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     home which? lawn mowing environmental FAQ's

Cleaner Air : Gas Mower Pollution Facts

EPA Emissions Statistics
Astounding Gas Spill Statistics from the EPA
 
Handy References:
Six Common Air Pollutants Chart
What is Ozone? How is it Formed?
Push Mower Comparison Chart
More Articles and References 
 
 
EPA Statistics: Gas Mowers represent 5% of U.S. Air Pollution

FACT: one hour of mowing is the equivalent of driving 350 miles in terms of volatile organic compounds.

Fact: One gas mower spews 87 lbs. of the greenhouse gas CO2, and 54 lbs. of other pollutants into the air every year.

Fact: Over 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year refueling lawn and garden equipment – more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.



Each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants. Garden equipment engines, which have had unregulated emissions until the late 1990's, emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the nation's air pollution and a good deal more in metropolitan areas.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in in in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour.

cleaner mowing, the effect of gas powers for one hour


Gardeners Spill More than the Exxon Valdezcleaner mowing, the effect of gas powers for one hour

And speaking of gas, the EPA estimates that over 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. That's more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, in the Gulf of Alaska. In addition to groundwater contamination, spilled fuel that evaporates into the air and volatile organic compounds spit out by small engines make smog-forming ozone when cooked by heat and sunlight.

Calculate Your Gas Mower's Emissions

Until 1995, lawnmower emissions were unregulated. Older more powerful, less efficient two-cycle engines release 25-30% of their oil and gas unburned into the air. Gas mowers emit hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen (the principle ingredients of smog), particulate matter (damaging to the respiratory system), carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) and carbon dioxide (contributing to global warming). The health toll includes cancer as well as damage to lungs, heart, and both the immune and detoxification systems. Plus smog inhibits plant growth. Lawnmowers are currently subject to EPA’s Phase 2 regulations. These requirements have reduced volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions by over 70 percent from unregulated levels. EPA’s Phase 3 regulations take effect in 2012 for lawnmowers and will result in additional reductions in these pollutants.

Electric mowers don't totally eliminate pollution, however emissions from the electric industry are more regulated and are not in your backyard. Also they save on gas spills and gas refinery and transportation. To achieve a net environmental savings from switching from gas to electric mowers depends on the efficiency of the power plant from where the electricity originates. Only reel mowers have a 0 carbon footprint. This is why we still prefer reel mowers to all other types of mowers, and electric reel mowers which can have an electric kick for those days when the lawn is longer or your time is shorter.

Fact: According to the EPA, one gas mower spews 88 lbs. of the greenhouse gas CO2, and 34 lbs. of other pollutants into the air every year.

Fact: Over 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year refueling lawn and garden equipment – more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.


 

Ozone Alert Days

Since this equipment is used mostly during the hot summer months, when ground level ozone is the highest, it causes problems for asthmatics and aggravates other respiratory conditions. When weather forecasts indicate ground-level ozone (the main component of smog) could reach an unhealthy level, environmental agencies will call an Ozone Action Day. Standard ozone alert day advice is to delay or curtail all gas mowing.

Using a push mower instead of a power mower helps to reduce CO2 by over 80 lbs. a year according to the EPA.

 

From the easy to the ambitious, there are numerous actions you can take to reduce your energy consumption and fight global warming. By taking any of the following actions, you are helping to clean up our atmosphere.

 

EPA statistics for Replacing Gas Power Lawn Mowers

Statistics for Gas Power Lawn Mowers

Well over 5 million gas powered mowers are still sold in the U.S. every year. A typical gas mower, for instance, can emit the same amount of VOCs and NOx -- key precursors to smog -- in an hour as a typical car driven 45 miles, according to the EPA.

FACT: Americans burn 800 million gallons of gas each year trimming their grassy yards, according to the EPA

FACT: One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists


FACT: Americans burn 800 million gallons of gas each year trimming their grassy yards, according to the EPA

FACT: One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists

 


The replacement of every 500 gas mowers with non-motorized mowers would spare the air

  • 212 pounds of hydrocarbons
    (smog ingredient)
  • 1.7 pounds of nitrogen oxides
    (smog ingredient)
  • 5.6 pounds of irritating particles 1,724 pounds of carbon dioxide

 


 

The Six Common Air Pollutants:
Pollutant
Its Sources
Health Effects
Carbon Monoxide Combustion processes, such as in gas mowers, cars & industry. Any burning of organic material. Replaces oxygen in the bloodstream; aggravates heart disease; impairs alertness.
Lead Smelters, battery plants & refineries; the exhaust of equipment that use leaded gasoline; lead-based paint or pottery. Increased risk of harm to central nervous system, especially in children.
Nitrogen Oxide Combustion processes, such as in gas mowers, cars & power plants. Impairs breathing, increases lung infections & worsens existing lung disease.
Ozone Formed when heat & sunlight mix with pollutants from industry, gas powered equipment & household products. Irritates eyes, nose & throat; increases asthma attacks & impairs athletic performance.
Particulate matter Dust, pollen, soot & other small particles suspended in the air. Irritates lungs' pathways which can increase respiratory infection & asthma attacks & worsen disease.
Sulfur Dioxide Oil- and coal-burning power plants; some industrial processes. Increases respiratory infections & asthma attacks; worsens chronic lung disease.

  

 Ozone Primer

 
What is Ozone? Where does it come from? 

Ozone is a toxic gas which is formed by a reaction between air pollutants and sunlight. 

While the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere protects you from the sun's most damaging rays, ozone near the ground is a health hazard. Ground-level ozone affects the respiratory system and can be especially harmful to the very young, the very old, and people with chronic lung disease. 

Although we have some control over pollutants, we have no control over the heat and sunlight that turn pollutants into ozone. Ozone is most likely to exceed safety limits from April through October (ozone season), when seasonal heat and sunlight are highest. 

In metropolitan areas, consumers are responsible for a significant percentage of the air pollutants that lead to smog. These pollutants come from our cars, lawn mowers, boats and the oil-based paints and cleaning products we use at home. 

 
Near the ground, Ozone is formed in a three-step process. 

  1. Gasoline, paints and solvents evaporate, releasing reactive organic compounds. 
  2. Gas powered equipment and factories burn fossil fuels, releasing nitrogen oxide gases and reactive organic compounds. 
  3. Heat and sunlight trigger a chemical reaction between these emissions, transforming them into ozone.

A More Detailed Tutorial on Ozone>>

Related Resources
> Community development Clean Air Action programs (like clean mower rebates): Federal assistance, opportunities, financing opportunities and strategies, and how to prepare grant proposals.
EPA's Site >
  DOE Site>
> Clean Cities Coalitions, funding for programs. more>>
> New to community grant writing:
EPA> Foundation Center>
> Electricity generation is also major source of air emissions. more>>
> EPA Global Warming Watch. more>>
> PPM has a reference section with articles and references. more>>