Survey99 - Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles

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    September 28, 1999

    Presented to Air Resources Board January 27, 2000


    Diane Wolfberg, Chair

    George Wolfberg

    ZAP Education Committee

P.O. Box 3441

Santa Monica, CA 90408-3441

Printed on recycled paper



    September 28, 1999


    Diane Wolfberg, Chair

    George Wolfberg


    September 28, 1999

    Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles, California



    Executive Summary 3

Purpose of the Survey99 study.


    1. Survey Design 6

    Intention, Administration, Affiliation of Survey99 Author,

    Design Consultant and Administration of Survey99

    2. Limitations 7

    3. Selection of Participants 7

    4. Total number of completed surveys. 7


    1. Participant Backgrounds 11

    Includes zip codes, age, income, gender, own or

    rent/lease residence, health and knowledge of health


    2. Residential Landscape Maintenance practices. 12

    3. Leaf Blower Use Patterns 14

    4. Lack of Protective Gear Use 16

    5. Other Findings 17

    Includes Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues,

    Legislation, and Economics

    Conclusions and Recommendations 23

    Appendix: 27

    I. A Zap Study Proposal 27

    II. Alternatives to Blower Use 31

    III. Specialty Catalogue Helpful Items 34

    IV. List of Widely Accepted Local Government Regulations 35

    V. List of Zip Codes represented in Survey99 36

    Report99 2


    September 28, 1999

    Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles, California



    In residential neighborhoods, blowers operated by landscape workers and homeowners create obvious noise pollution and clouds of air pollution. The one operated across the street as I write this is measuring up to 78dB at a distance of over 70 feet.

    A survey, Survey99, was created by the ZAP Education Committee to determine opinions and perceptions of California residents regarding the use of leaf blowers (sometimes "blowers" herein) for residential landscape maintenance. With the assistance of a marketing consultant, an unbiased, nonjudgmental survey was constructed. The order of questions was designed to avoid influencing answers to subsequent questions. Virtually all surveys were taken, at random, at public places such as beaches, malls and a farmers' market.

    Participants consist of a wide variety of income groups. All were over 18 years of age, and nearly equal between those over and under 45 years of age. Participants reside in California in a residence they own or rent. The 53 Participants represent 38 different zip code areas.

    Highlights of Survey99 Responses

    Many people are at home when blowers are being used in their neighborhoods. They are directly exposed to blower noise and pollution not only from their own property, but also from neighboring properties. That could add up to from 6-9 properties. A large proportion of these properties consist of hard surfaces ("hardscape"), such as sidewalks, walkways, driveways, carports, patios, decks, porches and street gutters.

1. Health Concerns - Participants. In a majority of households, someone has

    one or more health conditions which are particularly sensitive to dust, mold

    and other irritants contained in the Particulate Matter which, once made

    airborne by blowers, cannot be contained. A majority of Participants are

    aware of the health concerns that surround the use of leaf blowers. "This

    secondhand noise is every bit as irritating as the secondhand smoke from 1cigarettes."

    ; Over two-thirds of all Participants are disturbed by the noise and/or the odor of

    gas fumes of blowers in their neighborhoods.

     1 Roger B. Swain, Ph.D., Science Editor at Horticulture; host of PBS Victory Garden,

    in Groundwork, 1994, as quoted in Conservation Law Foundation website

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    September 28, 1999

    Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles, California

    ; In a typical week, nearly two-thirds of all Participants change their daily routine

    due to the imposition of blowers. Of this group, 56% do so often or daily. 75%

    of all Participants would like to see more restrictions on blowers. ; 62% of all Participants would like to see blowers banned, while only 15%


2. Violations of blower bans. Because of widespread noncompliance with

    blower bans, some Participants living in a city with a blower ban were not

    aware the ban was still in force. Participants who knew there was a law were

    very irritated by the fact that there was a lack of compliance and enforcement.

    Of Participants who have had blowers used on their property in the previous 12 months:

    ; 84% reported that work crews consist of more than one member, and


    ; 74% of blowers used are gas.

