2013 Garden Hose Study

What did we test?

What did we find?

  • One-third (8 of 21) of the garden hoses tested contained enough chemicals of concern to be ranked "high concern" in our ranking system, which means we detected high levels of one or more chemical hazards.
    • 48% (10 products) were medium concern
    • 14% (3 products) were low concern
  • Phthalates which are currently banned in children’s products were found in water hoses at levels exceeding US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
  • Water samples from several representative hoses contained numerous chemical hazards, including phthalates and BPA.

Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) in garden hoses

  • Two-thirds (14 of 21) of hose material tested was PVC. PVC can contain a range of hazardous additives including phthalate plasticizers, BPA and organotins.
  • New laboratory test data showed water held in a tested water hose contained PVC plastic additives. Those additives, including phthalates and bisphenol A, were found to migrate out of the hose material into water contained in the hose.
  • Total phthalate content in the five hoses tested ranged from 11% to 18% by weight. Phthalates are not chemically bound to PVC and can be released to the air and water.
  • All of the 4 hoses tested contained one or more phthalates which are banned by CPSC in children’s products. The four hoses tested were:

Phthalate Material and Water Sample Results (2012 and 2013)

Phthalate results

Hose Water Tests

  • Water leaching tests were performed on two hoses:
    • 2013 - Swan 50 ft Fairlawn Light Duty Hose from Home Depot
    • 2013 - Room Essentials 50 ft Light Duty Hose from Target
  • BPA levels of 0.34-0.91 part per million (ppm) were found in the hose water. This level is 3 to 9 -times higher than the 0.10 ppm safe drinking water level used by NSF.
  • The phthalate DEHP was found at 0.017 and 0.011 ppm in the hose water. This level is 2-times higher then federal drinking water standards. EPA and FDA regulate DEHP in water at 0.006 mg/l (ppm).

Other chemical hazards found include:

  • 67% of products were made from PVC plastic. PVC plastic often contains hazardous additives.
  • 29% (4 of 14)of PVC hoses contained tin stabilizers
  • 4.5% of products contained brominated flame retardants
  • 52% of products contained antimony
  • These chemicals have also been linked in animal and, less often, in human studies to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.
  • Amount of lead in hoses improves:
    • 2012: 50% > 100 ppm
    • 2013: 14% >100 ppm

What are the hazards of phthalates?

  • Phthalates are a group of chemicals, some of which have endocrine-disrupting properties, that can disturb normal hormonal processes, often at low levels of exposure. (Illinois EPA 2000).
  • Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. An increased breast cancer risk is also suspected (Main 2006, Swan 2005, Marsee 2006). Phthalates in building products have also been linked to asthma. (Mendell, 2007).
  • Human testing by the federal government finds phthalates in almost all of the population, with the highest levels in children ages 6 to 11 years and in women (CDC, 2005). DINP (one type of phthalate) is commonly used as an additive in children’s toys.
  • Studies have demonstrated possible links between DINP and adverse impacts on the reproductive system, kidneys, liver, and blood (State of Oregon, PDF). In vitro maternal exposure to DEHP has been correlated to improper brain development in fetal rats. (Xu 2007).
  • Exposure to DEHP can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors in the liver (Foster 2007,PDF).

What Can You Do?

Read the label: Avoid hoses with California Prop 65 warnings that say “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Never drink or fill swimming pools with water from a hose that isn’t clearly labeled “Lead Free” or “Drinking Water Safe.”

