Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

July 27, 2009

Garden Hose Dangers and Recommendations

© 2009 Brad Lancaster, www.HarvestingRainwater.com

Many garden hoses leach lead and other chemicals into the water as it sits in the hose. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brass fittings are often the culprits.

Yuck - the water tastes like lead!

Yuck – the water tastes like lead!

To reduce such risk, purchase, use, and/or drink only from hoses labeled safe for drinking water. Never buy any hose with such labeling as “WARNING: This product contains a chemical in the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” Note that such warnings will typically be in very small print.

A May 2003 Consumer Reports article, “Dare you drink from a garden hose?” reports that hoses labeled safe for drinking leach minuscule concentrations of lead into water standing in the hose, while hoses not labeled drinking water safe leached up to 10 to 100 times allowable lead levels into water standing in the hose.

So, flush any hose before you drink from it by letting the water run a while before you gulp.

Suppliers of hoses labeled safe for drinking water include:

Gatorhyde Drinking Water Safe Garden Hose: Available in 3/4-inch diameter, but upon inspection I found that it constricts down to 5/8th-inch interior diameter.

Armadillo Hoses: Available in 5/8-inch diameter, but upon inspection I found that it constricts down to less than 1/2-inch interior diameter – closer to 3/8-inch. For a list of their NSF-51 certified hoses, click here.

Note that these are far better than most, but not perfect. Gatorhyde contains polyurethane, while Armadillo contains a less toxic PVC. Both polyurethane and PVC are banned materials in the Living Building Challenge Materials Red List (Prerequisite Five). The Living Building Challenge is an integrated green building guide that goes well beyond LEED.

Note for anyone using gravity to move water through a hose from a rainbarrel or rainwater tank – get 3/4-inch or 19-mm (best) or 5/8-inch or 15-mm (next best) interior diameter hose instead of 1/2-inch or 12-mm interior diameter. The larger the interior diameter, the less surface friction will reduce your low gravity-fed pressure.

And if running pipe from the rainbarrel or tank to the faucet/valve, I use 1-inch (25-mm) interior diameter pipe, rather than smaller-diameter pipe, to reduce surface friction that would reduce gravity-fed water flow out of the pipe and faucet.

Also make sure your rain barrel or cistern faucet/valve does not unnecessarily constrict its interior diameter, resulting in dramatically reduced flow with gravity-fed distribution. To ensure you have the right kind of faucet/valve, make sure it is a full port faucet/valve.

9 Responses to “Garden Hose Dangers and Recommendations”

  1. Water Harvest Online Says:

    Great post. The hose is something that most people don’t even think about when taking a drink.. lead in a hose, who would have thought? I can’t recall the number of times I drank from the hose as a kid… What is really disturbing is that lead has been a known contaminant for a long time, and every hose manufacturer knows that children drink out of the hose frequently, yet they are still including lead…

  2. Barbara Clowers Says:

    I have to disagree about children drinking out of water hoses. I remember doing it as a kid and even a few times as an adult but in the last 20 years the onslaught of water bottles and bottled water has changed our culture. We have been taught to “hydrate, hydrate!!” and we carry water bottles with us at all times. We’ve even taught our dog to drink from our water bottles. That said, I bought a hose from Costco a few years ago and it was clearly labeled ‘not for drinking water’. I returned it, not because I planned to drink from it but because I figured the water that ran through it would go on my yard and my garden and it seemed imprudent to introduce unsafe chemicals into my environment.

  3. News and Events – 12 August 2009 « L.A. Creek Freak Says:

    […] >Los Angeles westside property owners can trap your own rain if they apply for the city’s new rainwater harvesting program. If you’re looking to set up your own rain harvesting system (like Homegrown Evolution details here) check out creek freak’s favorite water harvesting expert Brad Lancaster’s recommendations for selecting the least toxic hose.  […]

  4. robert Says:

    I had no idea about the lead. I’m a homebrewer and we only use potable water RV hose (generally white with a blue stripe along it) to make our beer. I’ve also read that there is anti fungal chemicals in a typical garden hose too that are not good for you.

  5. Cathy Says:

    When I had to replace one of my hoses, I discovered that, as Robert mentioned, most garden hoses have anti-fungal chemicals embedded in the material – eek! So I went looking for a rubber hose. I found an all rubber hose at Sears… black. When I handle the hose, black comes off on my hands, so I am not very confident that it does not end up in the water that comes out of it – but I don’t know what that means… I do know that PVC not only off-gasses toxic chemicals but that lots of bad stuff is emitted during the making of it and destroying of it. Anything to avoid the production of more plastic or PVC.

  6. Scott Says:

    I had no idea there was lead in garden hoses either I grew up in the country and many time when I was outside I had a drink from a garden hose not knowing any different. Thanks for the article very eye opening

  7. NL Says:

    Just bought a rubber hose thinking it was safe to drink from, plus better in even freezing temperatures. While it may survive the cold, based on Scott’s comment, and your article, it seems like I need to get a hose specifically made safe for drinking. Even though many people use water bottles, I bet few realize that re-filling a water bottle from a garden hose is such a bad idea. Thanks for all the info.

  8. Tre Says:

    Healthy Stuff actually did a couple tests on this. You might be surprised, how bad some of the hoses actually are.


  9. harga pipa hdpe Says:

    The “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster » Blog Archive » Garden Hose Dangers and Recommendations” is really interesting on https://www.harvestingrainwater.com. Replacing Bathroom Drain Pipe We’ve always had problems with our master bath drains. They’re … picks up the sink drain following a foot or perhaps so, and also continues together until it gets into the opposite wall, in which it turns down and goes out of sight. I would like 2″, …

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