    3. Health concerns - workers. Blower manufacturers recommend the use of

    protective gear for eyes, ears and face for everyone within 50 feet of an

    operating blower. The widespread noncompliance with this minimal safety

    precaution is a subject that calls for more research and action on the part of

    manufacturers, distributors and worker safety regulators.

    In general, landscape workers do not request pay increases and employers do not seem to offer them. However, three-fourths of Participant employers indicated a willingness to discuss pay adjustments, and all Participant employers who had been asked for a pay increase agreed.


1. Legislation and Further Health Studies:

    The primary recommendation of ZAP is that there be a minimum three year moratorium on all California statewide legislation which regards operation of gas 2powered garden equipment, and in particular blowers, while health studies are

    designed, funded (by grants if necessary), completed and reported. Private groups which could assist in such studies include the Lung Association and groups concerned with Asthma.

2. Protective Gear Education:

    ZAP recommends that manufacturers and retail distributors of blowers and safety gear and gardener associations make available information regarding safety gear recommended by health experts. Why it should be worn, where to find it, how much it might cost. Workers should be encouraged to protect themselves.

     2 See Appendix "Study Proposal Re Blowers Only"

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    Zero Air Pollution, Los Angeles, California

    Manufacturers of blowers may have warnings in their user manuals. The lack of compliance shown by Survey99 and other studies confirm that, though a purchaser may read the manual, it cannot be presumed the end user will even have access to it.

    ZAP believes the health of landscape workers has an economic value. We believe worker health concerns greatly outweigh any possible timesaving from the use of blowers.

    Manufacturers of safety gear might provide local government business licensing agencies with information to be handed out.

    Retail distributors of blowers could prominently post in their business establishments warnings, definitions of protective gear recommended by health experts, and carry those recommended types of gear.

    Gardener and/or landscape associations could purchase safety gear in large quantities in order to provide it to workers at a discount. Where workers cannot afford such gear, perhaps their associations could offer financial grants which would provide such safety gear for free.

3. Further Studies.

    Focus Groups. ZAP recommends the use of professionally designed and

    administered focus groups to clarify public attitudes toward landscape maintenance alternatives, including power equipment, standards of appearance, environmental and health impacts. Representatives of interested groups should be encouraged to comment during the survey design phase..

    Nonrandom Studies. The Public at large wants to be heard. People who heard ZAP was doing a survey wanted to participate, but had to be turned down for this random study. Even amongst Participants chosen at random, "I hate those machines" was often heard. The decision whether to "Agree" or "Disagree" in various strengths with Survey99 statements regarding stronger legislation or bans was based on Participant's assumptions regarding the effect those acts would have on gardeners and other workers, not on Participant's own welfare.

    Attitudes of Gardeners. What prevents them from wearing protective gear? Lack of knowledge? Disbelief that there is a need? Lack of opportunity or funds to purchase such gear?

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    Intention. Survey99 was designed to gather unbiased answers. If Participants first inquired about the survey and/or its sponsors, they were 3informed of Senator Burton's SCR19, which seeks information regarding

    the health and environmental effects of leaf blowers on their operators and on the general public. Participants were told survey results would be sent to the California State Legislature, and asked to hold all other questions until after the survey was completed.

    Administration. Surveys were administered by unpaid volunteers. It was imperative that Survey99 responses accurately reflect the experiences and opinions of as diverse a sample of Participants as possible. Persons were approached in a random manner for personal interviews at shopping malls, sports and music events, Farmers' Markets and public beaches. A small minority of surveys were taken door-to-door or by telephone. Only California residents of voting age were surveyed.

Affiliation of Survey99 Author. Survey99 was designed by Diane

    Wolfberg, Chair of Zero Air Pollution ("ZAP") Education Committee. ZAP is a grassroots group of concerned residents and workers in Los Angeles, California who joined together in 1995 to secure a ban against 2-stroke motor gas leaf blowers in Los Angeles California. ZAP, as an organization, was created in response to a gardener association which formed and united with blower manufacturers, to fight the ban. Costs associated with ZAP activities are borne by individual members who incur those costs themselves.