  • Let it run: Always let your hose run for a few seconds before using, since the water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the highest levels of chemicals.
  • Avoid the sun: Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals from the PVC into the water.
  • Don't drink water from a hose: Unless you know for sure that your hose is drinking water safe, don’t drink from it. Even if it is labeled safe for drinking, flush it out first before sipping. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands after handling a hose since lead can transfer to your hands and then from your hands to your mouth when eating. Even low levels of lead may cause health problems.
  • Buy a Lead-free hose: 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. A lead-free garden 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. The hoses are often white with a thin blue stripe, and are commonly sold in marine and recreational vehicle (RV) stores. An RV lead-free garden hose can also come in a beige color with 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.
  • Test your soil: It a great idea to check the nutrient levels, but you can also check the levels of metals like lead. Another important source of lead includes lead paint.
  • It’s not just lead: Our test also detected phthalate plasticizers in both the PVC hose materials and in the water left standing in a PVC hose. Some of these phthalates are the same phthalates which have been banned in children’s products. We also detected bisphenol A (BPA) in water left standing in a PVC hose. BPA is used as an antioxidant in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics and as an inhibitor of end polymerization in PVC.
  • Avoid PVC: PVC needs potentially hazardous additives and stabilizers’ to make it “rubbery”. Instead, try a top-quality, food grade polyurethane hose that meets Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards or an old fashion natural rubber hose. Search on-line “polyurethane garden hose” or “rubber garden hose” for options.
  • Watch the brass: The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) limits lead in brass in residential water fixtures to no more than 2,500 ppm. Garden hose ARE NOT regulated by the SDWA, and our test show 29% of brass connectors contained greater than 2,500 ppm lead. Opt for a hose that is drinking water safe and lead free. Non-brass fittings (nickel, aluminum or stainless) are more likely to lead-free.

Check out these PVC-free watering hoses:

Examples of PVC-free hoses:

Hose Water Sample Methodology

Municipal drinking water was placed in a Swan 50 ft Fairlawn Light Duty Hose garden hose and a Room Essentials 50 ft Light Duty Hose which was purchased in April 2013. The hoses were completely filled with water and each end was clamped-off to prevent water from contacting brass fitting. The hose was placed in a yard in full sunlight for two days (48 hours). The hose was unclamped and the water sample was directly collected from the hose into glass sample containers. Three samples were collected: a sample of water from the each hose and a faucet blank. Samples were analyzed by US EPA method SW8270C (SW3510C). The reporting/quantification limits for phthalate was 0.02 mg/L and for bisphenol A were 0.04 mg/L. All analysis were performed in accordance with the requirements of 35 IAC Part 186/NELAC standards.

Relevant Drinking Water Standards
BPA: 100 ppm
DEHP: 0.006 mg/l (ppm)
Lead: 0.015 mg/l (ppm)

California Prop 65 Lead in Water Hoses Settlement Summary

In 2003 the Center for Environmental Health (CA) filed a lawsuit against three of the larger manufacturers of water hoses in the US over lead content in the products. The lawsuit was settled in 2004 with the three defendants in the case Teckni-Plex, Inc.; Plastic Specialties and Technologies, Inc. Teknor Apex Company; and Flexon Industries Corporation. The two-part settlement required that:

1. As of July 31, 2004 the companies shall not manufacture and sell water hoses that can either: (a) leach greater than 25 parts per billion (ppb) lead; or (b) contains intentionally added lead in the plastic jacket or skin of the product or the surface of any brass components, unless the product contains the following warning:

“WARNING: This hose contains chemical(s), including lead, known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. Do not drink water from this hose. Wash hands after use.”

2. The companies shall not manufacture or sell water hoses WITH OR WITHOUT THE ABOVE WARNING LABEL which leach greater than 300 ppb lead (after July 31, 2005); greater than 150 ppb lead (after July 31, 2006); and greater than 50 ppb lead (after July 31, 2007). did not perform lead leaching testing on any products from the three companies subject to the settlement.

Other Studies on Lead in Water Hoses

ABC's Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV release a study on July 12, 2007 based on 10 garden hoses purchased at Wal-Mart, Target, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot . The hoses were filled with water, sealed and left outdoors for one day. Five of the 10 hoses, or 50%, came back showing levels of lead much higher than 15 parts per billion (ppb), which is what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems safe for drinking water. Four of those hoses came back showing extremely high lead levels. The same report found that some garden variety hoses are leaking up to 20 times the amount considered safe for usage.

In 2003, Consumer Reports tested 16 of the most popular hoses sold nationwide, finding that many leached up to 100 times the safe amount at the initial flush of standing water. PDF

Note: only tests for a limited set of chemical hazards. Garden products may also contain a variety of other chemical hazards which were NOT tested for in this study.

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