The video above was shot by letter writer Austin Young.

My current life in Montclair is uniquely wonderful and surreal. I am a parent — a parent beckoned back to my hometown who swam against the current to raise my two kids here.

I have many nostalgias, but one crisply slices through them all: autumn in Montclair. It’s something I would never experience in Berkeley, California where the amount of seasonal change is illustrated by Mark Twain’s quotation “The coldest winter I’ve ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco.” There’s something irreplaceable about wandering around with my kids as we crunch through leaves, seeing, smelling, and feeling the muted vibrancy everywhere. Having to worry that they will be poisoned in the process does put a damper on things. It’s something I would never worry about in Berkeley. The law protected my children there.

There is mounting evidence that a commonly present outdoor hazard might permanently harm children: leaf blowers. Specifically, their intense carbon monoxide emissions.

The latest research — including the 2015 paper “Carbon monoxide pollution and neurodevelopment: A public health concern” by Richard J. Levy, professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University Medical Center — suggests that the developing brain is extraordinarily vulnerable to carbon monoxide exposure, at levels and durations vastly lower than once thought. In multiple studies by Levy and others, animal models show developmental toxicity from single short-term exposures at 5 parts per million. Child and animal studies have shown long-term cognitive impairments associated with single, short exposures to neurotoxicants, which disrupt the same brain processes disrupted by low-level carbon monoxide exposure. One study, “Carbon monoxide and anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity” (also by Levy) explored possible neurologic disruptions from just an average of 4 ppm. The unfortunate history of lead exposure in children comes to mind.

What level can you expect to find on the sidewalk, across the street from leaf blowing? I know because I’ve measured it with a precision sensor: 39 ppm — exceeding National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and World Health Organization exposure limits for adults, all of which are not informed by recent research. This was close to a preschool in the First Ward. Leaf blowing is not just a noise issue, it’s not just an environmental issue. Evidence suggests it poses a risk to the brains of children.

It’s hard to accept that this threat exists while there are feasible electric options available.

Restricting usage to certain dates does not protect children. School zones have already been codified into municipal law. If we’re not willing to ban gas-powered leaf blowers outright, should we at least do so in those zones?

Anyone who’d like to contact me to speak about this can email

Austin Young
Montclair Local

Editor’s notes: The carbon monoxide exposure guidelines from health organizations referenced above additionally factor in the length of time of an exposure.

Montclair Local’s Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.

Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email, or mail “Letters to the Editor,” PO Box 752, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer’s name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.

Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by the Sunday prior to publication to be eligible for use in any Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.

Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our “Town Square” banner. “Town Square” essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to at least seven days prior to publication.