A group of Huntington residents is trying a new tactic to teach townspeople about the health impacts of gas-powered leaf blowers: public awareness.
Members of CALM, Citizens Appeal for Leafblower Moderation, say the tools are noisy and pose health risks. Specifically, they say, they fuel asthma and other respiratory illnesses with the emissions and dirt, dust and animal fecal matter they blow.
Town board member Susan Berland last month sought to sponsor a resolution restricting the tools during the summer but did not garner enough support to even get it on the agenda. "I think we need to work on some type of public service announcement and put it on the town's channel to try to dissuade people from using them," because of possible health threats, she said. "I think if people actually think about them they are going to see that maybe this is something we should not be using anymore or at least on a daily basis."
Organizers of CALM, which was launched this year, said the group has gathered 400 signatures on a petition in support of their position. They also have been endorsed by the American Lung Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics Long Island chapters, Grassroots Environmental Education, a Port Washington-based environmental health nonprofit, and the Asthma Coalition of Long Island.
"The evidence is very, very clear that the particulate matter that is spewed up into the air, the toxins, the allergens are a health hazard," Dr. Lucy Weinstein, CALM member and a pediatrician, said.
But H. Pat Voges, the governmental affairs liaison for the Nassau Suffolk Landscape Gardeners' Association, which represents about 1,600 industry professionals, said the blowers are needed to effectively do jobs to customer satisfaction and if used properly, they do not stir up dust.
"It's a tool we use and need to do our jobs," Voges said. "And without that tool, we are back to brooms; and in this day and age anything that can improve the economics of what we do, that is good for us and therefore our customers."
CALM recommends old-fashioned rakes and brooms and, if necessary, battery-powered leaf blowers for lawn maintenance. "Studies have found that a grandmother [with a rake] was actually more efficient and as fast as a gas-powered leaf blower," CALM member Bonnie Sager, an optometrist, said. "We think we are being very reasonable. We're not trying to tell people what to do, we don't want to hurt landscapers, but most people have no idea of the effects of gas-powered equipment."
Voges said the grandmother analogy is "far-fetched."
Several communities in Westchester have placed restrictions on the blowers over respiratory health concerns. The Village of Great Neck Estates passed a law in 1997 banning their use from June 15 through Sept. 15 for health and noise concerns."I believe they are toxic to our system," Berland said. "I think we have come so far in the advancement of things that sometimes we have to take a step back, especially if our health might be in a better state."