City Of Portland Passes Legislation To Phase Out The Use Of Gas-powered Leaf Blowers

Portland Oregon cityscape with Mount Hood in the background.

Last week, the Portland City Council unanimously voted to phase out gas-powered leaf blowers to improve public health and quality of life for residents and landscape workers.

Gas leaf blowers are not only a nuisance to neighbors, but their negative health impacts are felt by landscape workers, who are predominately people of color. Gas leaf blowers are widely known to produce low-frequency noise pollution that can lead to negative health outcomes such as stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack, tinnitus, and hearing impairment.

Gas leaf blowers also emit significant amounts of air pollution. A recent study demonstrated that running a gas leaf blower for just one hour produces the same level of pollution as driving a midsize sedan 1,100 miles – the equivalent of a road trip from Portland to San Diego.

“Gas leaf blowers emit toxic pollutants, particulate matter, and noise that creates negative health impacts for people nearby,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio who introduced the ordinance. “This policy is the culmination of many years of hard work and advocacy to make Portland a healthier and cleaner place to live.

“I want to thank the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, our county partners, and Quiet Clean PDX for helping to craft a proposal that benefits public health and our environment, while being mindful of specific challenges for people who rely on this equipment. I also want to recognize the late Commissioner Nick Fish, who was an early advocate and would be so proud to see this policy moving forward.”

The ordinance amends the Chapter 8 health code to phase out the use of gas handheld or backpack leaf blowers on public and private property within Portland beginning in 2026. Although electric lawn equipment technology is rapidly advancing, city officials recognize that electric leaf blowers are not yet powerful enough to practically move wet leaves during the winter season, so the use of gas leaf blowers will still be allowed from October to December. A year-round prohibition will go into effect in 2028.

The officials also recognizes that upfront costs of electric leaf blowers are higher than gas leaf blowers. To address this, a program will be developed to offset costs for small businesses that experience a disproportionate hardship.