by Ted Rueter

Palidadian Post (Los Angeles, California)

August 28, 2003

Echo, Incorporated has won this month’s “Noisy Dozen” award from Noise Free America for being the nation’s largest manufacturer of leaf blowers and other obnoxiously loud power equipment. Echo’s leaf blowers, power pruners, sprayers, and hedge trimmers irritate neighbors, generate C02 emissions, and threaten public health. Because of manufacturers such as Echo, many American communities have become leaf blower hell.

Claudia Brookman, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, comments that “leaf blowers have ruined the suburbs. They’ve destroyed the basic American right to a life of peace and quiet in one’s own home and property.” She added that she and her husband “were forced to move from our home within a year of buying it because of the prevalence of leaf blowers and other gas-powered lawn tools. Power equipment users feel their right to blast away trumps our right to the peaceful enjoyment of our home. They pursue a hollow quest for the perfect lawn–which is never enjoyed anyway, because all their time is spent mowing, blowing, and edging, as well as poisoning the lawn with chemicals.”

Echo’s pernicious turbo noisemakers are everywhere. I’ve seen gas station employees use leaf blowers to chase down a single cigarette butt. I’ve seen leaf blowers used to clean windshields in a used car lot. It’s absurd. The harsh, high-pitched whine of these loathsome devices sounds like dental drills gone berserk: “Their grating roar can be heard from half a mile away. They stir up a fine dust that can coat porches and windowsills up to a block away. They spread animal droppings, herbicides, and pesticides into the air. They create as much tailpipe emissions in one hour as a car does over 350 miles. They blow leaves onto neighbors’ lawns–only to have them blow back 30 seconds later.

Claudia Brookman notes that there is a clear alternative to leaf blowers: “I really don’t understand what’s so hard about using a rake. You get more exercise. It seems more ‘manly’ than to take the easy way out with a blower. You get to really enjoy being outside, listening to natural sounds.”

Echo, Incorporated not only destroys natural sounds; it also lobbies for their “right” to do so. Echo employs a full-time lobbyist who travels the country silencing anti-leaf blower activity. Fortunately, several cities have restricted the noise bullies. Santa Barbara and Santa Monica each ban leaf blowers. In Los Angeles, gas-powered leaf blowers are banned within 500 feet of a residence. An ordinance in Winnetka, Illinois states that leaf bowers “constitute a public nuisance.”