    In addition to other volunteers, Diane Wolfberg and George Wolfberg also administered Surveys, designed the database for data entry, tallied the answers and composed this Survey99 Report. Diane Wolfberg is a former teacher and legal secretary. George Wolfberg is retired from the office of the Los Angeles City Administrative Officer. Many, if not all, Los Angeles City Council members he worked with throughout his 35-year tenure will vouch for his competence and integrity. Both have a history of volunteer work with civic and nonprofit groups, as have most of the members of ZAP.

    Design Consultant. Surveys were designed with the assistance of Anya van Leeuwen, who holds an MBA in marketing.

     3 See Appendix.

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SURVEY99 DESIGN, continued.

    Limitations. Volunteers were given only two weeks to complete the

    surveys. Of 53 completed surveys, over 38 zip codes and a wide variety of

    income levels are represented.

    Where a blower has not been used on the property of a Participant's

    residence in the past 12 months, questions regarding blower use were

    skipped. All findings about blower use and protective gear concern only

    blower use on the property of Participants' residences.

    Where a statistic represents a sub-group of Participants, rather than the

    whole, it is so noted as representing only those who answered.

    Participants were picked at random. For instance, a table and signs

    (which did not indicate the subject matter of the survey) were set up at a

    farmers' market. People who showed interest were surveyed. At two

    beach areas, which were available to public transportation, a particular

    walking path was pre-determined. All people within that path who were not

    sleeping, engrossed in reading, or in animated conversation were

    approached. At the shopping mall, shops which did not have customers at

    the time were entered, and people who appeared to be employees or

    owners were approached.

    Upon commencement of the survey taking, it soon became clear Survey99

    represents opinions of California residents who had not been heard from

    before. A question regarding possible affiliation with special purpose

    groups involved in this controversy would have made that clear.

    Total Number of Surveys 53. Owners=36, Renters = 17

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    It is believed that Los Angeles is the largest market for leaf blowers in the world. The use of leaf blowers has been a contentious issue in California for many years, as evidenced by bans in 20 cities, and regulations in many more. The right of a local government to regulate leaf blower usage in its jurisdiction has been challenged by various bills proposed in the California State Legislature since 1998. Two proposed 1999 bills will carry over into the year 2000.

    SCR19 (Burton) requested the California State Air Resources Board to make a report of existing studies which regard the health and environmental effects of leaf blowers on the public at large and on blower operators.

    Survey99 was designed to reveal perceptions and opinions of the public at large, regarding residential landscape maintenance practices and any problems associated with blower use. The goal of Survey99 was to find facts, which might help proponents and opponents of blower bans have an understanding of each other's concerns. Concerns of ZAP members include the following:

1. Blower Intrusion

    ; Residents in some California neighborhoods suffer daily assaults of blower

    noise and pollution. This results in persons at home, including retirees,

    parents and caregivers to infants and the sick, having to change their

    routine in some way. For instance, they might change locations within the

    impacted property, and/or close doors and windows in order to engage in

    conversation, concentrate on work, or relax. Use of blowers also creates

    sleep problems for night shift workers who must sleep during the day, as

    well as others who must rest during this period.

    ; The impact of blower use is exacerbated when the odors and noise of

    blowers are added to those of lawn mowers and edgers. With the advent

    of larger landscape crews, all of these machines are frequently used at the

    same time, despite the advice of at least one manufacturer to "use only 4one piece of equipment at a time. . . .". If all three are used at once, the

    noise and odors are that much more disturbing. If all three are used

    separately, the noise and odors are extended over a longer period.

    ; Lawnmower noise, in one study, inhibited the response of passersby to a

    woman in need of help. When the mower was turned off, indifference was 5replaced by helpfulness.

PURPOSE OF SURVEY99, continued

     4 Robin Pendergrast sidebar, Turf, February 1998. 5 Swain, Ibid.

    Report99 8

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