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Strike a Blow
by Ted Rueter

Sacramento has been dubbed the "City of Trees" by the National Arbor Foundation. After living here a few months, I think a more appropriate name would be the City of Leaf Blowers.

Leaf blowers are everywhere in Sacramento! It seems like you can't walk past a yard, park, sidewalk, flowerbed, parking lot, plaza, golf course, street, alley or tennis court without hearing one of these snout-nosed noisemakers. After rainfalls, some people even use them to dry their lawns. The goal? To track down and destroy Public Enemy #1: the leaf.

In Sacramento, I've seen gas station employees use leaf blowers to chase down a single cigarette butt. In Sacramento, I've seen leaf blowers employed to clean windshields in a used car lot.

The irritating, high-pitched whine of these turbo gadgets sounds like dental drills gone berserk. Most gardeners blast their blowers at 110 decibels all day long--far exceeding OSHA safety regulations.

They are the most detestable power tools ever invented. They blare and screech and kick up dust. They accomplish nothing.

But leaf blowers do plenty of damage. They spread animal droppings, herbicides, and pesticides into the air. They create as much tailpipe emissions in one hour as a car does over 350 miles. They pump 1800 tons of carcinogenic compounds in Los Angeles every year.

And leaf blowers are mighty unneighborly. Their grating roar can be heard from half a mile away. They stir up a fine dust that can coat porches and windowsills up to a block away. They blow leaves onto neighbors' lawns--only to have them blow back 30 seconds later.

Journalist Art Carey suggests that "all leaf blowers should come with a free sweatshirt and bumper sticker proclaiming: 'I have the IQ of a cinderblock. I own a leaf blower.'"

And had anyone noticed that virtually all leaf blower users are men? I have never seen a woman use one of these things. Maybe it's because leaf blowers exhibit the worst stereotypical male characteristics: they're loud, they're rude, they're aggresive and they're inconsiderate.

It's time for people to put away their noise machines, get out their rakes and brooms, and stop disturbing their neighbors. It's time for leaf blowers to be silenced--in Sacramento, and everywhere else.

Published in the Sacramento News and Review, December 27, 2001

 
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