Do Garden Hoses Have Lead in Them? Are They Toxic to People & Animals?

By Brian Mounts | Mar 31, 2020
do all garden hoses have lead in them

A lot of us take casual sips out of the garden hose during the summer or even drench ourselves (and others) during playful moments.  We might even let Fido have a quick drink from the stream too but the truth is, these casual activities may be more dangerous than we think.

The materials used in garden hose manufacturing often leach toxic chemicals into the water—chemicals that include lead.

Lead is often used in garden hose manufacturing because it is used as a stabilizer for the other chemicals in hose production.  It can also be found in the brass fittings most garden hoses use.

While this may not seem like cause for alarm initially—the truth is that a fair number of things around us have lead, after all—think again.  Recent studies have shed some light on just how much lead many of the hoses being sold on the market may contain.

Unsafe Lead Content in Hoses

The Ecology Center at Ann Arbor, for instance, has been running tests on garden hoses for years.  In one of its latest results, it discovered that 30% of hoses tested positive for lead at levels above the standard prescribed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for children.

As a matter of fact, garden hoses are not the only culprits.

The Ecology Center’s test also discovered that more than 70% of all the gardening implements it tested—there were 179 of these—contained high amounts of toxic chemicals.

Are All Garden Hoses Toxic?

Causes of Toxic Substances in Garden Hoses

Garden hoses are manufactured to transfer water from a source to a lawn or garden.

Conveying water into a human body is not supposed to be part of their job description.

Consequently, The Safe Drinking Water Act does not regulate them. Also, we often leave our hoses out in the garden, under the sun, and this increases the probability of degradation of the polymers and leaching of toxic chemicals into the water.

Furthermore, most outdoor plumbing faucets are made with brass, which is not built to provide drinkable water and often harbor lead, BPA, and phthalates used in stabilizing the hose.

The results of a study published by ecocenter.org show that a majority of our garden hoses contain high levels of bromine, lead, antimony, and a host of other toxic chemicals. Most of the toxins found are banned from children’s products.

These toxic substances are harmful to your health as they can reduce intelligence, harm the endocrine system, and result in behavioral changes. Moreover, they are not safe for your plants too.

Do All Garden Hoses Contain Lead? Which Garden Hoses are Safe?

Now you know that your regular PVC and vinyl garden hoses probably unhealthy for you, yet you wonder if you can resist the impulse to drink from it. Here are a few suggestions on choosing a safer non-toxic garden hose.

  • Choose a hose made from FDA, and NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) approved food-safe polyurethane.
  • Consider natural rubber hoses that are safer as they do not contain toxic plasticizers.
  • Choose a hose made from recycled materials, including polyurethane and rubber.
  • Nylon is required to produce the best fittings, and they are immune to the cold, unlike brass fittings. Also, nylon fittings are lead-free and safe for potable water.
  • Always review the label of a potential garden hose and select one with low environmental impact, and is safe for drinking water. E.g., Drink Safe” “Safe for Potable Water” “Lead-Free” “Eco-Smart” and “Family-Safe”
  • Chose a transparent hose with a UV coating that will destroy any bacteria that comes with the sunlight.

There are FDA-approved garden hoses that are actually labeled as drink-safe.  This is because these have fittings plated in nickel (which is lead-free) and are also crafted out of materials with zero lead.  This is a good investment for those serious about the health of their families and lawns.

Some of the best lead-free hoses include many hoses from Camco which make many different lead and BPA free hoses in many different lengths. There are of course other good brands that are also safe to drink from.

Users stuck with lead-containing PVC hoses will have to be extra careful when using them.  Hands should be washed thoroughly after touching such hoses and children kept away from them.  These hoses are also best stored in a closet or a shady spot to keep them away from the effects of the sun—the heat can make the lead and other toxins in the PVC more prone to leaching into the water.

See this post for more on what to think about when buying a hose.

Can you Drink Out of a Garden Hose that is Advertised as Lead-Free?

Users should be sure not to drink any water from standard hoses.  That means keeping them away from “organic garden patches” and the pets too, of course. Most “run-of-the-mill” hoses contain lead or other chemicals that are not safe to drink from.

If you do buy a potable water hose, meaning one that has no lead in it, is free from chemicals that can leech into the water, and uses nickel-coated fittings then you should be free to drink from them. These special potable water hoses are safe.

Which Garden Hose Brands are the Safest?

Despite the recommendations given on what to look out for, purchasing a new garden hose can be daunting as many brands are claiming to be safe for potable water.

Here are further recommendations on brands to consider.

  • Clear Flow® Water Garden Hose: This hose is transparent, and has UV rays that kill any algae and/or bacteria that penetrate it.
  • Gatorhyde: Their garden hoses are lightweight and eco-friendly. They are safe to drink from, and over 50% recycled materials, including polyurethane, are used in manufacturing them.
  • Water Right Inc. manufacture garden hoses from FDA and NSF approved food-safe polyurethane.

Another brand to consider is Armadillo.

Their chain of hose products carry a galvanized steel covering that safeguards its NSF-61, Silicon-Free, PVC inner hose. As a result of this, the Armadillo hoses are insured against knotting, compressing, twisting, or knitting. These hoses are safe for water consumption, animal-proof, and kink-resistant.

Gardener’s Supply garden hoses are an incredibly slim lightweight hose.

Among other features, they satisfy the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) drinking-water criteria. They feature in 25- or 50-foot lengths.

Finally, Flezillia Garden Hoses are non-toxic too. They are lightweight, kink-resistant, and feature a unique ‘o’ ring that generates a covering between the hose and the faucet to curtail leakage.

Ways to Keep Your Garden Hose Non-Toxic

It is imperative to understand that purchasing a hose from any of the brands mentioned is not enough to certify your hose as a drinking source. There are other precautions and measures to take before you can drink or soak from the garden hose water.

  • Let the water in your hose run for a while before using it. Water that has been sitting in a hose for some time is a breeding haven for toxic substances. Allowing it to run before using reduces the poisonous contents.
  • Understand the type of faucets used for your outdoor plumbing. Brass is the standard feature for outdoor plumbing. It contains lead and is not safe for potable water. Therefore, no matter how safe your hose is, the water coming through it is contaminated. However, you can reduce the toxicity by letting the water run.
  • Do not store your hose under the sun: Store your hose in a cool and preferably dark shade. The heat from the sun can increase the probability of degradation of the polymers and leaching of toxic chemicals into the water. You can slow down these processes by sheltering the hose from surplus light and heat. Again, let the water run before opening up the hose on your plants and you.
  • Replace hose once they are old and cracked. When hoses scorch under the sun, they are usually contaminated by toxic solvents that dissolve the plastic, causing cracks. These cracks become brittle, and dust to gather on the surfaces. The hoses are no longer safe to drink from, spray your kids with, or to water your garden.

Conclusion

I believe, at this point, the answer to the question of all hoses being toxic is provided. The salient point is that typical PVC and vinyl garden hoses are breeding ground for toxic substances (e.g., BPA, phthalates, and lead).

These toxins pose health challenges for you, your children, and your pets as well. The water from these hoses is also harmful to your plants and flowers as lead can exist in the ground for a while.

For the safety of all involved, you ought to invest in a safe, environmentally friendly hose. You should take proper care of your hose too. Finally, you will not curtail the fun of running around your garden with your family and hose when you apply these safety measures.

Keep a Non-Toxic Water Hose Wherever Your Kids and Pets Play

My last parting tip is to always keep a high quality non-toxic leader hose close to your kids play area or your dog kennel.

It doesn’t make sense to replace all of your long lawn hoses with potable water hoses but all the short hoses close by should be safe for drinking water.