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Seen At 11: Health Experts Sound The Alarm On Possible Health Risks Of Leaf Blowers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - From the city to the suburbs, the hum of leaf blowers is a familiar sound.

But it's not the noise that has people up in arms-- it's their potential health hazard.  They clear dust, debris, leaves and even snow quickly and efficiently, but some health experts ask at what price?

"We're concerned about the health implications," said Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison, with the American Lung Association.

Dr. Weiss-Harrison points to studies showing that gas leaf blowers spread dangerous pollutants like ozone gas and carbon monoxide as well as stir up irritating allergens like mold and spores.

"Although they're small devices, there are so many operating that they have a large impact," Dr. Weiss-Harrison said.

As CBS2's Maurice DuBois reported, it's estimated that one gas leaf blower emits as much pollution as 17 cars in continuous use over the course of an hour.

Now, a growing number of towns in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are imposing bans on their use.

"I don't think there is anything to be gained by using leaf blowers," Fred Chichester said.

Chichester, along with his wife Pat Kenschaft, are anti-leaf blower activists.

"This is just so destructive to human health, the environment," Kenschaft said.

The couple helped pass a leaf blower ban in Montclair, N.J., that prohibits people from using the devices in warmer months when the heat compounds the negative effects.  But Chichester would like to take it a step further and limit the use of leaf blowers throughout the nation.

"I'd like to see us work toward a total ban of leaf blowers," he said.

However, not everyone CBS2 talked to is on board with a complete ban, despite the potential health concerns.

"I smell more out of my own lawnmower than I do out of those guys," one Montclair resident said.

"I see both sides of that issue," another said.

"There has to be a compromise," a third resident added.

"It's so much more efficient than using a rake," Executive Director of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association Jody Shilan said.

Shilan acknowledges the leaf blower concerns but says the bans could devastate the industry.

"It's going to raise the cost significantly for homeowners that do have landscape contractors to take care of their property," she said.

Shilan says the industry has been using gas powered leaf blowers for more than 20 years because of their efficiency. But as manufacturers design less toxic models, they will slowly make their way into landscapers' hands.

"As an industry, we want to do what's right for our communities but it's something that will take time," Shilan said.

In the meantime, the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association says it can work with some seasonal bans and is training operators on how to use leaf blowers more efficiently and respectfully.

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