LETTER: Ear, nose and throat doc weighs in on leaf blowers

At the 2022 Town Meeting, Marblehead residents voted 252 to 202 to enact a summer break from gas-powered leaf blowers. The bylaw will be in effect this year from Memorial Day through Labor Day. However, the new bylaw lacked enforcement and fines.

This year, Article 48, sponsored by Jeanie (Beatrice) Stahl and others, addresses these issues by instituting enforcement by either the Police or Health departments. Both departments have agreed to enforce this bylaw.

Enforcement is directed to the homeowner, since they hire and direct the landscapers on their property. The first violation is a warning; the second is $100 fine; subsequent violations are $200 each. Compared to most other communities’ fines, our proposed fines are very lenient.

Also this year, there is Article 47, sponsored by a local landscaper, Todd Norman, which seeks to rescind the summer break bylaw passed last year. We have ample scientific evidence of adverse health effects of gas-powered leaf blowers to support the summer break. The extremely loud and penetrating noise, traveling for great distances and through house walls is one issue.

As an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) at Mass Eye and Ear, I have treated numerous patients over 30 years with permanent noise-induced hearing loss. Excessive noise not only causes hearing loss but has been shown to increase blood pressure, heart disease, stress hormones, and difficulty concentrating and learning, especially in children.

No one will lose a job by not using a gas-powered leaf blower during the summer months; there are minimal leaves. Rakes and brooms are adequate, inexpensive and harmless.

The excessive toxic fumes and exhaust from these two-stroke gas leaf blowers is well documented. One hour of using a gas-powered leaf blower has the same emissions as a modern sedan driving for 1,100 miles.

Please see this link for more scientific documentation.

Dr. Kathryn A. Breslin

Brackett Place

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