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Is there BPA and lead in the water from a PVC garden hose?

Several years ago I was obliged to buy a 40 metre 18mm garden hose (Australian made). That summer, as I filled a watering can, I was taken aback by the large pile of white foam that spilled out of the top and spout of the watering can when it was barely half-filled. It was as though I’d tipped a good amount of dishwashing detergent in it. There was a smell too - chemical, but not acrid. I let the first lot of water in the hose run out (though it pained me to waster so much) and tried again. Less foam, but still plenty to do one’s dishes in.

I thought I’d do a bit of research but had no luck with finding much in the way of scholarly articles. However less, largely unreferenced, sites made for alarming reading. This from one:

Lead, BPA, and phthalates are used in garden hoses mainly to stabilize the plastics. The most common plastic is polyvinyl chloride, which may release toxic vinyl chloride. Antimony and bromine are components of flame retardant chemicals.

and further:

A study conducted by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, M.I. (healthystuff.org), found lead levels exceeded the safety limits set by the Safe Water Drinking Act in 100% of the garden hoses they tested. A third of the hoses contained organotin, which disrupts the endocrine system. Half the hoses contained antimony, which is linked to liver, kidney, and other organ damage. All of the randomly selected hoses contained extremely high levels of phthalates, which can lower intelligence, damage the endocrine system, and cause behavioral changes.

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “Is It Safe to Drink Water From a Hose?” ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2019, thoughtco.com/is-it-safe-to-drink-hose-water-609429.

Then I realised that the articles I was reading were mostly based on the same 2016 Ecology Center study in the USA. Here’s part of the executive summary:

  • Lead in the metal parts: 15% of metal fittings (4 of 27) contained elevated lead. This represents an improvement . Five years ago, 40% of metal fittings tested (44 of 110) contained lead. Most of these had high lead levels in the range of 1 to 6% by weight.
  • Recycled electronic waste vinyl appears to have been used 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 into water held in certain hoses. Phthalates were not detected in the hose water, although similar leaching tests in recent years did find phthalates leaching into the water.
  • The ten hoses labeled “Drinking water safe” were free of significant lead, bromine, antimony, and tin. However, three (30%) of them contained potentially hazardous phthalates.

https://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/pages/executive-summary-garden-hose-study-2016

So, apart from telling anyone who’d listen, I decided to release the first 40 metres of water according to a rough calculation, and to fill the birdbaths using a watering can filled from the tap. My plants didn’t die, but it still bothered me. Surely, though, if it was a genuine health concern we’d know about it?

This year I thought to try my hand at growing some veggies. I thought about the hose water. I thought about one of the main findings in that ecocenter study:

BPA and lead were found to leach into water held in certain hoses.

Are people watering their food plants with these ‘certain hoses’? Organic farmers? ‘Kids in schools’?

Garden hoses and the water coming out of them are benign objects everywhere you look. TV, backyards with slippery slides and inflatable swimming pools.

This is just one study. Are there more, maybe you know of one? Because I would like to know and, I believe the world should know - is there BPA and lead in the water from a PVC garden hose?

Added 10th Oct (I attempted to add this beneath my original message but it went under someone’s reply - it’s not directed at any response in particular)
While opinion has its place (I don’t have enough evidence, as yet, to form one - just enough to have concerns) what I am really looking for is independent, rigorous research that leads to a definitive answer. If it should emerge that there is BPA and lead in the water from a PVC garden hose, other questions will follow - one being the possible take-up of these toxins by food plants watered with it. If there is no such research then I believe it is warranted due to public health considerations.

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A quick perusal of Bunnings offers is that their garden hoses are advertised and stated as being for garden use. They are all clearly marked as made of PVC.

There is a different class of hose marketed for potable water, also sold at Bunnings and elsewhere.

How much bad chemical leeches from a garden hose is an interesting question, and whether and how it might be absorbed into the vegie patch and at what concentration.

Therein lies a problem as you noted. One study of an alarmist nature, replicated across the internet by like-minded sites. It would be good to have an independent verification or refutation, as the results might be.

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A few thoughts.

  • “found lead levels exceeded the safety limits set by the Safe Water Drinking Act” OK garden hoses do not pass the test for drinking water, as they are not designed for drinking water this is not amazing. Under what circumstances drinking from a hose might or might not be dangerous is not known.
  • Finding a list of potentially toxic substances in hoses does not demonstrate they are dangerous. Our environment has a huge number of substances in it, you cannot live in this world and avoid such things. The question is how much are you exposed to. The dose makes the poison. Showing there is lead, bromine and antimony in hose water is not enough unless you show a dangerous dose can be ingested.
  • " I filled a watering can, I was taken aback by the large pile of white foam that spilled out of the top and spout of the watering can" This may or may not be a health problem. We have no idea what could be in hose that makes foam.

I am not saying that hose water is safe I am saying that so far it hasn’t been shown to be dangerous.

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I would say yes if one knows the quality of the water in the house. Water quality or hose hygiene will potentially have far more of a potential health impact that the quality of a garden hose. The reason for this includes:

  • many garden houses are not connected to mains or reticulated water and could be connected to recycled or non-potable water sources.

  • hoses generally lay around and are in contact with soil and dust, This soil and dust residues which may be on or in the hose (or its fittings) is more likely to be an issue than a hose.

The ‘measures’ recommended in Dr Anne Marie Helmenstine popular article are not rocket science and would be considered good hygiene practices should one decide at some point to drink from a garden hose (assuming one knows the quality of the water). Notwithstanding this, how many people drink from garden hoses and if they do, how often. Frequency of exposure and age of the hose will all play a role in the likely materials (assuming they exist) in water within a garden hose.

How do you know this is from the hose? Was there some residues in the water can from last time it was used. Was the water of high quality and not contaminated…etc.

It is also possible that the garden hose contain some manufacturing residues which may have been used in its production to allow more ready extrusion and/or handling. Such materials may be washed away after first use of a hose.

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This is most likely plasticisers in the hose either residual from manufacture or leaching out on initial uses. We have had hoses that have for several months after purchase had significant amounts of “foam” developing on use, particularly if the hose was left in sunlight for a period before use. The smell was quite “plastic” in odour so assuming it was leaching from the hose compound. Taste was very ordinary to say the best.

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When I was young, we all drank from what was likely less safe hoses, and it caused us no serious problems, serious problems, serious problems…

:rofl:

Of greater concern is A Potential Health Risk Due to Legionella from the aerosol spray from the garden hose.

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That white foam may well have been release agent, which I think is a type of detergent, and is also used on other plastic products such as shade cloth and poly pipe.

I’ve always found the plasticy taste of water from the hose rather disgusting, so have only rarely done it, and always after a bit of flush time.

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I’ll second that and raise it to “absolutely disgusting” especially on a hot day when the water is tepid.

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