 15 until Dec. 15. And days and hours would be limited to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The proposed law also says the noise level of the machines could not exceed 65 decibels. But are there leaf blowers that quiet? When two people are talking a few feet apart, their conversation level can reach about 65 decibels. If you are in a Starbucks and the coffee grinder is operating several yards from you, the decibel level typically is around 70. An article in Wired magazine found that while older models of leaf blowers far exceed Davis's proposed noise limit, there are newer models that could meet it, although they are relatively expensive.

Noise issues aside, Avon Hill Street resident Ann Austin thinks leaf blowers pose significant public health issues. She says the machines kick up particulates that pollute the air and lead to an increase in asthma and lung ailments.

For her part, Davis says she is trying to strike a happy medium betwen the unrestricted use of leaf blowers and the complete ban on gas-powered blowers enacted by communities including Palo Alto, Calif., where violators are subject to a $200 fine.

Beyond the leaf blower problems involving noise and health, there is also an issue of neighborhood protocol that only Miss Manners might be able to address. How, for instance, can I tell my very nice neighbors that while their contractor did a great job of blowing the leaves from their yard, those same leaves are now in my yard?


great exploration of this issue! we need to get all of the people who have some stake in this issue to log in and post their points of view.. ..this is exactly what we had hoped for from NeighborMedia - good job!