Gas-powered lawn and garden equipment emit unhealthy air pollutants
Using data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, Quiet Communities presented results of a study on the impact of gas-powered lawn equipment on air quality at the International Emissions Inventory Conference in San Diego, CA in April.
The study shows that gas-powered lawn equipment – including mowers, blowers, edgers and trimmers – generates approximately 6.3 million tons of toxic and carcinogenic emissions and more than 20 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air annually. This does not include additional fine particulate matter that can be kicked up from ground surfaces.
Jamie Banks, executive director and a co-author of the study, noted, “We now know that gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment is an important source of toxic and carcinogenic exhaust and fine particulate matter. Short- and long-term exposure to these emissions may pose serious health risks, especially to landscaping workers and others who live and work in areas where such equipment is in widespread use. Children, seniors, and people with chronic disease may be particularly vulnerable.”
Commercial operators may be at especially high risk because many small lawn and garden engines are hand-held or carried on the back. Operators are exposed at close range to exhaust emissions of one sort of powered equipment or another all day long, day after day. Respiratory masks offer little protection.
“While both the American Lung Association and EPA have warned against the use of gas-powered lawn equipment, it is clear that the medical, scientific, and public policy communities need to focus attention on this issue,” Banks said.
The study found that 8% of benzene and 1,3 butadiene emissions in the United States, from all sources, are generated by gas-powered lawn and garden equipment. Benzene and 1,3 butadiene rank among the top four cancer-causing chemicals. The study also found that two-stroke engines, often used in leaf blowers, trimmers, edgers, and brush-cutters, are a major source of fine particulate exhaust known to cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and premature death.
Banks acknowledged that recent EPA regulations of small spark ignition engines are helpful in reducing pollution, but commented, “EPA’s regulations for this type of equipment reduce emissions of hydrocarbons, including a number of hazardous air pollutants, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. However, fine particulate exhaust emissions are projected to increase slightly.”