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Healthy Stuff.org (and your mom) says don’t drink from the garden hose

May 3rd, 2012

From Green Right Now Reports

We all watch for snakes in the garden. You don’t want to be caught unaware.

Garden hoses made of PVC may contain unsafe chemicals or lead.

When it comes to chemical pollution, it turns out that the snake in the grass could be your garden hose. Like most real snakes, it’s not mortally dangerous. But you need to know more about it, especially if you’re using your hose as a drinking spigot or to water an edible garden.

Healthy Stuff.org, known for testing common kids’ toys for lead, cadmium and other pollution, recently tested 179 garden products, including two types of garden hoses and four types of garden work gloves, for chemical contaminants and toxic metals.

The study found that 33 percent of the hoses contained lead that exceeded the safe upper limit of 2,500 parts per million (set for residential water fixtures). The lead contamination came either from the rubbery hose material or the brass end fittings. All of the products sampled contained phthalates, plasticizers that have been banned in many children’s products.

Phthalate plasticizers make products pliable, but act as endocrine disrupters in the human body. Studies have shown they can interfere with the reproductive development of young boys and fetal neurological development.

If your thinking, ‘not this, not another household product with a problem’….we’re right there with you. It seems like your garden hose should be safe. But the problem is in the plastic, and emerging research is finding problems with plastic components and additives, like phthalates and BPA.

Water Right, an American-made lead-free hose made of safe polyurethane.

Fortunately, there are some ways to minimize phthalate leaching into hose water. Start by not allowing your hose to lay around in the sun, because heat accelerates the leaching.

Here, from Healthy Stuff.org,  is how you can step around the problems posed garden hoses:

  • Read the label and avoid hoses with California Prop 65 warnings that say “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.”
  • Never drink or fill swimming pools with water from a hose that isn’t clearly labeled “Lead Free” or “Drinking Water Safe.”
  • Let it run: Always let your hose run for a few seconds before using, since the water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the highest levels of chemicals.
  • Avoid the sun: Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals from the PVC into the water.
  • Don’t drink water from a hose unless you know for sure that your hose is drinking-water safe. Even if it is labeled safe for drinking, flush it out first before sipping. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after handling a hose since lead can transfer to your hands and then from your hands to your mouth when eating. Even low levels of lead may cause health problems.
  • Buy a lead-free hose: One easy way to cut down on the amount of lead in your immediate environment is to get a lead-free garden hose. Not only will it drastically reduce the amount of lead being deposited in your yard, it will also virtually eliminate direct exposure when watering by hand or tending to the garden. A lead-free garden hose is also safe for children to get a much-needed drink or play in the sprinklers, and pets will also be spared of potential lead poisoning from water bowls filled from the hose. These hoses are often white with a thin blue stripe, and are commonly sold in marine and recreational vehicle (RV) stores. An RV lead-free garden hose can also come in a beige color with blue stripe, to match the beige paint of many RVs. Although sold for RV and marine use, these hoses serve as great lead-free garden hoses.
  • Test your soil: This is scary, because lead abatement can be difficult, but you probably should check the levels of metals like lead in your soil.
  • Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) hoses: PVC needs potentially hazardous additives and stabilizers’ to make it “rubbery”. (Tests found phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) in water that had been left standing in a PVC hose.
  • Look for a top-quality, food grade polyurethane hose that meets Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards or an old fashion natural rubber hose. Search on-line “polyurethane garden hose” or “rubber garden hose” for options.
  • Watch the brass: The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) limits lead in brass in residential water fixtures to no more than 2,500 ppm. But garden hoses are not regulated by the SDWA and our tests show 29% of brass connectors contained greater than 2,500 ppm lead. Opt for a hose that is drinking water safe and lead free. Non-brass fittings (nickel, aluminum or stainless) are more likely to lead-free.

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