It’s as if they’ve never left. That’s because they haven’t.

Beginning in the spring during what the lawn and garden services call ‘spring clean up’; then  week after week through the summer and all day for days during ‘fall clean up’, leaf blowers shatter the stillness. 

Around here the lawn and garden care workers descend with their leaf blowers, leaving them on full blast as they blow leaves, dirt and debris from every inch of our neighbors’ lawns and gardens out onto the road.

We had a couple of days of rain recently and sure enough a lawn and garden worker showed up in the rain and began trying to blow the wet leaves around – each day. Of course it took him forever; he could have used a rake in half the time.

Leaf blowers stir up over two pounds an hour of dangerous particulate matter including cat, dog, and rodent feces as well as street dust that may include mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel.

They also emit a number of toxic chemicals including carbon monoxide, benzene – a known carcinogen, 1,3 -butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde, all possible carcinogens.

Hard to believe?  Since leaf blowers have no emission controls, when two types of leaf blowers were tested against Ford’s popular F-150 truck, one of the leaf blowers emitted almost 7 times the amount of asthma causing nitrogen oxide, and almost 14 times carbon monoxide than the 150, while the other leaf blower shot out about 23 times more carbon monoxide and double the amount of nitrogen oxide than the F-150’s engine.

You would have to drive your F-150 from Maine to California and then turn around and drive another almost 900 miles back east in order to emit as much carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide as keeping your leaf blower going for only half an hour. Now triple that and you will see what everyone nearby breathes during our neighbors’ spring and fall clean up, not to mention the weekly leaf blowing.

Leaf blowers may be practical for short bursts, though they will still stir up that mix of feces and mercury, arsenic, and lead dust. Using a rake and saving a leaf blower to get at the difficult places may be the safest answer.

For the next few months we’ll be spared their noise and pollution.