The most obvious drawback of gas-powered leafblowers and other two-stroke lawn equipment is their nuisance noise.
But the most profound objections to them involve the antiquated, hyper-polluting, inefficient combustion of their engines, and the public-health risk that their emissions, the debris they blow up, and their noise present to the workers who operate them.
An under-appreciated aspect of the potential risk to workers comes from their working in or near active roadways, and not being able to hear approaching traffic--either because of the noise of the machinery itself, or because of earplugs or other gear they are wearing to protect themselves from that noise.
A correspondent in Washington D.C. writes:
This morning after I observed a leaf blower operator step sideways while blowing leaves in the middle of the street and almost being struck by an SUV, I googled a little and came up with 8 instances of leaf blower operators being struck by a car, and 1 by a train-
East Newport, NY:
Cheboygan County, MI:
Escambia County, FL:
Industrial Sand Mine
A miner was clearing snow off a rail switch with a leaf blower. The miner was wearing hearing protection and did not hear or see an approaching train. The miner was struck by the train, knocked to the ground, and suffered an amputated arm when a railcar ran over his arm.
As these reports note, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, some 300,000 people per year must visit emergency departments for injuries related to yard and garden equipment.