Background of the study
In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Ecology Center tested over 200 garden hoses from national retailers. The hoses were tested for hazardous metals and bromine, an indicator of brominated flame retardants, and a subset were tested for phthalates. In 2012 and 2013, a small number of vinyl (PVC) hoses were subjected to a water leaching test. Municipal drinking water held in certain hoses for 48 hours was found to contain phthalates, BPA, and lead, none of which were detected in water directly sampled from the tap.
In 2016, we tested 32 hoses from Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Meijer, Target, and Walmart, of which 24 were PVC. The other eight were various types of polyurethane, synthetic rubber, and other polymers.
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Each hose was cut apart and its layers were separated. Some hoses were composed of only one homogeneous plastic layer; others had up to five stacked layers. Each layer was separately for metals, bromine, chlorine, polymer type (i.e. type of plastic such as PVC), and plasticizers. Hose fittings were tested for metals and bromine.
Additionally, seven hoses were selected for a leaching test. Municipal drinking water was held in the hoses for 48 hours, then the water was sent to a certified lab. Six water samples were tested for lead; three water samples were also tested for phthalates and BPA. A “faucet blank” sample containing fresh tap water was also collected and tested for comparison.
Highlights of Findings
- The flexible plastic of PVC hoses frequently contained elevated lead, bromine, antimony, and phthalates. Non-PVC hoses did not contain these contaminants. 29% of the PVC hoses (7 of 24) contained at least 100 ppm and as high as 68,000 ppm lead. Phthalates were found in 75% of PVC hoses (18 of 24). Bromine >1000 ppm and antimony >500 ppm were found in 50% of PVC hoses.
- Lead in the metal parts: 15% of metal fittings (4 of 27) contained elevated lead. This represents an improvement. Five years ago, 40% of metal fittings tested (44 of 110) contained lead. Most of these had high lead levels in the range of 1 to 6% by weight.
- Recycled electronic waste vinyl appears to have been used in a number of PVC hoses, resulting in high levels of bromine (indicating brominated flame retardants), lead, antimony, and tin (indicating organotin stabilizers).
- BPA and lead were found to leach into water held in certain hoses. Phthalates were not detected in the hose water, although similar leaching tests in recent years did find phthalates leaching into the water.
- The ten hoses labeled “Drinking water safe” were free of significant lead, bromine, antimony, and tin. However, three (30%) of them contained potentially hazardous phthalates.
- Polyurethane hoses labeled safe for drinking (2 tested) contained no chemicals of concern. However, two out of three polyurethane hoses not labeled safe for drinking contained elevated lead in their brass fittings. None of the polyurethane hoses contained chemicals of concern in the flexible hose part.