Garden hoses often contain phthalates and lead, study says
Garden hoses and other popular gardening products often contain toxic chemicals, including phthalates, lead and bromine, according to a study released Thursday. The report from the nonprofit environmental research group HealthyStuff.org in Ann Arbor, Mich., found that 70% of the 179 garden products it tested contained chemicals of "high concern."
The study screened 90 garden hoses, 53 gloves, 13 kneeling pads and 23 garden tools purchased from popular retailers including Lowe's, Home Depot, Target and Wal-Mart. Of the garden hoses tested, 100% of PVC hoses contained phthalates -- a chemical used to soften plastics -- which critics say may be linked to birth defects and breast cancer.
Thirty percent of all the tested products contained more than 100 parts per million of lead in one or more component. The Consumer Product Safety Commission limits lead to 100 ppm in children’s products. The study said lead and phthalates in water hoses and gloves exceeded allowable levels that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has established for other products, and that the lead in brass fittings for garden hoses exceeded standards for brass fittings in residential water fixtures as set by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
"Garden hoses are the product we're most concerned about," said Jeff Gearhart, research director for HealthyStuff.org. Vinyl garden gloves also were of concern. Four pairs in the test contained phthalates.
Gearhart recommended that consumers buy lead-free garden hoses, which are often white with a blue stripe and found at marine and RV stores. He suggested letting other hoses run before using them to water plants, and storing them in the shade to prevent the sun from heating the hose and releasing PVC chemicals into the water.
Laboratory tests indicated that PVC plastic additives, including phthalates and bisphenol A, migrated out of the hose and into water sitting inside.
"Phthalates have never been shown to be a problem in garden hoses," said Allen Blakey, spokesman for the Vinyl Institute, an Alexandria, Va., organization that represents manufacturers of PVC resin, the basic building block for some products, including many garden hoses. "Garden hoses are not made specifically for drinking water. Some people do that, but they don't drink that hot water that's been roasting in the sunlight. The report lacks common sense."
A spokesman for Sears, which makes and sells the Companion Light Duty 50-foot garden hose cited in the study for containing high levels of lead, BPA and phthalates, said: "We care about the safety of our customers. It's our first concern. We are investigating the allegations made by Healthstuff.org."
-- Susan Carpenter
Photos credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times