The use of all leaf blowers has been banned in Hastings from May 16 through October 14 since 2008. Some exceptions apply. Please speak to your lawn care company, if you use one, to ensure compliance. For ways to talk to your landscaper, see this document prepared by the Hastings Pollinator Pathway. The Conservation Commission recommends an eventual phase-in of electric equipment to replace all lawn care machines, and to maintain a summertime ban on all leaf blowers.
Why Hastings Banned Leaf Blowers in Summer
Aggravation and heart disease
People genuinely find loud noise aggravating, which is the main reason communities everywhere have noise ordinances. Noise pollution not only raises stress levels, it has concomitant health impacts: if you work in a noisy environment, you are more likely to have heart disease (read more).
Stereocilia in the inner ear, which are responsible for our hearing and balance, do not regenerate once damaged, meaning hearing impacts from lawn equipment noise is permanent. Scientists are discovering links between hearing loss and other health issues, such as dementia.
How noise is measured
Like the seismic scale, the decibel scale is logarithmic: an increase in 10 dB reflects sound 10 times as loud (see this site for more explanation). Any sound above 85 dB can cause hearing loss, depending on the length of exposure. A single gas-powered leaf blower will regularly hit 115 dB, guaranteeing hearing loss at close range—not to mention the use of several blowers at once, a common practice. The industrial-scale mowers some landscapers use on suburban lawns range between 86 and 96 dB. In Hastings, leaf blowers and other equipment must “conform to the decibel level restrictions set forth in § 217-5 and to the steady state and impact vibrations restrictions of § 217-8,” but our enforcement officers do not have sound meters. You can get an app such as this one from NIOSH from CDC to test noise levels for yourself, with the understanding that it is an estimated reading.
Almost all gas-powered leaf blowers use two-stroke engines, which are quite dirty: roughly 30% of the fuel used in two-stroke engines fails to undergo complete combustion, resulting in the release of smog-forming carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and volatile organic compounds such as benzene, a known carcinogen. Importantly, these particulates are often ultrafine, a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in air. These are defined as PM 10 and PM 2.5, which refers to their size.
Gas or electric?
All leaf blowers kick up heavy metals, pesticides, nanoplastics, feces and allergens (e.g. pollen or mold spores) from the ground, which we then breathe in. Small particles 10 microns and less in diameter (PM10) pose problems because they can get deep into the lungs; the smallest particles (PM 2.5) can enter the bloodstream, traverse the blood-brain barrier, and cause cerebral inflammation. Larger particles can irritate eyes, noses and throats and trigger asthma attacks. These impacts affect all of us: our children, our pets, and, most directly, the operators of the machinery. This is why we recommend keeping a summertime leaf blower ban in place.
We encourage ecological yard care. If this interests you, the best way to manage leaves is to have less lawn. If you do maintain lawn and cannot rake it into your beds (this helps supports pollinators), use a mulching mower to grind your leaves back into the soil. This is actually healthier for your grass, and most contractors can do this. Leaf blowers also worsen soil quality. Ask your landscaper to restrict their use to driveways and paths. For ways to talk to your landscaper, see this document prepared by the Hastings Pollinator Pathway. Remember, your landscape contractor is eager to keep your business. Please let them know that you are aware of Hastings leaf blower ban and that it's ok with you if you have maple tree seeds in your lawn (yes, contractors will blow them off your grass in summer), and if your lawn is not perfectly vacuumed. After all, it's not a rug; it's alive! See Leave Leaves Alone or Westchester's LELE campaign for more info.
The Conservation Commission is in discussion with landscape professionals and is starting a conversation with commissions in neighboring towns to develop better legislation that is Greenburgh-wide (a confusing patchwork of varying ordinances has developed in the past 10 years). For now, the law in Hastings stands as-is. It may be that we revise the law to allow the use of gas blowers only in fall, and only electric blowers in spring, with the suggestion to limit their use to walks and driveways. Please contact the Conservation Commission if you'd like to be part of these deliberations.
Current Village Code
The following acts, among others, are declared to be loud, disturbing and unnecessary noises in violation of this chapter, but any enumeration herein shall not be deemed to be exclusive:
The use of leaf blowers, except between October 15 and May 15, and then only from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., provided that they conform to the decibel level restrictions set forth in § 217-5 and to the steady state and impact vibrations restrictions of § 217-8. The Village Manager is authorized to permit the use of leaf blowers between May 16 and October 14, subject to the same time limits and provisos, in either of the following situations:
[Added 3-4-2008 by L.L. No. 1-2008; amended 5-6-2008 by L.L. No. 3-2008]
(1) If the Village Manager determines that an emergency situation exists in the Village.
(2) If a Village resident or property owner has a medical condition requiring a leaf blower to clean up leaves and other yard debris and presents the Village Manager with a letter from a physician stating that such medical necessity exists. In such a situation, only one leaf blower may be used per property and may not be operated concurrently with any other electric or fuel-powered yard maintenance equipment.