The study conducted by the Ecology Center, based in Ann Arbor, MI, tested 90 garden hoses, 53 gloves, 13 kneeling pads, and 23 garden tools currently available on the market. All of the PVC garden hoses contained phthalates, a chemical used to soften plastics, which some researchers say are linked to birth defects and breast cancer, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The research center also found high amounts of lead and BPA in the water of the new hoses after sitting outside in the sun for a few days. Lead can cause impaired learning in children, and some scientists think BPA can cause harm to the reproductive and nervous systems.
“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,” says Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center. He says that there are lead-free hoses available, and that it is a good idea to let hoses run before using them to water plants, and to store them in the shade to prevent the sun from heating the hoses and releasing PVC chemicals into the water.
There were critics of the study. “Phthalates have never been shown to be a problem in garden hoses,” says Allen Blakey, spokesman for the Alexandria, VA-based Vinyl Institute, which represents manufacturers of PVC resin, the basic building block for some products, including many garden hoses. “Garden hoses are not made specifically for drinking water. Some people do that, but they don’t drink that hot water that’s been roasting in the sunlight. The report lacks common sense.”
The Ecology Center study also found that 30% of all products tested contained more than 100 ppm lead. That level is the Consumer Product Safety Commission standard for lead in children’s products. Water sampled from one hose contained 0.280 mg/l (ppm) lead. That amount is 18 times higher than the federal drinking water standard of 0.015 mg/l.
BPA levels of 2.3 ppm were found in the hose water, the center reported. That level is 20 times higher than the 0.1 ppm safe drinking water level used by the National Science Foundation to verify that consumers are not being exposed to levels of a chemical that exceed regulated levels, the center said.
Also, the phthalate DEHP was found at 0.025 ppm in hose water. That amount is four times higher than federal drinking water standards. Two water hoses contained the flame retardant 2,3,4,5-tetrabromo-bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (TBPH).
Source: “Garden hoses often contain phthalates and lead, study says,” Los Angeles Times, 5/4/12
Image by Nandhp, used under its Creative Commons license.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.