Gas-powered leaf blowers fact sheet

(Modified from QuietCleanDC)

Many landscape maintenance service providers continue to use two-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers that the rest of the world is increasingly leaving behind. These leaf blowers generate toxic air pollution in our neighborhoods, schools, and public spaces, and noise that far exceeds health and safety standards. These practices come with high costs for our health and environment.

Two-stroke engines, unlike cleaner car engines, burn an oil-gas mixture that generates high levels of ozone-forming chemicals. These engines also disperse fine particulate matter (“PM2.5”). These chemicals and PM2.5s are inhaled by equipment operators and passers-by. An authoritative, independent laboratory study compared emissions from a 2012 Fiat 500 against those of, among other things, an Echo two-cycle gas-powered leaf blower. The Echo generated more than 93 times the output of non-methane hydrocarbons and more than 33 times the output of carbon monoxide as the Fiat. [1]

Gas-powered blowers are more expensive to run

Running on gas all day long is not just noisy and dirty, its expensive! According to research just published, commercial landscapers can recoup their investment in just 10 months once they make the switch.

Harmful health impacts

Ozone and PM2.5s are well known causes of, or contributors to, early death, cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, premature births, and other serious health conditions. Even short-term exposure can be harmful. [2-8] Workers, children, seniors, and people with chronic illness are at greatest risk.

Damaging noise

According to reports from federal agencies, noise from leaf blowers ranges from 102−115 decibels (“dBs”) at the ear of the operator. These same federal agencies have declared noise levels above 85 dBs to be harmful. [9-10] Because dBs are measured on a logarithmic scale, a difference on the order of 17 or more dBs represents a huge change in the amount of noise and in the potential damage to a person’s hearing. [11] Health effects from noise alone can include heart disease. A recent study estimates that more than 100 million Americans are at risk for noise-related health problems, with over 145 million at potential risk of hypertension due to noise, and even more at an increased risk of heart attack. [12-13] In addition, chronic high noise levels decrease biodiversity. [14]

Air-borne contaminants

The high-velocity air jets from gas-powered leaf blowers (150-280 mph, comparable to the strongest hurricanes) disturb topsoil and disperse spores, fungi, pollen, chemical residues from insecticide, rodenticide, herbicide, and fungicide treatments, microbes, other potential allergens, and particles of animal feces into the ambient air, putting workers and passers-by at risk.

Sustainable alternatives

Cleaner and quieter electric and battery-powered leaf blowers are increasingly available and are being used already by some local landscaping companies and homeowners, with effective results and at competitive pricing.

Quiet Clean Philly supports legislation to phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers to provide an adequate number of years for their owners, users, and retailers to amortize their inventory of such equipment and to transition to a 21st -century technology.


1. and

2. American Heart Association. Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease: An Update to the Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.

3. American Lung Association.

4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter- Final Report, EPA/600/R-08/139F, December 2009. Access at: and here:

5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2012 study. Provisional Assessment of Recent Studies on Health Effects of Particulate Matter Exposure, EPA/600/R-12/056F, December 2012.

6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Integrated Science Assessment for Ozone and Related Photochemical Oxidants, 2013. EPA/600/R-10/076F

7. Hamra, G.B., N. Guha, A. Cohen, F. Laden, O. Raaschou-Nielsen, J.M. Samet, P. Vineis, et al. 2014. “Outdoor Particulate Matter Exposure and Lung Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis.” Environmental Health Perspectives 122 (9): 906-911. doi:10.1289/ehp/1408092.

8. Trasante L., Malecha P., and Attina T., Particulate Matter Exposure and Preterm Birth: Estimates of U.S. Attributable Burden and Economic Costs, Environmental Health Perspectives, March 29, 2016,

9. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. How Do We Protect Our Ears? Accessed July 15, 2015.

10. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Noise and Its Effects on Children. Information for Parents, Teachers, and Childcare Providers. Office of Air and Radiation, Washington, D.C. EPA-410-F-09-003, November 2009.

11. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Occupational Noise Exposure. Accessed July 15, 2015.

12. Passchier-Vermeer W., Passchier W.F. Noise exposure and public health. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2000; 108(Suppl 1):123–131.

13. Hammer M.S., Swinburn T.K., Neitzel R.L. Environmental noise pollution in the United States: developing an effective public health response. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2014;122:115–119.

14. Francis C.D., Ortega C.P., Cruz A. (2011) Noise Pollution Filters Bird Communities Based on Vocal Frequency. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27052.


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A quality-of-life campaign, sponsored by WMAN.

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