It Really Blows - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1891198

It Really Blows

There’s more to “leaf litter” than just leaves.

Moths, butterflies and beneficial insects overwinter in leaves, and when we remove them, these and other native creatures, including turtles, toads and salamanders, go to the dumps, to be crushed and suffocated. What a loss to the world — how much more silent and less enchanting the coming spring.

Leaves are the first layer in the natural fertility cycle of soil and are natural mulch year round. Removing leaves exposes soil to heat and soil-water evaporation, even removing soil microbes that would otherwise keep your plants healthy.

Leaf blowers throw small objects at high speed — twigs, branches, stones, garbage, glass and metal — in a concentrated air stream that can reach 200 mph. Blowers distribute particulate matter consisting of dust, animal feces, pesticides, insecticides, chemicals, molds, pollen, animal dander — and carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, heavy metals, and hydrocarbons — for long distances. And once airborne, there is no way to contain it.

Particulate matter is particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and those with cardiovascular or pulmonary problems. When mold or fungal spores land on your trees, shrubs and flowers, they can cause disease.

The American Lung Association claims that blowers generate as much pollution in one hour as driving a car 100 miles. The Washington Post declares that emissions from a leaf blower at full force for 30 minutes equal traveling 440 miles by car at 30 mph.

The wafting smell of gasoline is an insult to the joy of being outdoors.

Leaf blowers are louder than airplanes up close. The problem with environmental noise that one can’t control is that it is impossible to ignore. The human body is designed to react to it. Quietness encourages maximum brain function.

Volunteers who used blowers and volunteers who used rakes accomplished their goals in the same amount of time.

Yard debris accounts for 33 million tons of “waste” per year in landfills. Without enough oxygen to decompose, this matter releases methane, which damages our ozone layer. Landfills are filling up at a critical rate.

The noise produced by blowers is an insult to those trying to enjoy the serenity of nature. The most frequent complaint Americans have about their neighborhoods is noise. Silence is a basic human need. Excess noise hurts our psychological, cognitive, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Some species of birds are in decline by 60 to 99 percent, because the parents cannot hear the cries of their nestlings over the noise of leaf blowers.

As responsible citizens, we think it is our duty to rid the land of leaves. But in so doing we are actually destroying our land and ourselves in the process.

Suzanne P. Ruggles