Leaf blowers are a commonly used yard item, but they can be dangerous in some capacities. In fact, some areas have banned these outdoor appliances due to the hazards they pose.
Leaf Blower Facts
Leaf blowers were first introduced in the 1970s and have been used in millions of yards ever since. They're available with different power sources—gas, battery, or cord—and are also available in different formats, from handheld models to those that can be worn on your back.
Leaf blowers also function differently—some are designed to blow leaves into piles while others suck up debris, leaves, and mulch into an attached bag to be disposed of. Either way, their purpose is to make it more convenient to keep a yard neat and tidy. While they achieve that goal fairly efficiently, they also pose certain dangers to those that use them.
Probably the largest danger that leaf blowers pose is air pollution. Gas-powered leaf blowers emit pollutants similar to those cars produce. If you’ve ever used a gas-powered leaf blower, you’ve undoubtedly smelled the odor that this pollution gives off, which is not pleasant or healthy to inhale. As of this writing, a reported (and astounding) 1.2 billion gallons of gas are burned in lawn and garden equipment in the U.S. on a yearly basis.
Pollution from these machines poses a danger to the health of the user and those around the yard. Air pollution in general can cause and contribute to early death, stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, asthma, and even cancer.
Electric leaf blowers are a step up, as they don’t emit fumes like gas-powered models, but they still blow debris and particulate matter such as animal feces into the air, causing people to breathe in these substances without noticing, or getting them on clothing and vehicles.
The noise pollution from these machines alone can contribute to hearing loss, stress, hypertension, headaches, and productivity loss.
Even battery-powered models pose a risk in the long term—once the batteries in these appliances run out, their disposal can lead to polluted groundwater or soil.
It may come as a surprise that leaf blowers cause quite a few injuries annually. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) estimated that in 2013, there were approximately 4,000 reported cases of injuries caused by leaf blowers and similar outdoor appliances. The actual number of injuries caused by these appliances is likely much higher, as many may go unreported.
The most probable injuries caused by these appliances include cuts, bruises, pinches, and electrical injuries. Eye injuries caused by flying debris or even injuries as extreme as hearing loss due to the disruptive noise of these appliances is also possible. Breathing problems due to the pollution caused by certain leaf blower models is another risk. In extreme cases, death is possible as a result of a leaf blower accident.
These appliances are quite hefty to carry around, which can also cause physical harm. Handheld and backpack-style leaf blowers could weigh upwards of 25 pounds. The stress on one’s arms and back from holding the machine for a long period of time could lead to injury or prolonged problems.
Another danger worth mentioning is the risk of fire, particularly when using gas-powered blowers. Because many use combustible fuel, they pose the risk of explosion. It’s important that these machines are filled correctly and that any excess liquid fuel is stored properly to avoid sparking a fire.