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New research reveals 'shocking' information about everyday lawn equipment: 'It's really counterintuitive'

"Battery technology has come a long way."

“Battery technology has come a long way.”

Photo Credit: iStock

The old adage, "big things come in small packages," unfortunately holds true for engine pollution

Research reported on by Grist found that lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed eaters can produce more air pollution than much larger, gas-guzzling vehicles — even more than entire cities. 

🗣️ If you're thinking about switching to electric yard tools, which of these factors would be most persuasive for you?

🔘 Better for the environment 🌎

🔘 Cheaper to fuel and maintain 💰

🔘 More enjoyable to use 💁

🔘 Produce better results 👏

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"[This] really inefficient engine technology is, pound for pound, more polluting than the cars and trucks," clean air advocate Kirsten Schatz, with nonprofit Colorado PIRG, said to Grist. She is also the lead author of a report that referenced data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Outdoor equipment generates a pretty shocking amount of pollution," she said

What's happening? 

The data on our yard machines is clear and includes a variety of pollutants. The equipment produced more than 68,000 tons of "smog-forming" air pollution, according to 2020 EPA data. Grist noted that dirty air output is about the same as running 30 million gas cars. 

Further, in 2020, the machines produced 30 million tons of air pollution, contributing to planet overheating. That's more than Los Angeles makes, per Grist. 

As an everyday example, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services reports that an hour of running a new gasoline lawn mower pumps out the same amount of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide air pollution as driving a new car for 45 miles. 

Why does it matter? 

Air pollution contributes to planet overheating and other health problems. Grist reported that the lawn machines produce formaldehyde and benzene, a cancer-causing agent also in cigarette smoke. 

But it might be the particulate pollution that is most dangerous. As Grist reported, the particulates are finer than a human hair. The pollution is inhaled, causing lung and heart problems, per the National Library of Medicine.

Astoundingly, Grist noted that gas-powered lawn tenders fumed 21,800 tons of particulate pollution in 2020. That's equal to the dirty air made by 234 million typical cars during a year, according to the recent report

Two-stroke engines that run on a mix of oil and gasoline are particularly bad polluters

"When it comes to these small engines in lawn and garden equipment, it's really counterintuitive," Schatz told Grist. 

What can be done to help? 

Fortunately, there are a lot of options, including a thriving battery-powered market for lawn machines from numerous brands. They are quieter, require less maintenance, and don't spew air pollution. 

"We have so many cleaner, quieter electric alternatives available now," Schatz said to Grist. "Battery technology has come a long way."

Air filters can also help to keep the atmosphere in your home as clean as possible. And, planting trees is an easy way to create natural air filters that last for generations. As the Arbor Day Foundation notes, one mature tree will remove 48 pounds of air pollution from our environment and produce oxygen, each year. 

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