It may come as a surprise to some to learn that most garden hoses leach lead and are unsafe for drinking. Warning labels accompany these hoses in many cases, but not all. A lead-free garden hose will clearly be marked as safe for drinking. These hoses are often sold as marine or recreational vehicle (RV) hoses.
While there can be minute amounts of lead found even in tap water, hoses made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or brass fittings can leach unsafe levels of lead into the water. Lead is used in the manufacturing process of brass fittings to make the brass malleable in order to shape it, and is also used as a stabilizer in PVC. According to a May 2003 article from Consumer Reports, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deemed safe levels of lead to be less than 15 parts per billion. Consumer Reports tested 16 of the most popular hoses sold nationwide, finding that many leached up to 100 times that amount at the initial flush of standing water.
Lead poisoning is a slow, accumulative process that builds quietly over time from regular exposure to small amounts of lead. Lead is found naturally in the earth’s crust, but was spread throughout the environment in the form of leaded gasoline, leaded paint and other products. Touching contaminated soil, breathing lead or overexposure in other ways can lead to a wide range of symptoms from irritability to high blood pressure and nerve disorder. In children lead poisoning has been linked to anemia, muscle problems and brain damage, including lower intelligent quotients.
One easy way to cut down on the amount of lead in your immediate environment is to get a lead-free garden hose. Not only will it drastically reduce the amount of lead being deposited in your yard, it will also virtually eliminate direct exposure when watering by hand or tending to the garden. This type of hose is also safe for children to get a much-needed drink or play in the sprinklers, and pets will also be spared of potential lead poisoning from water bowls filled from the hose.
A lead-free garden hose is typically made from medical-grade vinyl with nickel-plated fittings. The hoses are often white with a thin blue stripe, and are commonly sold in marine and recreational vehicle (RV) stores. An RV hose can also come in a beige color with a blue stripe, to match the beige paint of many RVs. Although sold for RV and marine use, these hoses serve as great lead-free garden hoses.
Even though a lead-free garden hose is safe for drinking, it is always best to flush a hose of standing water before drinking or filling the pet’s water bowl. Some garden hoses are lead-free, kink-free, and bacteria, mold and mildew resistant. Best of all, this type of garden hose is inexpensive, and top brands come with a lifetime manufacturer’s guarantee.
A few leading brands of lead-free garden hoses, marked safe for drinking are: Teknor Neverkink RV and Marine Hose - Non Toxic, Swan Marine/Camper, and Better Homes and Gardens Kink-free hoses. Note that all three manufacturers might make other hoses that are not lead-free, so read packaging to be sure you have the right hose. If a hose is not marked either way, look further, and be sure to buy the right diameter and length for your needs. Even though we can't eliminate all contaminates from the environment, switching to a lead-free garden hose is a smart choice for the health conscious consumer.