Lead was above 100 ppm in one-third of all the hoses (11 of 32). Elevated lead was found in flexible PVC hose parts and metal fittings. In Table 1, hose parts with >100 ppm lead are listed in decreasing order of lead concentration.
Table 1. Hose parts measured by XRF to contain >100 ppm lead, listed in order of decreasing lead concentration. Plastic hose layers and metal fittings are separated. Lead levels >2,000 ppm are highlighted in pink. Lead levels 100-500 ppm are highlighted in green.
Bromine was detected at relatively high levels, greater than 1,000 ppm, in 38% of the hoses (12 of 32). All of these were PVC plastic. We suspect recycled PVC from electronic waste containing brominated flame retardants (BFRs) is being used for these hoses. The evidence is as follows:
Tin in PVC plastic suggests the presence of organotin compounds. Organotins are stabilizers that protect PVC from degradation by light and heat and are common in electrical items like wire and cable insulation.
Tin was measured between 3,000 and 4,000 ppm in three of the PVC garden hoses, listed in the first three rows of Table 1. Not coincidentally, those hoses also had the highest lead, bromine, and antimony of all the tested hoses. They also had much higher than average levels of elements found in e-waste: gold, copper, and rubidium. These findings make a strong case for the presence of recycled PVC from e-waste being used in these hoses.
Phthalates, or ortho-phthalates, are a class of plasticizer chemicals, six of which are banned in children’s products in the United States above 0.1%. We used FTIR to detect phthalates and other plasticizers in the plastic parts of the 32 hoses.
Three hoses were also analyzed by an external lab (See Methods section) to determine which phthalate species were present. The results are in Table 2.
Table 2. Mass spectrometry measurement of plasticizers in three hoses.
Also, the presence of multiple phthalate species in a single hose such as the HDX in Table 2 suggests the possibility of recycled PVC—which is derived from many products and thus contains a variety of phthalate species—as the source of plastic. In contrast, most phthalate-plasticized vinyl products we’ve analyzed previously contain only one or two major phthalate species.
Table 3. Comparing chemicals of concern in PVC and non-PVC hoses. Bromine, antimony, and tin in PVC strongly suggest brominated flame retardants, antimony trioxide, and organotins, respectively.
Table 4. Comparing chemicals in hoses labeled safe versus not safe for drinking. Bromine, antimony, phthalates, and DOTP were found in flexible PVC. Lead was found in both flexible PVC and in brass fittings. DOTP is a safer alternative to phthalates.
Overall, hoses labeled “drinking water safe” had significantly fewer chemicals of concern and in much lower amounts, particularly lead, antimony, and bromine. However, phthalates were in some of the drinking water safe hoses. Table 4 above summarizes. Table 5 gives details of these hoses.
Table 5. Hoses labeled safe for drinking. nd=not detected. Concentrations in ppm
In hoses labeled safe for drinking:
In the 22 hoses not labeled safe for drinking:
Seven of the hoses were subjected to a leaching test. Tap water was held in the hoses for 48 hours, after which the water was tested for contaminants. Table 6 displays the results.
Three hose water samples were tested for phthalates and BPA:
Six hose water samples were tested for lead:
Comparison to previous years’ leaching tests
The 2016 leaching tests found fewer contaminants in hose water than did prior years’ leaching tests. In particular, phthalates were not detected in the 2016 hose water from two hoses containing phthalates (Apex Neverkink and Element RV & Marine). This is in contrast to 2012 and 2013, in which phthalates were measured in all three water samples from hoses. See Table 6. The reason for the difference is not known.
Three hoses containing elevated lead leached lead into the water. (Apex Neverkink, HDX, and Swan hose reel; see Table 6.) Hoses without lead did not leach measureable lead. (Element RV & Marine; Apex REM 15.)
The one anomalous result was from the Swan female-female leader hose, which had over 5,000 ppm lead but did not leach lead.
Table 6. Results of water leaching tests in 2012, 2013, and 2016. For this year’s hoses, lead concentrations in the plastic part of each hose are given in the last row.