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Have you ever wondered where that funny taste and/or smell comes from when you take a drink of water out of the garden hose? Most likely, it comes from toxins in the lining of the garden hose and its fittings.
Research released by Healthystuff.org studied 90 different types of garden hoses. They found levels of lead in excess of Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards for other products, and phthalate DEHP and lead levels in excess of the Federal safe water drinking standards.
The research also found a number of other concerning toxins leached out by garden hoses, including antimony, Bisphenol A, Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), Diisobuytle phtalate (DIBP) and Diisononyl phthalates (DINP). The BPA levels of hose water from the tests were twenty times higher than the .1 ppm BPA levels allowed by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) – a safe drinking water foundation and certification group.
The research found that a third of the hoses tested leached lead beyond the Safe Drinking Water Standard and the hose fixtures contained more than the 2,500 parts per million (ppm) standard for lead in residential brass water fixtures.
Lead toxicity has been linked with nervous system problems, fatigue, lower immune function, digestive issues, damage to the heart, liver and other tissues, dementia and other health problems. Bisphenol A and phthalates have been shown to be endocrine disruptors when they enter the body consistently or at toxic levels. DINP has been shown to produce negative effects in the liver, kidney and reproductive system.
More than half of the hoses were made from PVC plastic, which can contain a host of plasticizer additives. Some of the hoses also contained brominated flame retardants such as 2,3,4,5-tetrabromo-bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (TBPH). This can be highly toxic in large enough doses. A few of the hoses also leached cadmium, which can also cause toxicity in the liver and circulatory system. Many also contained antimony.
More than half the hoses tested also leached more than 100 ppm of lead. 17% of the hoses with plastic linings contained more than 100 ppm lead, and nearly a third of the hose fixtures maintained over 2,500 parts per million of lead. A typical light duty garden hose contained 928 ppm of lead and 238,685 ppm of chlorine in the hose and 157 ppm of lead in the plastic of the hose. Water from this hose contained .28 ppm of lead and 2.3 ppm of BPA among others.
Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center and Healthystuff.org commented on the results. "Even if you are an organic gardener, doing everything you can to avoid pesticides and fertilizers, you still may be introducing hazardous substances into your soil by using these products. The good news is that healthier choices are out there."
Better garden hoses
Luckily, there are better hoses available on the market. Look for hoses labeled as "lead free" and "drinking water safe." PVC-free hoses are also available. Natural rubber hoses or even polyurethane hoses are better than PVC hoses.
It is also best to let the hose run for a bit before handling the water or using on plants. And best not to drink from a hose, even if it is a polyurethane or rubber hose. You never know what the hose bib or attachment is made with, as these are not regulated. This is especially true if the hose has been sitting in the sun.
Learn more about safe drinking water.
"Study finds lead, cadmium, BPA and phthalates in gardening products." Ecology Center/HealthyStuff.org. May 3 2012.
Adams C. Pure Water: The Science of Water, Waves, Water Pollution, Water Treatment, Water Therapy and Water Ecology. Logical Books, 2010.