Gas-powered lawn equipment and air pollution

Posted 11/2/23

A new report by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center shows that gas-powered garden equipment creates significant pollution and noise.

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Gas-powered lawn equipment and air pollution


With fall in the air and leaf blowers going at full blast in neighborhoods across Pennsylvania, a new report by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center shows that gas-powered lawnmowers, weed whackers, leaf blowers, chainsaws and other garden equipment create significant amounts of pollution and noise for local communities across the state. 

In 2020, lawn and garden equipment emitted an estimated 965 tons of fine particulates statewide – an amount equivalent to the pollution from more than 10 million typical cars, according to Lawn Care Goes Electric: Why it’s time to switch to a new generation of clean, quiet electric lawn equipment. 

Among all states for fine particulate pollution emissions from lawn and garden equipment, Pennsylvania ranked 4th. Among all counties, Montgomery County ranked 20th, producing more fine particulates than from lawn equipment in the entire state of Delaware.

"Most local residents are unaware of the massive amounts of air pollution being released in their proximity,” said Ellie Kerns, climate and clean energy associate with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “The good news is, we no longer have to put up with it because cleaner, quieter electric lawn equipment is capable, affordable and readily available."

In 2020, lawn and garden equipment in Pennsylvania emitted more than a million tons of climate and air pollutants. All this unnecessary pollution imposes a significant health cost. 

Pollutants emitted by gas-powered lawn equipment include fine particulates (PM2.5), ozone-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and air toxics such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene and formaldehyde. Exposure to these pollutants in our air is linked to health problems including asthma attacks, reproductive ailments, mental health challenges, cancer and even premature deaths. 

“Noise from gas-powered leaf blowers disturbs the peace of autumn, but the auditory harms are even more troubling,” said Anne Dicker, co-founder of citizen group Quiet Clean Philly. “The roar from these machines can cause permanent hearing loss, negatively impact the immune system and cardiovascular health, and is associated with increased social aggression and conflict.”

The report makes specific policy recommendations that Pennsylvania state and local officials can make, ranging from financial incentives and commitments from governments and businesses to convert their equipment to restricting the sale and use of the most polluting fossil fuel equipment. 

“We have a chance to whack away at our air pollution problem by switching to cleaner, quieter, readily available electric lawn equipment,” said Kerns. “We shouldn’t accept tons of air pollution and ear-splitting noise as an inevitable byproduct of taking care of our gardens and lawns. We have better ways. It’s time to transition away from dirty gas-powered lawn equipment as quickly as possible.”