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Dear Decaturish – Gas-powered leaf blowers are a menace

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Dear Decaturish – Gas-powered leaf blowers are a menace

Gas powered leaf blower. Photo by Dean Hesse.

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Dear Decaturish,

Commercial gas-powered leaf blowers in our neighborhoods are a menace.

They are crushing the quality of life in our older, in town neighborhoods. They are spewing cancer-causing chemicals in our backyards, where our children play.  And the noise is so loud, so pervasive, and so constant, we can’t enjoy our beautiful urban environment.

And your General Assembly has just sent a bill (House Bill 374) to Governor Kemp that gives these devices perpetual protection from government oversight.

Not surprisingly, HB 374 violates the Georgia Constitution because in their eagerness to sneak this bill through the legislative process, it has been combined with two other bills that it has nothing to do with, contrary to Georgia’s “single subject” rule.  For this reason alone, Governor Kemp should veto the bill.  You can ask him to do that.  The phone number is (404) 656-1776.  You can email here:  https://georgia.gov/contact-georgiagov.  Ignore the “bot” option, and select “Legislature” from the dropdown menu.

Why did the landscape industry pay an expensive lobbyist to sneak this bill through the General Assembly?  The answer is clear: if it were considered on the merits, HB 374 would be indefensible.

Commercial gas-powered leaf blowers are by far the loudest type of routine lawn maintenance equipment.  And they run far longer than anything else.  Landscapers know that more powerful blowers mean more efficient crews, and higher profits.  They don’t care that they have grown louder and louder.

The overwhelming majority of citizens living in older, intown neighborhoods of Atlanta and Decatur agree and want the lawn maintenance industry to switch to quieter battery-powered equipment.

Notably, most Atlanta and Decatur representatives and senators voted against the bill.  It was rural members of the General Assembly who decided what was best for Atlanta and Decatur.

Almost all backpack-style commercial gas leaf blowers have “two-stroke” engines, which are the most polluting, most toxic, and loudest.  The landscape industry brags about newer gas-powered models that are “no louder than a clothes washer.”  Apart from the preposterous nature of that claim on its face, the problem is that the landscape industry isn’t buying and using these mythical new machines.  The ones actually being used are as loud as ever.

Is there anything good to say about these devices?  Sadly, no.

A single two-stroke commercial leaf blower emits as much hydrocarbon as 130 full-sized pickup trucks at full throttle.

They also spew benzene, butadiene, and formaldehyde, all known to cause cancer.  Metro Atlanta is already a hotspot for airborne ambient benzene.  How much of these carcinogens do commercial leaf blowers emit?  We don’t know.  Of course, the concern is that these devices emit cancer-causing chemicals in the same proportion that they emit hydrocarbons.

Maybe our General Assembly should have insisted on that data before passing this bill.  They were told of the potential danger, but voted with the lobbyist instead.

Please tell Governor Kemp to veto House Bill 374.

— Ben Terry

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