A new report from HealthyStuff.org has revealed alarmingly high amounts of lead, cadmium, bisphenol a (BPA), phthalates and toxic flame retardants in many gardening products. Nearly one-third of the gardening products had more than 100 parts per million (ppm) lead in at least one component, and garden hoses contained a hazardous flame retardant. At least some of these chemicals were shown to leach into the hose water.
Here are some tips to keep you, your family, pets and plants away from toxic chemicals in the garden:
Go PVC-free—especially when it comes to your garden hose. Look for items not made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC, plastic #3), which often contains heavy metals like lead and cadmium and hormone-disrupting phthalates. Buy a polyurethane or natural rubber hose instead, like Ace's Industrial Hot Water Rubber Hose, GoodYear's Commercial Premium Rubber Hose or Swan's Premium Rubber Hose. Make sure the hose you choose is not a rubber-vinyl mix. Many gloves and kneeling pads were found to contain significant amounts of PVC's toxic chemicals as well. Find the gardening tools, gloves and kneeling pads with the least toxics here.
Don't drink from a hose or fill swimming pools with it unless it's labeled "Lead Free" or "Drinking Water Safe."
Mind the labels. Stay away from items that have the California Prop 65 warning: "This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm." Beware of hoses labeled "Not approved for drinking water," and remember that terms like "natural" and "eco" are not regulated.
Keep the hose out of the sun and let it run. Store your hose in the shade to minimize chemical leaching into the water. Before you use the water from your hose, let it run briefly so you're not using water that sat in the hose. Water that has been sitting in the hose is more likely to be contaminated with toxics.
Check out gardening products on HealthyStuff.org. Our friends at HealthyStuff.org tested dozens of garden products, from tools to hoses, and their results are easy to browse online. Check there first if you're in the market for new garden items.
Beware of brass. Nearly a third of brass connectors on hoses were found to contain more than 2,500 ppm lead, which is the maximum allowed in water fixtures like faucets. A hose made with non-brass fittings (nickel, aluminum or stainless) is more likely to be lead-free.
For more tips, check out Washington Toxic Coalition's Growing Up Green archives.