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Lawn mower exchange effort a success in protecting health and improving the environment.

Editor's Note: This feature in the Journal is intended to provide readers with interesting and novel stories of environmental health being practiced across the country and to offer an avenue for story sharing and community building. Do you have a story to share? Please send your story ideas to jeh@neha.org.

A lawn mower exchange program by Columbus Public Health's (CPH) Division of Environmental Health demonstrates that improved air quality can protect health and make economic sense. The initiative, coordinated by the division's Office of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, is a partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement. It offers city residents the opportunity to purchase a nonpolluting, battery-powered electric mower at a discount in exchange for their working gas mower. Part of the discount is a subsidy provided by CPH to Lowe's to offset the cost of the electric mowers. A local recycler scraps the exchanged gas mowers free of charge.

Gas powered lawn equipment is a significant contributor to outdoor air pollution, according to Richard Hicks, director of the Office of Environmental Protection and Sustainability. Outdoor air pollution is a health concern as exposure has been linked to a variety of serious health conditions, including asthma. The asthma prevalence rate for adults in Franklin County, which includes Columbus, is 13.9%. "The mower exchange is an effort to give our residents an easy and meaningful way to improve air quality and health," stated Hicks.

The exchange in April 2016 offered 45, 40-volt mowers to participants. Hicks said customers began lining up outside the store over 2 hours before the event began. The demand forced Lowe's to pull additional mowers from stock. In the end, 70 mowers were sold and store stock was exhausted.

Prior to the event, Hicks approached a colleague at The Ohio State University's John Glenn College of Public Affairs for information on the economic and health benefits that could be attributed to a mower exchange program. The request became a graduation project for one of the school's graduate students. Project findings included:

* gasoline-powered lawn equipment accounts for as much as 12% of U.S. carbon emissions;

* use of an inefficient gas mower for 1 hour can produce pollution that is equivalent to driving 200 miles in a car;

* use of a battery-powered mower for 5 years produces 507 g less pollution when compared with the use of an inefficient gas mower; and

* over the battery's projected 5-year life, this reduction results in a healthcare savings of $4.70 for each dollar of subsidy provided. For CPH, these findings mean that providing Lowe's with a

$4,500 subsidy resulted in a corresponding healthcare savings of $21,150. "These findings suggest that a decision by local health departments to help subsidize the switch to cleaner forms of energy can have very real health, environmental, and economic benefits," Hicks said.

The event's success has CPH and Lowe's thinking about growing the program next year. Lowe's has offered to expand the effort in 2018 beyond its single store pilot to include four new locations throughout Columbus.

Source: Columbus Public Health, Division of Environmental Health, https://www.columbus.gov/publichealth/programs/Environmental-Health.

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Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2017
Words:521
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