Noise News for Week of August 28, 1994

Leaf Blowers Anger Californian Communities

PUBLICATION: Christian Science Monitor
DATE: September - October 1994
BYLINE: Robert Bryce
DATELINE: Santa Barbara, CA
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Ashleigh Brilliant, Santa Barbara activist; Paul Matzner, curator of the California Library of Natural Sounds

The Christian Science Monitor reports that communities across the country are fighting the noise pollution caused by leaf blowers. Most blowers emit around 75 decibels but can reach as high as 100 decibels. According to Robin Pendergrast, a spokesman for Echo (the largest manufacturer of leaf blowers), more than 220 cities and towns across the country have discussed restricting the use of leafblowers. Seven cities, two of them Californian, have already banned them completely.

Ashleigh Brilliant campaigned for years in Santa Barbara to ban the blowers completely. In 1987, the city restricted the use of leaf blowers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with no Sundays or holidays. Brilliant is not satisfied with this partial success. "Gardening used to be a quiet occupation..." Brilliant states. "It was something you did to have peace and quiet. Now it's associated with racket and technology."

Pendergrast claims that the manufacturers have begun making quiter blowers, and that restrictions against the blowers are understandable. However he also claims that leaf blowers save time and money for the city, and that surveys report citizens are upset with the hours of the day the blowers operate, not the noise level.

Paul Matzner, curator of the California Library of Natural Sounds, collects natural environmental sounds from around the world. The leaf blowers are an examplary symptom of what he terms "the quiet crisis". He became an activist against noise pollution eight years ago, when field hands reported increasing difficulty in recording natural sounds.

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