Garden Hose Alert
Several readers have e-mailed asking if it's safe to use their garden hoses. They've found very sinister warning labels on some new hoses stating the products contains a chemical known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm and should not be used for drinking. The warning label refers to lead that is used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing of polyvinyl chloride hoses.
It's true that small amounts of lead will leach into water if allowed to stand for more than 20 hours in hoses made of recycled PVC. The same thing happens when water stands in the lead pipes that are found in many older homes. However, running the water for a couple of minutes flushes out the standing water and any contaminates. The fresh water that runs through the hose is safe to drink.
According to a feature in the July issue of Consumer Reports magazine (www.ConsumerReports.org), the amount of leaching depends on the hose, how long the water stands in the hose, the temperature (leaching increases as the temperatures rise) and the acidity of the water.
The Environmental Protection Agency does not consider this enough of a public safety issue to require manufacturers to label their hoses accordingly. However, the state of California requires labeling of all hoses sold in their state, which is why you will find these labels on some and not others.
Bottom line: I don't plan to replace my current set of garden hoses because I don't drink stale water that has been sitting in a hose.
However, if I had young children in my household, I would purchase a hose that is labeled safe for drinking, such as those made for use on boats and campers. That's better for kids to use when playing water games in the back yard.