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7 the fellow and the leaf blower

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Even to blast snow off roofs. A health care researcher with a Ph.

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D, Banks began looking into the health effects of the fine dust, exhaust pollution and noise caused by leaf blowers, and found causes for concern — including a clear recommendation against using gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn equipment from the American Lung Association. InBanks teamed up with Robin Wilkerson, a Lincoln garden designer who worried not just about the noise and dust and carbon footprint of leaf blowers, but also about their impact on the land. At this point in the story, which has played out in many towns and cities around the country, a big fight ensues.

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Residents who hate the blowers try to get the machines banned. Landscapers, landlords and homeowners who use the blowers fight back.

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And often, the attempts to regulate lose. Some California towns banned leaf blowers back when they were new in the s, but blower use has been growing enormously, and relatively few towns have blocked them or successfully enforced limits. In New England, where leaf-peeping season is now routinely followed by leaf-blowing season, no town has passed an outright ban, though a few have imposed restrictions.

First-world problems, you might say. Lincoln, a gorgeous New England hamlet of old stone walls along winding, wooded lanes, is one of the richest towns in the U.

The leaf blower issue naturally tends to arise in affluent suburbs where people can afford landscapers and increasingly seek a manicured look. But it can surface just about anywhere there are trees and blowers, and it doesn't seem trivial if it's happening where you live or try to work.

No less a literary personage than James Fallows of The Atlantic, who has become very vocally active against leaf blowersargues that the issue speaks to big concepts about collective versus private life.

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A trenchant New Yorker article on the mother of all leaf blower regulation fights in California found that it became "a referendum on what it means to be a neighbor. As Banks and Wilkerson learned more about the battles over bans around the country, they decided to pursue a more positive path in Lincoln.

They started in by forming a citizen group, Quiet Lincolnto spread word about the issue. The next year, inthey asked their fellow citizens at Lincoln's Town Meeting to approve a study panel.

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The committee surveyed the town to get a sense of people's feeling about leaf blowers, and found that 46 percent of respondents were bothered by the noise and 37 percent by the dust and air pollution.

The panel researched the health and environmental effects of blowers. It created a website and looked into alternatives, from sweepers to sustainable landscaping practices like leaf mulching and raking leaves under shrubs. In March, the the three-member health board stated:.

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Steven Kanner sums it up in an email:. Regulations would surely have to be very complex, and likely contentious, Kanner said, while solutions based purely on voluntary cooperation "have not yet fully materialized. So the story in Lincoln has not come to a close.

True, the story is still unfolding. But let's end for now on a hopeful note for advocates of leaf-blower limits: That lot you see amid the miasma in the video above?


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