Multnomah County Commissioners voted Thursday to pass a resolution to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers at county facilities and then create a work group to do the same thing countywide.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pollutants from gas-powered leaf blowers can cause heart disease, cancer, and impacts on prenatal development. Workers who use these machines are at higher risk for hearing loss and tinnitus.
In his public testimony ahead of the vote Thursday, Brian Stewart from Quiet Clean PDX, an organization working to eliminate gas-powered leaf blowers in the Portland Metro area, likened the toxicity of the machines to lead paint, mercury, DDT, and asbestos.
County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who sponsored the resolution, said gas-powered leaf blowers not only pose a threat to individuals, but the environment as well.
Diane Lucas, another member of Quiet Clean PDX, said during testimony, “Operating a commercial leaf blower for one hour generates as much air pollution as driving a Toyota Camry 1,100 miles, or about a hundred times as much pollution as the average car.”
The resolution, which passed unanimously, will:
- Require the county to transition from gas-powered to electric models. The county’s landscaping contract says the transition to electric models will be complete by the end of the contract in 2025. The resolution will accelerate that process.
- Pave the way for providing adequate charging infrastructure for electric leaf blowers.
- Support education in the community to inform folks about the negative effects of gas-powered leaf blowers.
- Require the creation of a work group in partnership with the city to develop a proposal for eventually phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers across the entire county.
Doug Crimin, the environmental resource committee chair for the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association, said leaf blowers are an essential tool in cleaning up job sites, consolidating debris, expediting clean ups, and they are used in virtually every aspect of landscaping work.
“Our association has been working with manufacturers to test new battery-powered leaf blowers and work out some of the issues inherent with batteries and charging,” Crimins said. “I’m here to let you know our association is committed to reducing the issues and concerns around the use of leaf blowers.”
A county representative says they hope to have the work group convene early next year.