Health warning: Study finds lead and chemicals in garden hose water
Gardeners and sprinkler-lovers beware: A new study found dangerous levels of lead and other chemicals that had leached into water that had been sitting in new garden hoses for an extended period of time.
AnnArbor.com file photo
The Ecology Center, based in Ann Arbor, found levels of lead 18 times higher than the federal drinking water standard and BPA levels about 20 times higher than the standard imposed by the National Safety Foundation in water from a garden hose it tested.
“The two critical factors are time and temperature,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director for the center.
Gearhart noted that leaching can begin after water has remained stagnant in the hose for an hour.
Before watering vegetables, Gearhart recommended that people flush their garden hoses for several minutes.
Previous studies in 2003 and 2007 had shown there to be a potential for chemicals to leak into water from garden hoses. Gearhart said the intent of the study was to see if products still on the market had since improved.
“The vinyl products on the market still had a lot of chemical hazards present in the material,” he said.
Lead is a component of many garden hoses because it is used to stabilize the vinyl and prevent it from breaking down under sun exposure.
Garden hoses are not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act.
For the study, hoses were purchased in 2012 from Ann Arbor area retailers and were examined first for base material content.
Researchers chose a brand of hose they found to be the most representative of the majority of garden hoses and tested it by filling the hose with municipal drinking water and clamping the ends to prevent the water from contacting the brass fitting, Gearhart said.
The water-filled hose was then placed in a yard that received full sunlight for 72 hours. Samples taken from the water in the hose showed that chemicals had leached into the water.
The study tested 90 garden hoses, 53 brands of gloves, 13 kneeling pads and 23 different garden tools — and about 30 percent of the products contained levels of lead higher than levels set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission standard.
The majority — 70% — of the products tested contained enough chemicals to be considered a “high concern.”
The products that scored the worst in the study — indicating they contain high levels of hazardous chemicals — include many brands of garden hoses made by Swan, Tractor Supply Co., WaterWorks, NeverKink, Melnor, Meijer, Element, FLEXON, Craftsman, Companion, Aqua Plumb, Apex and ACE.
The Ecology Center advises consumers to seek PVC-free gardening hoses — like rubber models or those made from polyurethane — and has compiled a shopping guide.
The center also suggested people choose hoses without a California Prop 65 warning — which warns of cancer-causing chemicals and birth defects — and that have “lead-free” on the label.
Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.