Is Your Garden Hose Toxic?

Lead, BPA, you name it. Some of the most harmful chemicals still on the market are in your garden hose.

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As a gardener, I’m always sipping water from the hose — especially during these brutally hot days when I have no choice but to get out and weed. You can imagine how dismayed I was to come upon research released by the Ecology Center, which tested water coming from standard garden hoses and found that it can contain lead, endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins, especially in older hoses.

Hose fittings contain brass, an alloy that can contain up to 8% lead. One in three hoses tested had levels of lead that exceeded drinking water standards — one as high as 18 times the level. It turns out that hoses aren’t covered by the same lead laws that govern plumbing fixtures — even though those hoses are watering our food. Lead is also used as a stabilizer or pigment in the tube, especially in yellow and green hoses, which are practically ubiquitous. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that  especially affects children. Newer hoses, purchased since 2007, when a lawsuit led by California required labeling on hoses, might be lead-free, although Consumer Reports testing in 2011 still found lead in new hoses.

(MORE: The Ever-Increasing Hazards of the Household)

But no one has regulated BPA, an endocrine disruptor, out of garden hoses, although the FDA did recently ban it from sippy cups and baby bottles. The level of BPA in water from hoses can be up to 20 times higher than what the National Science Foundation considers safe. Then there are the endocrine disruptors. PVC (nicknamed “poison plastic”) hoses — most vinyl hoses — contain phthalates, used as plasticizers, which leach into hose water. Pthalates are endocrine disrupters, and some studies link them to liver cancer. Even some hoses made from recycled materials contained flame retardants and heavy metals, cadmium and antimony, leading the researchers to wonder if manufacturers had recycled flame retardant-treated plastics.

The Ecology Center offers a list of safe garden hoses, as well as a few tips: replace vinyl hoses with natural rubber hoses. Let the water run a few moments before watering plants (because you have to consider what kinds of toxics you are putting on your edibles, as well.) Store your hose in the shade.

(MORE: We Can’t Buy Our Way Out of Environmental Problems)

But here’s the deeper problem: I can’t tell, looking at a hose, whether or not it is safe. Only a large scale overhaul of the regulations that govern what chemicals get into our stuff, such as the Safe Chemicals Act, can begin to protect us. Why should I have to worry about these things? Isn’t the heat wave and the drought enough cause for concern these days?

(MORE: The Resource Shortage Is Real)

47 comments
Areed
Areed

I should make sure that my hose fittings are safe to use. I'll just have to get a new one if it's not. We're not drinking the hose water though, so it's not a huge deal. I'm sure it's not good for water the flowers though. Thanks for all the information about garden hoses. http://www.hosemania.com.au 

Ruth Raynor
Ruth Raynor

Use a watering can? Or are they all made out of recycled guillotine metal hammered out by slave children chain smoking as they go?

moesatriani
moesatriani

I have not thought about the chemicals in my hoses before.  I have a few different brands and lengths.  When I get home, I will have to check this out.  I totally think that there is a lot of lead, but I don't know how that affects my grass.  I never drink from the hose, and I tell my children not too, but this is a good thing to check.

f_galton
f_galton

Speaking of toxic hoses, what happened to Fareed Zakaria?

rhallnj
rhallnj

I bought a new, 100 ft.  garden hose, and the water I put into the dogs' water bowl has the sort of smell you get from food that has spent too many years in the freezer in a plastic bag.

It is really foul, and I don't want my dogs to drink it.

leefromok
leefromok

 

BPA (Bisphenol A) is a xeno estrogen (one of many). That means that it feminizes males and increases hormonal cancers (that’s breast, ovarian, cervical, testicular,  prostrate and so on).

BPA is in almost everything nowadays from linings in caned foods and the plastic containers that you heat stuff up in.

For those of you that think it’s just a little thing, understand that little things add up.

Think how many people living in cities water their lawn.

This water as well as water from homes makes its way to streams, rivers, and lakes --where you reuse it over and over.

Sewage water from homes contains birth control pills as well as other pharmaceuticals that’s passed on down the river.

Water treatment facilities don’t take this stuff out!

Fish and frogs are changing genders because of this.

Who knows what its doing to insects?

Girls are going through puberty at younger ages and it’s the opposite effect on boys.

Male fertility is half what it was 10 years ago. What do your children and grandchildren have to look forward to?

What problems will they inherit from us?

Amiee Yan
Amiee Yan

question is, if the water has toxins, does that mean the vegetable gardens you grow get a dose of it as well?

Talendria
Talendria

While I agree with the other posters who pointed out that you shouldn't drink out of a garden hose (yuck), they seem to have missed the point that you're unwittingly saturating your homegrown produce in lead and BPA.  We already know that lead in the soil contaminates crops, and I imagine the same is true for BPA and other chemicals.

