Deadly leaf blowers still killing Del Mar

By Bud Emerson

Resident, Del Mar

Leaf blowers have been banned here for about a decade, but they continue to flourish even though they compromise the health of all living organisms. Enforcement is lax and usually targets lower-income minorities who ironically are being harmed the most.

We are playing a deadly game here. Starting up a noise-polluting, two-stroke leaf blower is much more air polluting than cars. They fire up at more than 100 mph and kick up animal fecal matter, allergens, chemicals, molds and other toxins that travel directly into human breathing channels. This deadly particulate matter is hazardous to human health as well as plant, insect and animal life.

Both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the California Air Resources Board strongly recommend banning these devices to cut down particulate matter. They have documented the harm caused, including cardiopulmonary disease, heart attacks, depressed immunity, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, hearing loss and asthma. The small benefits hardly match the deadly cost.

We have neat yards and compromised health. Why continue doing this to ourselves?

What to do? Rake, sweep, recycle, change the enforcement targets, and educate residents. Raking and sweeping may take a little longer but are healthy activities. Leaves are excellent sources of energy and food for plants if allowed to decompose in mulchers. Leaf blowers contribute to global warming. Leaves have a cooling impact.

All good ideas but there is one magic bullet that could solve this problem almost immediately. Leaf blowers are almost always operated by workers who are hired to clean up residential property. Our ordinance targets these workers, but the real responsible parties are the property owners. If we altered the accountability line to hold employers responsible and arranged consequences accordingly, the practice would stop within weeks.

Start by contacting a council member to encourage action. Then the council modifies the leaf blower ordinance to hold property owners accountable. Then provide information and education to property owners. Then issue warnings. Then issue tickets and fines. Then there will be a run on brooms, rakes and mulchers. Then we can breathe easier in a quieter community.