Is It Safe To Drink From A Garden Hose?
Many of us have wonderful childhood memories of hot summer days, running through sprinklers, and getting to drink cool water out of the garden hose.
These were such happy and carefree times; tasting the refreshing hose water and feeling those cold droplets roll down your cheek, but maybe there was more to care about than our innocent minds thought.
Of course, it didn't occur to us then and likely hasn't occurred to us now, that drinking from that refreshing hose may not be such a great idea.
Unfortunately for our childhood memories, drinking from the hose was likely not a wise decision. Though it was probably an unhealthy choice back then, with more up-to-date knowledge, we know it really isn't a good idea at all. At this point, many studies have been done that show us how unhealthy and quite dangerous drinking from a garden hose can be.
Certain chemicals are used to fabricate garden hoses that are risky for adults to consume, but even more dangerous for children.
Here are some of the common chemicals found in hoses today:
Depending on how close you live to city water or where your hose water comes from will determine how many more chemicals may be in your hose water. But, if we are looking at what water from a hose may contain, the two primary chemicals that seem to attract the most attention.
BPA (Bisphenol A)
This is a common chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. It is an organic synthetic compound that is somewhat soluble in water and other organic solvents. Because polycarbonate plastics are the most commonly produced plastics, BPA is in practically anything you can buy at a store.
Though you likely ingest this chemical in your regular, everyday diet, the European Chemical Agency concluded in 2017 that the chemical properties of BPA could be unhealthy. It is dangerous for adults, but it is especially harmful to children, so they banned it from baby bottles.
As with most chemicals, when introduced to warm temperatures, the chemical becomes more active and can start to break down in some cases. This is why in the summertime especially, drinking from a hose can be dangerous.
As the temperatures rise, the chemicals that make up the hose and its parts are encouraged to dissolve or disperse, in a sense, into the water…the water you drink.
Look for hoses labeled BPA-free to avoid coming into undo contact with this chemical.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
Polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as vinyl is a synthetic plastic polymer that comes in two forms: rigid (RPVC) and flexible. The flexible version of PVC is used in the fabrication of hoses. There are synthetic polymers that makeup PVC that are dangerous for humans, particularly children.
One of the main ingredients that are commonly combined with PVC to make it more stable is lead. Though less harmful additives have replaced the lead-based stabilizing agents that were previously added, this was only changed in 2015. So, if you have a hose that you got before 2015, you likely have lead in the water that comes out of your hose.
Though versions of PVC can withstand many solvents, the type that is often used in hoses is somewhat soluble and will inevitably cause the lead within it to enter the water. This solubility is part of the reason that PVC was banned from children’s products. So, you may want to think twice before you or your children drink from a hose.
The other chemicals listed are included because some of them, like PVC, are used as stabilizers in the structure of the hose and can break down into the water. Antimony and bromine are straight up bad for you as they are chemicals often found in flame retardants.
There are other chemicals that are used to make hoses and slowly leak into the hose water, but I think you get the picture.
The dangerous chemicals that can mess with your neurological development, endocrine function, and other pretty major bodily functions are certainly reason enough to steer clear.
So, with all the chemicals that you could be exposing yourself to by drinking from your garden hose, you may want just to run inside and grab a clean glass of faucet water to be safe.
Now that you know some of the potential hazards of drinking out of your garden hose, what can you do to reduce the risk of chemical exposure?
The obvious answer is to not drink from the hose, but what if you are using said hose to water a garden or wash and water your animals? You don't want your animals ingesting these chemicals, and you don't want your garden absorbing the chemicals into the harvest you're going to eat.
Here are some things you can do to try to keep your hose water safe:
1. Run the water
If you let the water run for a little while before you start using it…or drinking it, you will likely flush out most of the chemicals. When water sits in a hose for an extended time, that is when it collects most of the chemicals.
2. Buy a new hose
Since the EPA has banned and replaced many of these dangerous chemicals/components in hoses, you can find safer hoses on the market today.
3. Store your hose
Don't leave your hose out in the sun where the chemicals can be activated and break down more easily.
4. Replace old fixtures
If your spigot is ancient and rusted looking, replace the old metal with a more modern and likely safer option.