Is Your Garden Water Hose Toxic?
Last year, we grew a small vegetable garden on the side of our front lawn. It housed a variety of tomatoes, which my five-year-old son especially enjoyed. And it was so cool watching him walk by it and pop a few cherry tomatoes as he moved through his day.
Such a natural moment for him and a clue to Mr. At Home with Tech how life must have been like in a more agrarian-based society.
For years, I’ve been using common garden hoses from Home Depot to water my lawn. I replaced them as needed as they got old and overly kinky. I never thought much about it.
As I set up the infrastructure to support our vegetable garden this year, I realized I needed a new garden hose splitter for my outside water tap. I needed one water line to feed the hoses for my lawn sprinklers and a separate hose to water the garden.
Before I jumped in my car, I decided I should also probably replace my garden hose sprayer, because it was leaking pretty badly.
(My shirt was getting wetter than the plants!)
There’s Lead in the Brass
My local hardware store salesman proudly showed me the ‘Mercedes Benz’ of sprayers (as he called it) made by Dramm. I then picked up a brass water splitter from Gilmour and was quickly on my way.
Fast-forward a few minutes… I was about to screw in the Dramm to my old hose, and I noticed a sticker on the Dramm’s underbelly…
It said, “California Proposition 65: WARNING- The brass in this product contains lead, a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.”
I immediately took a look at the Gilmour packaging, and I spotted the same message.
I can’t use either of these to water my garden!!
(No, I don’t live in California, but I think everyone should heed the warning of the referenced California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.)
So I promptly returned both sub-par items and pointed out the problem to the salesman, who appeared to be as surprised as I was.
(I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.)
Contaminated Gardening Water
I went home and booted up my iMac to do a little research. What I found was more than a little disturbing…
A few years back, the Ecology Center issued a study on hazardous chemicals found in a lot of gardening products including garden hoses. Whether it was too much lead in the brass fittings or Phthalates and the toxic chemical BPA leeching from the inside of the hose, the resulting garden water was contaminated.
Believe it or not, brass fittings on garden hoses are not regulated. They don’t have to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. So the bottom line is you should never drink from a common garden hose.
Okay… I’m not drinking from our garden hose.
(And I’m pretty sure the rest of my family isn’t either.)
But we’re watering our vegetable garden with the same water.
(Yes, I freaked out a little.)
Replacements that are Safe for Your Family
After I began breathing normally again, I immediately decommissioned my old hoses and embarked on a little more research.
I came to the following solutions:
1. Use Drinking-Water-Safe Hoses
Yes, there are a few manufacturers out there that make drinking-water-safe garden hoses.
I zeroed in on a company called Water Right. Their non-toxic-core hoses are made out of polyurethane, and the nickel and chrome fittings don’t leach lead.
The only downside…
These drinking-water-safe hoses are expensive.
- $96.55 for the 50-foot Water Right 600 Series Drinking-Water-Safe Hose
(A straight garden hose to water my lawn)
- $59.95 for the 75-foot Water Right Drinking-Water-Safe Coiled Hose
(The coil when not stretched is much shorter. Perfect for watering our vegetable garden.)
A similarly sized garden hose at your local hardware store that’s not drinking-water-safe is a third of the cost.
(But money should be no object when it comes to the health of your family, right?)
Another choice to consider is a potable water hose that folks typically use when camping or for RV use.
The upside is the Neverkink is a lot less expensive. The big downside is it’s white, which wouldn’t quite work living on my lawn all summer long.
So I stuck with Water Right, which also was called out by several reviewers, including Gardenista.
(Going with the crowd…)
2. Find Drinking-Water-Safe Sprayers and Water Splitters
that Don’t Contain Lead
This challenge was more difficult…
Here are the two solutions I went with:
Safe Water Sprayer
$13.31 for Scotts 9-Function Turret Nozzle
(Lead free, Zinc free and drinking water safe)
This screws on the Water Right Coil hose to water the garden.
An alternate choice is $24.95 for ‘World’s Best Brass Hose Nozzle.’
Safe Garden Hose Water Splitter
$14.95 for G&S 2wayz Garden Hose Water Splitter
The splitter allows you to water your lawn and hydrate your growing vegetables at the same time.
(G&S states that the metal in this water splitter is lead-free, but they stopped just short of saying it’s drinking-water-safe. I found a few questions on Amazon directly addressing this, and the well-crafted responses clearly demonstrated some legal dancing.)
But I couldn’t find a better product…
I figured I had nailed the other two choices… this was the only weak link.
(Hopefully, not too weak)
(Any better ideas out there for a drinking-water-safe garden hose splitter?)
Always Read the Fine Print
Who knew that watering your vegetable garden could be so dangerous?
You’d think this kind of problem would have been handled decades ago.
I suppose it was… you’ve just got to read the fine print…
(And you’ve got to wonder about the quality of the water that is used for the vegetables you normally buy in the supermarket.)
That said, I hope I’ve significantly improved the quality of water that’s feeding our homegrown vegetables.
(And no matter what drinking-water-safe solution you put in place, it’s always best to flush out the old water that’s in the hose before you use it. Contaminants can grow in the warm, standing water.)
Have I done enough?
Well, it’s the best that Farmer Barrett could figure out for this growing season…
Another cautionary tale of trying to live a little greener in the 21st century…