By Shelley Murphy
Yesterday, spring finally sprung.
I welcome spring’s arrival and the warmer weather it brings.
According to an age-old seasonal proverb, March comes in like a lion; maybe so, but the springtime roar I hear comes from a leaf blower.
I detest leaf blowers.
Professional landscapers and gardeners often use the motorized machine. They blast air through the device’s nozzle while pointing it toward piles of leaves, or debris, hoping to transform a messy yard into a manicured lawn.
The lawn care industry claims the invention is better and more efficient than its predecessors—the rake and broom.
The gas-guzzling device attacks my eardrums with its rumbling and revving that ratchets into a piercing explosion of thundering sound; and, the cycle echoes in a continuous superfluous cacophony.
Also, the blower doesn’t remove the leaves; instead it rearranges them. In my neighborhood, I watch as landscapers shuffle back and forth on the pavement, waving the loathsome nozzle in all directions, scattering leaves from one lawn to the next.
This time of year, leaf blowers are everywhere, and I sometimes see them in surprising spots. While walking the beach trail early one morning, instead of smelling the salt air and listening to the waves crash, I inhaled the slight scent of exhaust and heard vroom, vroom!
Most weekends, I see the landscaper who plants himself on the asphalt near the pier, between the bathrooms and the beach. He uses his leaf blower to spray the sand sitting on the blacktop toward the shore.
Few labor-saving devices are as ineffective and insufferable as the leaf blower. If a leaf blower did its job better, I might find its high pitch whine more tolerable.
A running vacuum produces a vexing timbre, but it accomplishes a task without much annoyance. It gathers dust and dirt from the floor, sucking it into a bag to be disposed; it doesn’t deposit the debris on my neighbor’s carpet.
I agree with Harvard-educated, internationally renowned, integrative health and wellness doctor Andrew Weil, who says, “Leaf blowers are diabolical machines.”
Not only do they produce the most abhorrent auditory overload, leaf blowers also pose troubling noise, health and environmental hazards.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noise levels above 85 decibels for a prolonged period of time may damage hearing. A gas-powered leaf blower registers at approximately 90 decibels.
The American Lung Association advises avoiding leaf blowers. Their recommendation is based on studies showing that leaf blowers stir dangerous dust into the air. The ensuing dust can cause harm to individuals with allergies, bronchitis, asthma and respiratory conditions.
Emissions from gasoline-fueled leaf blowers contain pollutants that release carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons into the air.
And scientific research reveals that carbon monoxide emissions pollute the air and contribute to smog; nitrogen oxide is found in acid rain, which is related to global warming; and hydrocarbons are known cancer-causing compounds.
Due to these findings, more and more cities are creating ordinances to limit or ban the use of leaf blowers.
In 1975, Carmel-by-the-Sea became the first to ban leaf blowers. Our neighbors to the north, Laguna Beach and Dana Point, also took action against the obnoxious tool.
The city of Dana Point limits the leaf blowers’ hours of operation in residential areas, while Laguna enacted an anti-leaf blower law.
True, most of the legislated restrictions are difficult to enforce, but at least some cities are seeking to protect residents.
As much as I despise leaf blowers, I don’t plan to start a petition in San Clemente to ban the diabolical machines.
Spring is in the air, and I intend to enjoy the return of sunshine and the warmer days ahead.
Sometimes, it helps to vent.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.