My feedback to the NEA (National Environment Agency) on the persistent noise pollution issue caused by powered leaf blowers via One Service app

Dear Sir/Madam,

Yesterday morning, when I was doing a videography assignment for a workshop at Kampong Senang Holistic Lifestyle Centre at Block 106 Aljunied Crescent, a loud noise made by the petrol-powered leaf blower outside the HDB block suddenly broke the serenity, and the noise went on for at least 10 minutes. It disturbed the peace and distracted the people from the workshop inside, as the noise penetrated through the closed glass windows. Please see attached video for reference.

I am concerned that the noise might also affect the sound quality of the video recording of the workshop. Moreover, this isn’t the first time such noise pollution has affected me and my work.

On 30 July 2022 when I was resting at the void deck of Block 413 Jurong West community library before preparing for my dinner delivery shift, I was startled by the loud blaring noise of a leaf blower outside the block, as shown in the video below.

The noise pollution went on for what seemed like 20 minutes and felt like an assault in one’s senses, nervous system and mental well-being. It potentially affects one’s ability to function at work or study, and may affect one’s concentration when travelling on the road thereafter.

What if the loud noise affects our rest and mental health to the extent that we lose concentration while working and get into an accident?

What if it affects the quality of our work and causes us to lose productivity, and consequently, our income?

Hence, I would appreciate if NEA and/or the relevant authorities and town councils seriously consider stopping the use of these pollutive technologies, especially in residential areas and recreational areas such as parks and gardens, as they have been shown to have negative impacts on the health and well-being of both humans and wildlife, including that of the workers using the leaf blower.

As I have read and heard similar feedback from other residents over the years, such as concerns for those who work night shifts and sleep at home during the day, I hope that we don’t have to keep suffering in silence and wait until someone gets into an accident or suffers from mental breakdown before the authorities finally do something about this long-standing health and environmental hazard.

As Singapore aspires to be a green and sustainable City in Nature in the context of climate emergency, biodiversity loss and public health crisis, it is imperative that we prioritise the use of eco-friendly, nature-based solutions over harmful fossil fuel technology, for the good of our environment and our long-term survival.

Thank you for your kind attention.

P.S. My feedback was submitted through One Service bot in Telegram via the blog weblink due to space constraints, as I wasn’t able to paste the whole text in my feedback via One Service app.

P.P.S. The negative impacts of the pollutive petroleum-powered leaf blowers have been repeatedly highlighted or reported to the authorities for a number of years.

“Contractors using the leaf blowers to blow away the cut grass and the noise is most irritating. It can heard 400 metres way. Can’t they just sweep the cut grass way, instead of spoiling the only time we can get some rest- on weekends?”
19 August 2011 (Blog)

“It is surprising that the relevant authorities have yet to ban the use of noisy leaf blowers and grass-cutting machines powered by diesel or petrol.

Residents of Housing Board estates are forced to tolerate the noise and smell for an hour or more every three to four weeks, whenever these machines are used.”
15 February 2019 (Straits Times Forum)

“Less frequent grass-cutting can reduce petrol-intensive transport of landscape workers and the use of powered mowers and blowers, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Decreasing the man-hours currently spent on mowing, cultivating, transplanting and fertilising would also cut costs and save resources.”
15 August 2020 (Channel News Asia commentary)

“With more people working from home these days, such noise affects concentration and adds stress, which is detrimental to mental health.

Already, a survey found that 61 per cent of those working from home reported feeling stressed, compared with 53 per cent of front-liners (“More working from home feel stressed than those on Covid-19 front line”, Aug 20).

These machines also harm our flora and fauna. For example, the leaf blower pollutes the air, stirs up lots of allergens and dust, and harms plants, micro-organisms and pollinators.”
3 November 2020 (Straits Times Forum)

“Leaf blowers, as a feature of Singapore’s soundscape, are an assault on the senses. Their noise level is, according to various estimates online, 70 to 75 decibels, about equivalent to the rumble of a washing machine. The sound level limit for residential premises is 70 decibels in daytime, and 75 decibels for commercial premises. A quick search online finds many articles against leaf blowers: they are said to be noisy, environmentally unfriendly and not very effective.”
23 July 2021 (Blog)

“Recent research has linked noise pollution increase rates of cardiovascular disease in adults and even cognitive impairment in children.

We have far too long dismissed noise as a simple inconvenience to be tolerated.

Issues such as noisy vehicles (motorcycles, high powered cars), portable combustion engine based equipment (leaf blowers, foggers) and pneumatic devices are all not regulated.”
November 2021 (Reddit forum)

“The leaf blowers emit an ear-splitting, jarring noise that is unbearable to many of the park visitors, especially seniors who go there to get some respite from being cooped up at home because of the pandemic.

As pointed out by Mr Singh, NParks itself has said that loud noise at parks and nature reserves leads to an environment that is not conducive for communication between animals and has other detrimental effects. Is it not detrimental to humans too?

I appeal to whoever authorised the use of motorised leaf blowers to stop using them in Bedok Town Park. In fact, they should be banned in all parks. They are a scourge to park visitors.”
4 December 2021 (Straits Times Forum)

“I wonder if greater community involvement could help. For instance, could volunteering to sweep leaves be an opportunity for park users to get exercise and practise mindfulness? Would this enhance a sense of ownership of our parks, reduce reliance on noisy devices and increase appreciation of environmental maintenance?”
7 December 2021 (Straits Times Forum)

“Issues associated with the use of leaf blowers include noise pollution and resultant hearing loss, and air pollution from the leaf blower’s emissions as well as the dust raised by its use.”
3 March 2022 (Straits Times Forum)

There is room for improvement regarding Singapore’s environmental management, as noted by other observers, such as the one who wrote the blog below.

“While Singapore presents itself as a bastion of urban sustainability, with a focus on technologically-advanced and seductive initiatives, underneath this glitzy rhetoric and fantastical imagery is a development strategy that is rooted in unsustainability.”
10/12/2020 (Urban Asia blog)

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