I was really surprised when I recently found out that many garden hoses may pose serious health hazards to us and our pets.
Reporters from ABC news tested 10 garden hoses from several different stores, and found that half of them tested positive for lead in amounts higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency allows for drinking water, some even had “extremely high levels”.
Here are some excerpts from the article that I found interesting:
“… on the packaging of the garden hose was a tiny warning that said, “Do not drink out of this product,” and, “This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and/or reproductive harm.”
It turns out some garden hoses may contain dangerous levels of lead.”
“Lead is a potent neurotoxin. There is no amount of lead that’s safe for a child,” Pizarro said. “They create a public health risk to children. They put children at risk for brain damage, developmental disabilities and a host of other very serious problems.”
Now, they aren’t saying that every garden hose is dangerous, but many of them are. Hoses made of PVC are the major carriers of lead. If you have small children or pets, you really should check out your hose.
If it still has a tag on it (of course mine is long gone) it might say in very small letters “do not drink”. Though, some hoses are not labeled at all. If your hose has brass fittings on it, those too can leach lead.
Lead isn’t the only heavy metal found to be delivered by many garden hoses. In fact, some have measurable levels of cadmium, lead, mercury, tin, antimony, bromine, and even arsenic. Lots have chlorine, BPA, and phthalates in them, too.
These chemicals don’t just sound bad – they are bad. They’ve been linked to birth defects, cancer, obesity, liver toxicity, premature births, and much, much more.
I never would have considered that my hose could be dangerous to my family. I water my garden with it. I fill the animal’s water bowls with it. I use it to fill the kid’s swimming pool.
But now that I know that it could be a very toxic thing I am going to look further into the brand of my hoses and their quality.
If I find that any are in fact made with PVC, I will be replacing them at once. I’m not messing around with the health of my children!
Plus, when you garden, isn’t your goal to be able to grow chemical-free, healthy produce? If you’re watering with a toxic gardening hose, you’re wasting all the hard work you’ve put into cultivating an organic garden.
How to Find a Safe Garden Hose
I did a search on safe garden hoses, and there are several you can choose from. Some can be quite pricey though.
The best one that I could find (meaning the least expensive but still good quality) was the Apex Healthy Habitat Family Safe Garden Hose, it’s 75 ft. long (22.9 meters).
Drinking Water Safe
Look for a garden hose that is listed as being “drinking water safe.” This will have that label somewhere clearly listed on the hose packaging.
You may also need to look for a hose that is labeled with other monikers, like “phthalate-free,” “BPA-free” or “lead-free.”
Most garden hoses are made out of PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. This is a toxic plastic that tends to contain BPA, phthalates, and organotins.
All of these can interfere with reproductive and hormonal health. Instead, look for a garden hose made out of rubber.
A hose made out of natural rubber does not contain phthalates, UV stabilizers, or BPA, all of which are used to keep a hose flexible. Not all rubber hoses are listed as drinking water safe, though, so you’ll still want to watch for this label.
A word of caution, though – not all rubber is made alike. Avoid synthetic rubber, which can have just as many contaminants as PVC.
Polyurethane is generally safe, although even some polyurethane hoses can contain some lead or chlorine in their fittings. PVC hoses tend to be the worst offenders, with 75% of them containing toxic ingredients.
You might find garden hoses made out of steel and wonder if these are safe to drink from. The answer to that question is…maybe. Some stainless-steel garden hoses are lined with toxic chemicals, but not all are. Just do your research.
Read all labels carefully! Many hoses contain a small print that will tell you if the hoses contain any harmful ingredients.
Store Your Hose Properly
Even the best and safest hose won’t protect you and your family if you don’t store it properly. Make sure you stash your hose in a cool, dark place.
Both sunlight and intense heat can break your hose down over time, making it more likely to leach chemicals into the water. Keep the hose out of the sun and heat to extend its life and functionality.
Store your hose in a shaded area, when in doubt.
And when it’s time to use your hose, let it run for a while. This can flush out most of the metals and chemicals that have leached into the water while you weren’t using your hose. Let it run for at least ten seconds and let it run until it cools off in the summer time.
This will not only serve as a good indicator of when the hose is ready to be used, but it will also prevent you from harming your plants with hot water.
Furthermore, when you turn your hose on, point your hose away from your face. Even if your garden hose is not made out of toxic ingredients, there is a good chance that you could be inhaling legionella bacteria.
These bacteria flourish inside most hoses and are washed away once you turn the hose on and let it run for a moment.
Opt for Non-Brass Fittings
Non-brass fittings, such as those made out of aluminum, nickel, and stainless steel, are much more likely to be free from lead. They will also be more likely to meet drinking water standards.
Consider Testing Your Hose Water
If you’re still skeptical, test your hose water. You can buy a simple drinking water test that will tell you if and what your hose is leaching. Ideally, you should test your hose after it’s been sitting in the sun for at least three days.
If you’re worried about the effects that the hose water can have on your plants and soil, you may want to give your soil a test, too. This will give you a good idea if any harmful toxins are building up in your garden soil.
Skimp on Size in Favor of Safety
Do you really need a 100-foot hose? Longer isn’t always better, especially since it’s going to cost you more.
Instead of spending all that money on length, consider investing in a shorter hose made out of safer materials. It’s a great trade-off!
New is Best
Chances are, if your hose was purchased before 2007, it probably has lead in it. Most states didn’t outlaw the use of lead until at least this time so you’ll want to make sure you aren’t using an old, lead-free product.
You can often find lead-free hoses sold at places like RV or marine stores – they tend to specialize in these kinds of hoses in particular.
Can Garden Hoses Pollute Your Garden?
With all the tips I mentioned above, you’re likely the most concerned about drinking directly from a garden hose. However, it’s not just your kids or pets drinking out of your potentially toxic garden hose that you have to worry about.
You also need to worry about the chemicals making their way into plants. For the most part, scientists don’t think that the chemicals found in hose water can accrue in measurable levels in the soil or in plants – but they aren’t exactly sure.
Therefore, it’s best to choose a safer alternative when you’re looking for a garden hose. Why risk it?
I’d be interested to see what you find with your own garden hoses. Let me know if you find that yours is safe or not. I’m going to check mine out first thing tomorrow!
I did check my hoses, and neither had anything saying “drinking water safe”, so I ended up ordering the 75 ft. Apex hose I mentioned above.
The kids wanted to play in their little pool today, and I felt really bad using my hose to fill it. I kept warning the kids, “Do NOT drink the water, okay?!” It will be nice when I don’t have to worry about it anymore.
updated 05/14/2020 by Rebekah White
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.