You're correct that it's silly to approach this problem from the retail side, which places undue burden on consumers to seek out products that aren't harmful.  Instead, the government should simply ban toxic products altogether.  Europe is years ahead of the United States on this issue.  They required safe dry cleaning chemicals, safe sunscreen, safe water bottles, and many other consumer protections long before these products were available in the United States.  They've already removed lead from PVC in potable water pipes, and they're in the process of phasing lead out of PVC altogether.If you stop to consider the proliferation of chemicals in consumer products, it's really terrifying how our exposure has increased over the years.  If you own drapes, carpet, or upholstered furniture, everything in your house is outgassing volatile organic compounds.  If you don't buy organic food in BPA-free containers, you're eating a side of neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors with every meal.  If you buy clothing made in Asia, you may be rubbing endocrine disruptors on your skin all day.  Shower gel, cosmetics, sunscreen, toothpaste, dental floss, hair care products...  each of these products can contain a wide array of harmful chemicals.

As a parent, I find it exhausting to read all those labels and research which compounds are potentially harmful and in what concentrations.

Blaggity
Blaggity

Oh shit, people have been using these types of hoses for their homemade bongs for years now. To think they could have been inhaling lead during these innocent Sunday seshes, it's simply appalling. Step it up, hose manufacturers.

MinnDave
MinnDave

Putting the hose construction contamination issue slightly aside, we found out when we brought a water sample from a hose from our country home to be tested, that bacteria was found.  We hurriedly brought a second sample from the inside faucet which checked OK.  It turns out that the bacteria came out of the hose, but of course not the hose itself, but where the end of the hose had been. 

ORChuck
ORChuck

"It turns out that hoses aren’t covered by the same lead laws that govern plumbing fixtures..."

There's a reason for that: you're not supposed to drink from them.  You wouldn't drink immediately from a cup that had been laying on the ground for days, so why drink from a garden house that has probably been equally dragged through dirt?  Lead is the least of your concerns if you do.

But, lead isn't really a concern for even gardeners who do occasionally imbibe from the hose because we are talking about the occasional gulp here and there, a few ounces.  It's just not a significant source of lead.

So, relax and don't worry about your garden hose.

MinnDave
MinnDave

Putting the lead aside, we found out when we brought a water sample from our country home from a hose, that bacteria was found.  We hurriedly brought a second sample from inside the house, and realized that the hose was the source of the bacteria.  Of course, it's not the hose itself, but where the end of the hose had been.  Maybe we'd prefer not to taste everything that the end of the hose has touched in our yards.

Heather Robertson
Heather Robertson

This helps me rationalize the amount of money I just spent on a hose from Terrain because I liked the eggplant color (apparently it's also free of toxic chemicals and safe to drink from).

Sean Fitzpatrick
Sean Fitzpatrick

Why is this news?  There is a simple solution to this problem dont drink water out of your garden hose take a walk inside to get a glass.  The news media in this country should be ashamed of the stuff they peddle as news.  They are just as much a part of the problems in this country as politicians. 

Mandoman2012
Mandoman2012

DUUUUH! Can you say "read the label"??  A "don't drink water from this hose" warning has been on hoses for at least 25 years.  Why print the warning when even "journalists" can't read/??

Mandoman2012
Mandoman2012

DUUUUH! Can you say "read the label" ??  Hoses have had a warning not to drink from them for at least the last 25 years.  Why do we bother to print warnings when people simple can't or won't read???

Malserin
Malserin

Also don't drink out of the toilet.  Both toilets and garden hoses aren't intended for drinking water. The U.S. has the cleanest drinking water in the world so, how about drink out of the sink instead??

bairkus
bairkus

If this agenda catches your fancy, check out the FAQ page for the dangers of the very poorly regulated chemical Dihydrogen Monoxide.  Millions of people die every year by its many lethal characteristics. things. 

http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html 

Tea Tree
Tea Tree

Too many fucking chemicals in everything these days

Owl96
Owl96

My flowers are not dying and I water them from the hose.  It must be safe for me then.  

Tea Tree
Tea Tree

 So I should stop filling dogs water bowl with the hose  I guess huh

bairkus
bairkus

Time to write some more regulations...    ..sigh.   ..what a world...

I suppose it is helpful to consider such things, but at some point law and regulation become more toxic than the toxins. 

By the way, 'Drinking Water Hoses' are already on the market, made of 'FDA approved materials'. 

Footlocker Photos
Footlocker Photos

I guess it wasn't good as a kid to sip water out of a garden house....and here I was telling all these kids were being babies...:)

alteredego
alteredego

Everything in moderation...even your poisons. If you drink out of a garden hose everyday, then yes, you might have a problem.

