New report shows alarming pollution from gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers in Colorado

Media Contacts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, October 30, 2023

CONTACT: Kirsten Schatz, Clean Air Advocate
Mark Morgenstein, Media Relations Director

DENVER – With fall in the air and leaf blowers at full blast in neighborhoods across the state, noise and gas fumes are filling the air. Lawn Care Goes Electric: Why it’s time to switch to a new generation of clean, quiet electric lawn equipment, a new report by CoPIRG Foundation, shows that gas-powered lawn mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws and other garden equipment generate a large amount of pollution and noise.

According to the report’s analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, lawn and garden equipment in Colorado emitted an estimated 671 tons of harmful “fine particulate” air pollution in 2020 –  an amount equivalent to the pollution produced by more than 7 million typical cars over the course of a year. Five Colorado counties – Arapahoe, Jefferson, El Paso, Adams, and Douglas – earned the dubious distinction of appearing on the “Top 100” worst counties in the U.S. for both nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter emissions from lawn and garden equipment. Denver county made the list for both fine particulates and volatile organic compounds.

“It’s absurd that we have been tolerating so much harmful pollution and noise just to cut grass and maintain landscapes,” said CoPIRG Foundation Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz. “The good news is, cleaner, quieter electric-powered lawn equipment is capable, affordable and readily available.”

All this unnecessary pollution imposes a significant health cost. The 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 has been linked to health problems including asthma attacks, reproductive ailments, mental health challenges, cancer and even premature deaths. The Denver Metro/North Front Range area has been in violation of Clean Air Act standards for ozone for over a decade. Because they burn fossil fuels, gas lawn mowers and leaf blowers also emit carbon dioxide, the leading contributor to climate change

Fortunately, electric lawn equipment has evolved into an attractive alternative to highly polluting gas-powered tools.

“I converted my lawn care company over to all-electric equipment three years ago,” said Innovated Property Maintenance Owner Josh Seeley. “The electric mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers and more that we use quietly do the same job as gas equipment, all without the cost of fuel and the hassle we used to have with maintaining gas engines.”

The report recommends that local and state governments use electric equipment on public property and provide financial incentives to encourage the widespread adoption of electric lawn equipment. It further suggests that cities and states consider restrictions on the sale and use of the most-polluting fossil fuel-powered equipment. In mid December, the state’s Air Quality Control Commission will vote on whether to adopt such policies here in Colorado.

“Air pollution from lawn equipment isn’t some big, distant problem – it’s happening right in our own backyards,” said Tony Dutzik, associate director and senior policy analyst at Frontier Group and one of the authors of the report. “The data in this report shows that emissions from lawn equipment are an important issue in every part of our country.”

“We have a chance to tackle our air pollution problem by switching to cleaner, quieter, readily available electric lawn equipment,” said Schatz. “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.” 

The full report is available here along with an interactive data tool and searchable map.