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are Big Polluters
Most people do not associate air
pollution with mowing the lawn. Yet emissions from lawn mowers, snow blowers,
chain saws, leaf vacuums, and similar outdoor power equipment are a significant
source of pollution. Today’s small engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, a
colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. They also emit hydrocarbons and nitrogen
oxides, pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone. While ozone occurs
naturally in the upper atmosphere and shields the earth from harmful radiation,
ozone at ground level is a noxious pollutant.
Ground-level ozone impairs lung
function, inhibits plant growth, and is a key ingredient of smog.
Emission control for small
gasoline engines has not been a crucial design consideration until now.
Consequently, small engines are big polluters. And power equipment users
inadvertently contribute to the problem by carelessly handling fuel and by improperly
maintaining their equipment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and the power equipment industry are working to
investigate and bring to market cleaner technology for small engines.
Prevention in Your Own Backyard
EPA anticipates that regulations
now being developed will bring cleaner lawn and garden equipment to market
within a few years. Meanwhile, consumers can make a difference by adopting
practices that will help protect the environment now and in the future:
Preventing spills and overfills
is an easy and effective way for power equipment owners to prevent pollution. Even
small gasoline spills evaporate and pollute the air.
Use a gasoline container you can
handle easily and hold securely. Pour slowly and smoothly. Use a funnel, or a
spout with an automatic stop device to prevent overfilling the gas tank. Keep
the cap or spout and the vent hole on gasoline containers closed tightly.
Transport and store gasoline and power equipment out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry
place. Use caution when pumping gasoline into a container at the gas station.
Follow the manufacturer's
guidelines for maintenance. Change oil and clean or
replace air filters regularly.
Use the proper fuel/oil mixture in two-stroke equipment. Get periodic tune-ups, maintain
sharp mower blades, and keep the underside of the deck clean. Take time to
winterize equipment each fall.
Ask your dealer about the new,
cleaner gasoline equipment entering the marketplace. Propane and solar options are
also available for some types of equipment. Electric equipment is cleaner
than equipment powered by gasoline engines. Electrically-powered lawn and
garden tools produce essentially no pollution from exhaust emissions or through
fuel evaporation. However, generating the power to run electric equipment
does produce pollution.
Tools that don't require electric
or gasoline engines are especially handy for small yards or small jobs. Hand
tools are available to meet a wide variety of lawn and garden needs, like
lightweight, quiet, easy-to-use reel push mowers that generate no emissions.
Use low-maintenance turf grasses
or grass/flower seed mixtures that grow slowly and require less mowing. Check
with your local agricultural extension service or lawn and garden center about
what is appropriate for your region.
Decrease lawn area.
additional trees and shrubs to reduce the energy costs of heating and cooling your house
and to provide landscaping for wildlife. Native wildflowers and plants require
little to no maintenance after planting.
Instead of selling or giving away
your old lawn and garden power tools, take them to a recycling center where
they can be converted into raw material for use in cleaner equipment and other
By combining these strategies,
you can reduce your personal contribution to pollution. In addition, your yard
equipment will last longer and you will save money.
"Your Yard and Clean Air," U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency Office of Mobile Sources: EPA 420-F-94-002, May 1996: http://www.p2pays.org/ref%5C05/04460.pdf
[accessed on May 6, 2008].