There’s something about leaf blowers that’s just irritating. The noise gets under your skin and there’s seems to be no way of escaping it until the machine is turned off and put away.
Many can attest to the annoyance that comes from the machine’s use in the summer months, but there’s actually a scientific reason as to why commercial leaf blowers have been described as intolerable.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies found the sound emitted from commercial leaf blowers is a low frequency noise that persists at high levels for about 800 feet from the source.
According to the study, low frequency sound travels over long distances and penetrates walls and windows.
Manufacturers report the sound levels from leaf blowers exceed 95 A-weighted decibels (dB(A)) at the ear of the operator and typically 65-80 dB(A) at 50 feet.
“Comparing these levels to daytime sound standards set by the World Health Organization — these levels are upwards of 15 dB(A) higher than the recommended 55 dB(A),” states the study.
The dB(A) is the standard way manufacturers rate the sound of their equipment and is used to set regulatory policy. What’s interesting is that when in comes to describing the impact of sound that contains a strong low frequency — as leaf blowers do — both the International Institute for Noise Control Engineering and the National Academy of Engineering have said dB(A) is not a sufficient way of measuring.
Another study coming out of Finland in 2004 examined the tonal components of nine leaf blowers and found that the low frequency sound coming from them can penetrate outside walls and is not tolerated well by humans.
According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals a 25-year-old land care worker regularly exposed to occupational noise without hearing protection may have the same hearing as a 50-year-old who is not exposed.
While no municipality in the CRD is currently looking to ban the machines, other communities such as Westmount in Montreal have imposed a partial ban only allowing the use of leaf blowers in April, October and the first half of November.