Position Statement on Fuel-Powered Leaf Blowers -- February 17, 2019
In early 2019, the response to COTI’s commentary regarding fuel-powered leaf blowers clearly indicated that large numbers of Sanibel residents are disturbed by loud noise from these devices; some also expressed concern about fumes that fuel-powered leaf blowers emit. Here are some important points regarding air, noise, and water pollution resulting from leaf-blower use.
- Operating the best-selling commercial fuel-powered leaf blower for an hour emits air pollutants comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, according to the California Air Resources Board.
- Small gas engines, such as those used in many leaf blowers, emit ozone-damaging pollutants that will exceed those same emissions from vehicles by about 2020.
- Consumer Reports testing data has shown that battery-powered lawn gear is significantly quieter than fuel-powered lawn equipment.
- The Village of Key Biscayne passed an ordinance disallowing the use of fuel-powered leaf blowers in 2017; after a 6-month phase-in period, the ordinance has been in effect for about a year. The Village has received few to no complaints about this new restriction, and compliance is widespread.
- Leaf blowers are often used to blow leaves and grass clippings into bodies of water. Grass clippings and dead leaves create higher nitrogen levels in these water bodies, contributing to harmful algae blooms. (This is why the Lee County fertilizer ordinance states that “no grass clippings or vegetative materials shall be deposited into storm drains, ditches, water bodies, roadways or other impervious surfaces.)
- The City of Sanibel’s code allows leaf blowers and other lawn equipment to be operated 7 days a week, from 8AM to 9PM. The code does not limit noise from leaf blowers; it merely requires that leaf blowers have mufflers. The Sanibel code does not address problems of air and water pollution from leaf blower use.
For all of the reasons stated above, we believe the City of Sanibel should revise the code as it applies to leaf blowers used on Sanibel. We urge the City to consider further restricting hours during which leaf blowers can be used, requiring leaf blowers to have a stamp from the manufacturer certifying a rating of no more than 65 decibels, requiring that leaf blowers not produce a current of air by burning fuel (oil and/or gas), and prohibiting the depositing of grass clippings and other vegetative materials into storm drains, ditches, water bodies, roadways, and other impervious surfaces.
 California Air Resources Board Fact Sheet on small engines, https://ww3.arb.ca.gov/msprog/offroad/sm_en_fs.pdf?mod=article_inline .
 Village of Key Biscayne Ordinance 2017-6.
 Consumer Reports, updated Jan. 15, 2019, https://www.consumerreports.org/tools-power-equipment/quietest-leaf-blowers-and-outdoor-power-gear/
 Municipal code for the Village of Key Biscayne, Sections 17-1 and 17-2.
 Lee County Fertilizer Ordinance, 08-08.
 Email from City Attorney Ken Cuyler to Barbara Joy Cooley, May 7, 2018.
 As is done in Village of Key Biscayne Municipal Code Section 17-2 (17), an ordinance that has been in effect since May 24, 2006.