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Are you putting lead on your garden?

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Thursday, May 28, 2009]

In the past couple of years there have been a lot of product scares about lead in various products imported from China. But one product that normally contains lead that no one ever thinks about is garden hoses. Yes, for the most part the majority of garden hoses contain lead. The reason is that lead is used during the manufacturing process as a stabilizer for the PVC used to make the hose. This means, that over time, the lead will leech out of the hose and into the water passing through it. This lead laced water then goes into your lawn, garden, kids wading pool and/or is drunk by you, your kids and pets.

The loophole in consumer product laws that allow lead in garden hoses is that they are for outdoor use and are not for potable water. They also contain warning labels on the packaging that say not to drink water from the hose. The thing is who reads those warning labels, which are in tiny print on the back of the packaging and the warnings do no good after the packaging has been thrown away. Furthermore, every kid drinks water from a garden hose on a hot summer day, its just what kids do and lead is especially harmful to children.

Supposedly, plants don't take up lead so supposedly lead in garden hoses is not a concern in a garden from the standpoint of contaminating vegetables with lead, I don't know if this is true or not. Personally speaking, however, I don't like the idea of adding lead to my garden even if plants don't take it up. There is already enough lead in most soil because of the decades that lead was added to gasoline and then spewed into the atmosphere as auto exhaust.

Until consumer safety laws are changed, the only way to make sure your garden hoses do not contain lead is for their packaging to be labeled as drinking water safe and that the hose complies with RoHS standards restricting lead. If you have children around the home, you should throw away all of your existing hoses and buy new hoses that are lead free. My local Home Depot and Lowes do sell short 25' boat and camper hoses that are lead free, but I had to go to Amazon.com for the 75' long "family safe" hose I purchased for $39.95 with free shipping.

photo of NeverKink Hose by Kenneth Barbalace.In both cases the hoses were manufactured by a company called Apex. If you go to your local home improvement store, the boat and camper hose is white with a blue stripe and labeled as "Boat & Camper NeverKink Self-Straightening Hose". The 75' hose I bought from Amazon.com yellow green and is labeled as " Eco-Smart & Family Safe Aqua-Pure NeverKink". The hoses are a little lighter and slightly smaller in diameter than standard garden hoses. The boat and camper hose seems to be lighter weight and smaller in diameter than the garden hose, but this makes sense as presumably one would want to store it in a small space. One nice thing about the 75' garden hose is that it has a permanent blue collar around female end of the hose that says "eco-smart family safe" so that years from now you will easily be able to figure out which of your hoses is the lead free hose if you have several different ones.

One really frustrating thing has been that I have been unable to find a lead-free RoHS compliant soaker hose for my garden. Granted all of the soaker hoses I have found are made out of 50%-60% recycled rubber, but again I don't like the idea of adding lead to my garden. If you know where I can find a lead free soaker hose, please let me know.


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Kevin said...

Hello Ken,

Nice article and I agree that garden hoses should be lead-free. I have 3 daughters and one of them was drinking out of our hose and I told her not to.

Secondly, please be advised that RoHS involves electronic product and the lead limit in electronic components is 1000ppm (I am employed with a consumer products testing lab). In the US the CPSC now has the CPSIA Legislation which is primarily for protecting children from lead and phthalates in children's products. The lead in substrate material limit is 600ppm and will be reduced to 300ppm in August of 2009. In 2011 the limit is supposed to be reduced to 100ppm IF technologically feasible.


Kevin Smith

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

Thanks, I did not know that snpiy RoHS. I just noticed that hoses that explicitly stated that they were lead free also cited RoHS.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission really needs to treat hoses the same way they treat toys and paint because we all know children will invariably drink from garden hoses.

As a parent, replacing your existing garden hoses with lead free ones will mitigate any issues with your children drinking from hoses at your house. You'd be surprised how many people just don't know that typical hoses contain lead. Store clerks at various stores didn't even know what I was talking about and I had to show them the warning labels on the back of the packages that would say things like "not labeled for sale in California", which is to say the hose contains lead, and the packaging does not disclose this fact.

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Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...

I did find a paper on a research project into the lead uptake in sun flowers. It can be read at http://www.engg.ksu.edu/HSRC/97abstracts/p51.html

Amanda said...

we bought this soaker hose last week, and it is lead-free


abbyh said...

I found a hose from Ace Hardware which is lead, phthalate and bacteria free.

What I have done in the past is to prick holes with a large metal needle in the RV Camper style hose to make it a soaker hose.

REACH Compliance said...

Thanks for sharing this information. It's likely that not everyone is aware that these hoses even had lead in them. It's good that there are companies being responsible enough to release hoses that are.

Karina said...

Anyone have any good ideas of what to do with all the unwanted,lead-filled, or damaged hoses that are out there?

Anonymous said...

The soaker hose link above, to colorite plastics, has lead in it. They are made from recycled tires.

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