Lead leaches into water from hoses, study finds, the market is shifting to safer materials and products
Study available at www.HealthyStuff.org
Ann Arbor, MI – High levels of toxic lead and phthalate chemicals are still present in many garden and yard water hoses today, according to researchers at the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. The new research also discovered that half of the vinyl (PVC) hoses tested contained electronic waste (e-waste) vinyl contaminated with toxic chemicals.
32 garden hoses from 6 national retailers (including The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon) were tested for lead, cadmium, phthalates, bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); PVC plastic; antimony, and tin (indicating organotins). Water from select hoses was also tested. Such chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, and hormone disruption, among other serious health problems. Results were released today at www.HealthyStuff.org.
The report calls on national retailers and manufacturers to phase out the use of lead, phthalates and contaminated vinyl scrap plastic in garden hoses.
“Even if you actively avoid putting harmful chemicals into your yard or garden in the form of pesticides, you could still be adding hazardous chemicals into your soil by watering with one of these hoses,” said Gillian Miller, Ph.D, staff scientist at the Ecology Center. “The good news is that none of these chemicals are necessary in garden hoses, and a number of safe hoses are available.”
Examples of the worst products include:
- 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)
Top rated hoses were all polyurethane hoses. Big Boss AquaStream Ultra Light; Pocket Hose Dura-Rib II; Room Essentials Coil Hose with Multi Pattern Nozzle; Water Right Professional Coil Garden Hose.
Highlights of Findings
- PVC (vinyl) hoses frequently contained elevated lead, bromine, antimony, and phthalates in the flexible hose part. Non-PVC hoses did not contain these contaminants.
- 29% of the PVC hoses (7 of 24) contained at least 100 ppm and as high as 68,000 ppm lead.
- Phthalates were found in 75% of PVC hoses tested (18 of 24).
- Bromine >1000 ppm and antimony >500 ppm were found in 50% of PVC hoses. Recycled electronic waste vinyl was found in a number of PVC hoses, resulting in high levels of bromine (indicating brominated flame retardants), lead, antimony, and tin (indicating organotin stabilizers).
- BPA and lead were found to leach from the hoses into water.
What Was Found in the Water
- Half of the hoses (3 of 6) whose water was tested contained lead. Three of the samples contained 13, 19, and 20 ppb lead, respectively. The EPA action level for drinking water is 15 ppb.
- Lead was not detected in the water from the drinking-water-safe hose tested.
- BPA as high as 87 ppb was found in two of the hose water samples.
- A previous study found the phthalate DEHP at 25 ppb in one sample of hose water, which is four times higher than federal drinking water standards. EPA and FDA regulate DEHP in water at 6 ppb.
The market has started to shift to safer materials and products:
- The study found a large reduction in the number of metal hose fittings with elevated lead, from 40% of tested hoses in 2011 to 15% of hoses in 2015.
- The ten hoses labeled “Drinking water safe” were free of significant lead, bromine, antimony, and tin. 30% (3 of 10), however, contained phthalates.
- Polyurethane hoses labeled safe for drinking (2 tested) contained no chemicals of concern.
What You Can Do
- Read the labels: Buy hoses labeled “drinking water safe”. The label “lead-free” is a good choice in most cases, but not all: While none of those hoses had bromine or lead in any of their parts, some contained phthalates. The label “lead-free couplings,” however, refers only to the hose fittings, which means the flexible hose part may contain lead. Many of the hoses with “lead-free couplings” contained hazardous elements and phthalates. Avoid hoses with a California Prop. 65 warning that says “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.”
- Buy a PVC-free hose: Polyurethane and other non-vinyl hoses are much less likely to contain chemicals of concern. If the label doesn’t list the material of the hose, it is most likely PVC. Visit www.HealthyStuff.org for sample products.
- Let it run: Always let your hose run for about five 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 into the water. If you do store it in the sun, let the water run cool before use.
- Don’t drink water from a hose: Unless you know for sure that your hose is phthalate-free and drinking water safe, don’t drink from it. Even low levels of lead may cause health problems. Some PVC hoses labeled drinking water safe contain phthalates.
- Take action: Write to retailers and garden hose manufacturers, and ask them to “mind the store” and eliminate these toxic chemicals in garden hoses.
“Gardening hoses appear to be a dumping ground for highly contaminated e-waste. Over one-third [38%] of the hoses have the fingerprint of recycled e-waste being used,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director, HealthyStuff.org. “Products designed to handle water should never have e-waste material used as filler just to save a dime.”
“Big retailers like The Home Depot should get toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates out of garden hoses and other products,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “It’s unconscionable that in the year 2016 these chemicals are still found in products on store shelves. Parents shouldn’t have to worry whether the garden hoses their children and pets drink from contain chemicals that may harm their health.”
For more details on what the Ecology Center researchers found, and what you can do to avoid toxic chemicals this gardening season, visit www.HealthyStuff.org.
Since 2007 researchers at the Ecology Center have tested over 15,000 consumer products, including pet products, vehicles, handbags, jewelry, back-to-school products, toys, building products, food cans, and children’s car seats.
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ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: B-Roll, tables of results, and product photographs are available.