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Could Your Garden Hose Be Toxic? Tips to Identify a Non-Toxic Garden Hose to Keep Your Family Safe!

Posted in Our Blog,Water on May 25, 2024

Are you using a non-toxic garden hose at your home?

Garden hoses are a convenient way to move water from the source to where you want it. Whether that is a sprinkler to keep your yard looking green, irrigation for your garden, or recreational activities such as misters or pools or water toys.

Believe it or not, many garden hoses are made with harmful toxins that can contaminate that water. Particularly if they are left out in the sun.

An Ecology Center study tested commonly used garden hoses and identified the worst offenders along with some good choices for choosing your next garden hose.

What Makes a Garden Hose Potentially Toxic?

So, what exactly makes a garden hose toxic?

The materials used to make a garden hose can make a garden hose potentially toxic. This could include the metal couplings used for connections or the hose itself.

These materials may make the hose more durable, flexible, or less expensive to manufacture. However, they could be leaching harmful chemicals into your soil, water supply, or onto your family.

Common Toxic Chemical Used to Make Garden Hoses

Several toxic chemicals can be found in garden hoses. A few common toxic chemicals found in these hoses include lead, rubber, and PVC.

Dangers of Lead in Garden Hoses

This one is a no-brainer. Lead is a toxic heavy metal widely known to cause serious health problems. Children and women are particularly at risk. However, no one should be consuming lead contaminated products. Regardless of age, gender, or medical status.

In addition to lead leaching our of the hose and into the water to contaminate the ground water, drinking it or eating foods from a garden irrigated with it could expose you to the harmful chemical.

Metal couplings can disguise the lead it contains. For example, a brass coupling may contain lead.

Dangers of Rubber in Garden Hoses

Rubber hoses can be manufactured in a variety of ways. They could be made of natural rubber. Or synthetic rubber.

Most “rubber” hoses are made from synthetic rubber.

While these heavy-duty hoses are great for industrial use, they often have high levels of lead.

Dangers of PVC in Garden Hoses

PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly known as vinyl hoses are the most commonly used outdoor home-used garden hoses. They are generally the most accessible, least expensive, and commonly used.

However, PVC can be very toxic. The Ecology Center study found that 75% of PVC hoses tested contained phthalates. Lead an heavy metals were also found in 22% of them.

Plasticizers are used to make PVC.

Why is this a bad thing? Phthalates are often the plasticizer of choice. These phthalates make their way into the water because they don’t chemically combine with the PVC. They constantly leach out of the hose and onto whatever is being sprayed.

Phthalates have been linked to increased risk of cancer, fetal development issues, as well as harm to human and animal reproductive systems.

While manufacturers are attempting to phase out phthalates and use other plasticizers, such as DOTP, studies have found that these may still have an effect on hormone receptors.

Garden Hoses Made from Recycled Materials May Be the Worst Offenders

Recycling is an important part of helping to reduce waste and take care of our planet. Many manufacturers, including garden hose makers, attempt to incorporate recycled materials into their process.

Some PVC hose manufacturers use recycled electronic waste in their garden hose production.

Unfortunately, these recycled materials can lead to contamination. The Ecology Center study identified harmful contaminants such as antimony, bromine, cadmium, lead, and tin in many of those hoses. These toxic chemicals could be traced back to the electronic waste additives used in recycled materials.

Identifying a Non-Toxic Garden Hose

Identifying a non-toxic garden hose is an important part of shopping for a new hose. Of course, it must meet your needs and work with your home.

Perhaps you need a certain length hose to reach from your water source to the intended area. Maybe flexibility is important to you. Or perhaps you need something that is lighter weight.

Look for garden hoses with labels indicating safety certifications.

Certifications may include:

  • NSF/ANSI 61 Certified Drinking Water Safe Components – Health Effects (includes lead and phthalates)
  • NSF/ANSI 372 Certified Drinking Water Safe Components – Lead Content
  • Meets the Lead-Free amounts for the Safe Drinking Water Act

Lead-free Label

Following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforced Safe Drinking Water Act enacted in September 2020, for a label containing the phrase “lead-free” to be allowable, it must meet certain criteria.

Consider this criterion when looking for a non-toxic garden hose for your home.

This criterion creates a more consistent term that the consumer can understand.

In this case, a “lead-free” label means it contains no more than a “weighted average of 0.25% lead” when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes (including hoses).

BPA-free/Phthalate-free Label

While the BPA-free/Phthalate-free label indicates those offenders are not used in making the product, it does not mean that the alternate plasticizer is completely safe. It may, however, indicate that it uses a plasticizer that is considered “safter” than BPA and phthalates.

Consider this criterion when looking for a non-toxic garden hose for your home.

Drinking Water Safe Label

A “Drinking Water Safe” label is generally considered safe. Especially when paired with accreditations. The Ecology Center study found these tables to be generally safer.

“Overall, hoses labeled ‘drinking water safe’ had significantly fewer chemicals of concern and in much lower amounts, particularly lead, antimony, and bromine. However, phthalates were in some of the drinking water-safe hoses.”

Consider this criterion when looking for a non-toxic garden hose for your home.

Absence of Proposition 65 Warning

In this case, not having the label is your best bet. Products without the Proposition 65 warning meets the strictest criteria.

This warning is required to warn Californians of significant exposure risk to chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Hoses with these labels likely contain lead or phthalates.

This is a good label if selecting products distributed nation-wide. If a product is only locally made and distributed outside of California, the absence of the warning label may not be a good indicator.

Worst Offenders Based on the Ecology Center Study

The following products were the worst offenders according to the Ecology Center study.

  • The Home Depot retailed HDX 15ft Utility Hose containing phthalate plasticizers and 6.8% (68,000 parts per million) lead
  • Walmart retailed Swan Hose Reel Leader 5/8 in x 6 ft Hose containing phthalate plasticizers and 0.52% (5,200 parts per million) lead
  • Lowes retailed Apex NeverKink 5/8 in x 50 ft containing a mixture of chemical hazards commonly associated with e-waste: phthalate plasticizers, lead (366 ppm), antimony (1,779 ppm) and bromine (1,592 ppm)

Consider These Better Rated Garden Hoses Instead

The Ecology Center study highlighted some of the better hose products to look for when shopping for a non-toxic garden hose for your home. All of these top rated hoses were made with polyurethane.

While polyurethane hoses may have a higher price tag, they are considered a safer choice.

  • Big Boss AquaStream Ultra Light
  • Pocket Hose Dura-Rib II
  • Room Essentials Coil Hose with Multi Pattern Nozzle
  • Water Right Professional Coil Garden Hose

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like “Could Your Garden Hose Be Toxic? Tips to Identify a Non-Toxic Garden Hose to Keep Your Family Safe!”, check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)