SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS > OPINION
Leaf blower debate intensifies
by Shepherd Bliss
Published: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 3:02 PM PDT
Leaf blowers were the talk of the town from the East to the West of Sonoma County this week, especially around Sebastopol and Sonoma.
At the Tuesday Sebastopol City Council meeting a new noise ordinance, which had been discussed at a public hearing the month before, was scheduled to pass. It would restrict all loud noise, including leaf blowers.
At the Wednesday Sonoma City Council meeting a blower ban was on the agenda. On Monday nearly half the front page, above the middle fold, of Santa Rosa’s daily newspaper was an article headlined “Clamor over Leaf Blowers” with a large photo showing a landscaper polluting the air with deadly toxins kicked up by what some call a gas-guzzling debris blower.
The photo documents the goggles, earmuffs, hat, clothing and other protective gear worn by the at-risk operator. Innocent by-standers are seldom equipped with such protection. They suffer negative health consequences while trying to relax in their homes or stroll peacefully without the penetrating, piercing siren of blowers.
“During the countless hours I’ve spent at city parks with my four children,” Lisa Summers recently wrote to Sonoma’s council, “nothing in my mind stands out as a more constant and insidious disruption to the quality of life in the valley than the ever-increasing use of leaf blowers.”
“In light of the ongoing BP oil spill,” Summers added, “I ask you to take a hard look at the frivolous use of gas-powered tools where safe, quiet and environmentally friendly alternatives exist.” She apparently had brooms and rakes in mind.
Sebastopol Vice Mayor Guy Wilson suggested a blower ban to the Council, at the request of residents, in November 2009; it is currently being researched. “Sebastopol should ask itself why we allow these blowers in the first place,” Wilson recently commented. “What reasonable purpose do they serve? It’s like a bad habit that has gone on and on. We need to look at their use in a critical way.”
Another Sebastopol resident has posted informative videos and links on leaf blowers at TV1 Ban leaf blowers in Sebastopol. Various Marin County cities already ban blowers, as do dozens of California cities and many U.S. cities, both large and small.
“Noise pollution has a serious impact on health,” contended Georgia Kelly of Sonoma’s Praxis Peace Institute. “Stress, hypertension, hearing loss and heart attacks can be associated with high noise levels. For people who work at home and retired residents, neighborhood noise pollution is especially disturbing.”
A No Blow coalition had its first meeting in Orinda, Contra Costa County, on June 26, at the invitation of the group Quiet Orinda (Home). Over a dozen persons heard reports from Zero Air Pollution (www.zeroairpollution.com), which successfully persuaded the City of Los Angeles to ban them in l997. A health scientist with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District also presented, followed by a physician. They both spoke about the deadly health consequences of kicking up particulate matter, especially to vulnerable children. Reports on that meeting are available by an Internet search of No Blow.
These experts documented facts similar to those communicated by Summers, “Blowers are associated with a wide range of impacts to human health and the environment, including but not limited to respiratory illness and distress, air pollution from unburned fuel, redistribution of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, dust particles and animal feces into the air we breathe.”
The early days of the campaign against second-hand cigarette smoke came to mind. Though this idea was originally dismissed, laws eventually were passed against such deadly smoke. No one has the right to blow hazardous smoke into our faces, or hazardous toxins into our common air and our ears. People have the right to make a fist, but they do not have the right to put it in someone’s face.
Shepherd Bliss has owned and operated an organic farm in Sebastopol since l992 and currently also teaches at SSU. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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