With the sun high in the sky, it’s time drag out the garden hose and do a little watering, or maybe just cool off under the sprinkler. But a recent study by HealthyStuff.org found several toxic chemicals in common garden hoses. Should you be concerned? Metro’s natural gardening and toxics reduction expert Carl Grimm had advice.
Indeed several nasty chemicals have been found in hoses. And while your exposure to these chemicals from normal use could be relatively low, adding it to your exposure to the same chemicals from many other sources increases risks. Plus, little is known about the hazards of mixing these “chemical cocktails” in our environment, in our bodies and in our children’s bodies.
Here’s what we do know about a few of the chemicals found in hoses and in water that sat in some for a few days:
• Lead is a heavy metal well known to cause irreversible brain damage and behavioral problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s no safe exposure level. Other significant sources of lead exposure are old paint dust, and soil contaminated by automobile exhaust and other sources.
• Phthalates are a class of industrial chemicals used to soften vinyl and PVC plastics. Mounting evidence links them to cancer, birth defects, asthma and allergies. Several found in garden hoses have already been banned from children’s toys.
• BisphenolA (BPA) is another chemical additive in plastics that’s linked to harmful effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children. Other more significant routes of exposure to BPA include the linings of many canned foods and the residue on some cashier receipts.
With chemicals hiding in hoses, think before you sprink – or drink. Reduce your exposure to hose chemicals and reduce your risk.
1. Flush out the standing water before using any hose to fill a child’s pool, water vegetables and especially if you choose to drink from one (yuck!). Flushing is important because water that sits in a hose has time to leach more chemicals from the plastic tubing and metal fittings. In general you’ll know it’s fully flushed when the water comes out colder.
2. Store hoses in the shade to reduce the heat that leaches chemicals more quickly.
3. Buy "drinking-water-safe,” “RV and marine use,” “100% rubber,” “polyurethane,” or “lead-free.” While these sometimes cost a little more and may not be entirely free of toxic chemicals, they should be safer than others.
There are more than 80,000 chemicals in the products we use every day. Learn more about the safety of chemicals in products by checking out groups like HealthyStuff.org and the Oregon Environmental Council oeconline.org.
For free, info-packed, healthy-home bookmarks and even more information, ask Metro at 234-3000 or oregonmetro.gov/healthyhome.