OutWest01503
OutWest01503

The Canada Geese, that we're not allowed to look at the wrong way, keeping pooping in the water supply resevoir!

OutWest01503
OutWest01503

BTW, I stopped reading the notices that come with just about everything nowadays.  Privacy policy from back -> into the trash.  California lead notices that come with Christmas lights -> trash.  The annoying stickers on the new garden tool -> trash.  The annoying tags they wrap on the end of the power cord of a cordless phone -> trash.   What we have now is called consumer overload.

OutWest01503
OutWest01503

OK, let's start regulating garden hoses too now.  Heck, why bother.  Let's write a law that regulates the toxin content of everything unless something is specifically excluded.  That would save us a lot of time.  

Along_The_Way
Along_The_Way

Amazing that some of us made it unto our 40's, 50's, 60's....*gasp* and pushin' into the 100's! I mean....soooo many of us lived without cell phones, beepers, rode our bikes, walked EVERYWHERE and had REAL recess and PE classes, drank from garden hoses, played in river, creeks, lakes and oceans, retained knowledge from books at the library and school (another gasp) because googling the answer wasn't the answer.  LOL Get over it.  The kids will be fine. Let them be kids. Let them play on play grounds (YES! They'll even get bumps, bruises AND skinned knees) and let them drink out of the water fountain.  Two ...basic... kid things -- just for starters.  Pampering these kids waaay too much. No reillisance .

John Davison
John Davison

The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!  Good grief.

Matt Charron
Matt Charron

I'm sure the air we breath in large cities are more contaminated than the hoses that refresh us as well as our food.

ju1cedd
ju1cedd

Is this water that was sitting in the hose, or water that has been running for minutes? I have a hard time believing that a hose which is running fresh water is picking up anything from the hose on the way out.

Jacob Blues
Jacob Blues

So are there any ecologically or more bluntly - non-toxic hoses out there on the market?

ORChuck
ORChuck

This is exactly why I say that lead is the least of your concerns when drinking from the garden hose.

When was the last time you ran your garden hose through the dishwasher? 

Your garden hose spends most -- if not all -- of its time outside.  It's often on the ground, dragged through dirt, left for days with standing water inside of it.  Concerns about lead are the least reason why you shouldn't drink from it.

ORChuck
ORChuck

Even after it goes through fifty feet of garden hose, it's still some of the cleanest and safest drinking water in the world.

ORChuck
ORChuck

The operative word being "might."  Probably not.  Even avid gardeners are likely to get only a small fraction of their hydration from the garden house.

ORChuck
ORChuck

Ah... the EU is basically perusing that course already.  But, then again, maybe they aren't the best overall model of how to run a country.

kariharper
kariharper

You survived but why do you want to drink endocrine disruptors... You guys also smoked amp; tanned and thought those were harmless too.

4seasonslove
4seasonslove

As a mom, I would do anything to protect my child and believe its very important to be able to make informed decisions. 100 years ago products weren't made of the cheapest material/chemicals in China, they were made in the USA of quality materials. I can handle a bump and bruise, but I can't handle permanent damage/cancer due to chemicals that I could have prevented his exposure to. At 18 months, what seems like a small amount of chemical to an adult can have a real impact.  We water our produce garden with a garden hose. My concern lies with the potential for these chemicals to be in our food.

ORChuck
ORChuck

What's really amazing is that any of use  who are currently adults made it to adulthood before hand sanitizer was invented.  How could that be?

Jacques LaCombe
Jacques LaCombe

People today are enjoying longer lives and better health (when they're eating right), as well as a lower risk of death from terminal illness. While it is possible to live the "old-fashioned" way, it is medically provable and demonstrated that you will live a longer, healthier life if you do so in an informed and health-cautious way.

Nancy Arriaga
Nancy Arriaga

2..3..4 thumbs way up!! I let my boys (ages 10 and 12 now) take sips out of the hose when I am watering my flowers and veggies every evening ..told em I did it when I was little and I'm still alive lol

HawkJ
HawkJ

Personally, I think the author of this article got "hosed" when they passed out the common sense.

HawkJ
HawkJ

I suppose there could be real cause for concern ... if a substantial percentage of your daily water intake came from a garden hose.  But I suspect you'd have a hard time finding anyone who ingests more than 1/2% of their average daily water intake from a garden hose.

What a load of baloney!

leefromok
leefromok

You can go the RV section in department stores and get potable water hoses that are supposed to be less toxic. They do taste better.

If you taste water from a hose and it tastes like plastic, it’s because there is plastic there.

 

Richard Manning
Richard Manning

I would have to agree that they are carring things to far, I will say though that a new hose I got from Wally world, everytime I turn the faucet on has a hot plastic "stink" for a few minutes. Must becoming from somewhere?