Avoiding Toxins in the Garden

lead free drinking water safe garden hose

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I was strolling through Lowe’s, checking out their gardening supplies, looking for a new spray nozzle for my garden hose.  I picked one up to examine it more closely and noticed a warning with words like “birth defects” and “cancer.”  Being 27 weeks pregnant, I almost threw the thing across the store.  It turns out that this seemingly harmless nozzle was full of lead.  And it wasn’t the only one.  Every single nozzle in the entire gardening department had the same lead warning.  As did the hoses and soakers and brass fittings and who knows what else.  I was shocked.  I have spent tons of money and time putting together the perfect organic garden and here I am watering my plants with lead, phthalates and BPA.

Here is the warning:

“WARNING: This hose contains chemical(s), including lead, known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. Do not drink water from this hose. Wash hands after use.”

I had heard the warnings about not drinking out of a hose but I assumed that this was due to the presence of bacteria and dirt.  And, of course, like most people my age, I drank out of the hose all the time when I was a kid.

And it’s not just lead that is contaminating our garden hoses.  A study conducted by HealthyStuff.org found lead, phthalates and BPA at levels exceeding Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for other products.  They also found PVC, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and antimony.  These toxins have been linked to everything from birth defects and liver toxicity to cancer.

And it’s not just garden hoses that you have to worry about.  The HealthyStuff.org study also found these toxins in garden gloves, kneeling pads, garden tools, brass hose fittings, and plastic hose materials.

So what can you do about it?

Personally, I went out and bought a lead-free farm garden hose and this hose made specifically for drinking water and that stated it was lead free.  I bought gardening gloves that were made from hemp, organic cotton and leather.  I skip the kneeling pads (and just wear thick pants instead).  I have yet to find a lead-free spray nozzle or sprinkler so please comment with any suggestions! (Found some! See notes below.)

HealthyStuff.org also recommends letting your hose runs for a few seconds before using to flush out contaminants, keeping your hose in the shade to minimize leaching, and avoiding lead, PVC and brass.

UPDATE 5/14/14: I finally found a lead-free garden nozzle! Gempler’s has this one and this one. [I bought several and they started leaking within a couple of months. I do not recommend these nozzles]

UPDATE 4/19/16: Thanks to a reader for letting me know about two more lead-free, drinking-water safe nozzles! Scotts makes a 9-function turret nozzle and an adjustable spray nozzle. [These don’t seem to be available on Amazon anymore. Also, the ones I purchased started leaking after a year. Not a terrible lifespan but not great either. I have come to realize that the plastic, lead-free nozzles aren’t nearly as durable as the metal ones. Unfortunately, you cannot find metal hose nozzles that do not have lead.]

UPDATE 8/3/17: Another reader suggestion! Check out this lead-free brass nozzle. It claims to be 99.9% lead-free, which means it does contain lead but the company claims that it falls within the standards for drinking water safety.

UPDATE 5/12/18: In my search to replace the Scotts nozzles that started leaking (and which Amazon has not had in stock for months), I found this nozzle from Swan Miracle Gro. It states that it is lead-free, zinc-free and drinking water safe. I ordered two and so far they work great.

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11 thoughts on “Avoiding Toxins in the Garden

  1. I’m looking for the same thing: A lead-free, zinc-free spray nozzle for my organic garden. I can’t seem to find one either. Gardners Supply told me that theirs doesn’t have a “California” sicker on it, so it “should be ” safe. But, I’d like to find a nozzle that is advertised as lead-free, zinc free!

    1. I recently purchased this nozzle – https://amzn.to/2GbCHfz – which is advertised as lead-free and zinc-free. So far it works great. In fact, I’m planning to order another one now. If you are looking for a hand-pump garden sprayer, I have yet to find one that is lead-free.

  2. Hi, I saw that one! I am just trying to figure out how it works. It looks really long and difficult to handle (not small and easy to use to water small plants in my container garden). Also is that switch on the top the same as the part you squeeze to let the water flow on other handles? I just don’t get it. Thank you for any insight you can offer.

    1. The little wheel on the top is how you turn the water on and you can use it to control the flow of water. So it is similar to the squeeze handle that you see on other nozzles. It’s nice because you can leave the water running easily if you wish.

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