Taken from: McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.

February 23, 2023 Thursday FINAL EDITION

HEADLINE: More fuss than dust?; Leaf blowers not big polluters, study says.

BYLINE: Mark Grossi The Fresno Bee


Like the "Pigpen" character in the Peanuts comic strip, a dust cloud follows folks using a leaf blower. And so do air quality complaints.

The dust has long been a nuisance to neighbors and activists who say air authorities should do something about it. With zero science to argue over, there hasn't been much of a discussion -- until now.

The first dust study ever done on leaf blowers portrays them as an insignificant polluter in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the nation's dirtiest air basins.

The $68,000 study released last month says there's so little dust stirred up by leaf blowers that authorities don't need to regulate it. The results are not surprising, said the main researcher, Dennis Fitz of the University of California at Riverside.

"Leaf blowers run for only a few minutes a week per house," he said. "People are interested because it is very noticeable. The cloud of dust looks bad. But in the big scheme of things, it's not significant."

By comparison, there's 100 times more dust caused just by daily driving on paved Valley roads. Construction sends up 20 times more dust than leaf blowers. - - -

- - - the argument over dust created by leaf blowers has been vague and never-ending. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District had estimated a wide range of pollution -- less than 1 ton to 12 tons of dust per day from leaf blowers.

After listening to complaints for years, the district board committed the money for a study. And Fitz went to work inside a tent.

He and his associates gathered dust, leaves and other debris from several Valley counties. They spread the debris on the ground inside a tarp-covered area where they installed pollution-sensing equipment.

Then they blew, raked and swept on the concrete, coming up with the amount of dust stirred up by each action. They repeated their experiment on grass and asphalt.

One interesting result: Sweeping with a broom on concrete can create as much dust as a leaf blower.

"The broom used on concrete can really launch dust into the air," Fitz said. - - -

Daily air dust-up Tons per day

Agriculture 91.33

Paved roads 62.66

Construction 14.09

Leaf blowers 0.52

The local air district does not regulate sources that produce less than 0.90 tons per day.

Source: California Air Resources Board