Avoiding Toxins in the Garden

lead free drinking water safe garden hose

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* This post was updated in August 2020

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 prop-65 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 that stated it was lead free, BPA free and phthalate 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).

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.

The real challenge has been trying to find drinking water safe hose nozzles. I tried this nozzle from Swan Miracle Gro. It states that it is lead-free, zinc-free and drinking water safe. I ordered two and they worked great for a while but eventually both started leaking. My conclusion is that, in order to be lead free, the nozzles must be made of plastic but this plastic degrades quickly when left outside. Since I have not been able to find anything better,  I am resigned to the fact that these nozzles will have to be replaced every year.

At a readers’ suggestion, I found a brass nozzle on Amazon that claimed to be lead free, but after further research, I discovered that it was only 99.9% lead free and that brass nozzles always contain some amount of lead.

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23 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.

        1. Thank you for your comment. The only hose nozzle that I have found that is drinking water safe and available on Amazon is the one from Swan. The biggest problem with it is that it develops leaks after a while. Unfortunately, I think that is unavoidable. In order to be lead free, the nozzle must be made of plastic, but plastic is more likely to degrade and leak. I just replace mine every year.

  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.

  3. The Swan Miracle Glo sprayer isn’t safe. It comes with a CA Prop 65 warning (birth defects, cancer, etc) according to Amazon.

    1. I checked the packaging and labels for the Swan nozzles that I have and I did not see a Prop 65 warning on it. I also do not see a warning on the Amazon page. There is a warning on the page for this product on Walmart but I think this might be in error.

    1. I checked the packaging and labels for the Swan nozzles that I have and I did not see a Prop 65 warning on it. I think this might be an error on the Walmart page.

      1. @onepartsunshine I don’t know where you are located, but if you purchased the nozzel outside the state of California, it probably will not have the label because that’s a California state law, not federal. Some online stores don’t even provide info on the prop 65 label unless and until the consumer puts in their shipping address. I assume they don’t want consumers in other states to see the warning and avoid purchasing.

  4. I bought the swan miracle grow 9 spray turret nozzle. It was awesome first 5 weeks. Then the pressure stopped increasing and today the pressure dial stopped working altogether. Can’t turn it off or increase pressure. It’s been less than 2 months. I don’t know why it’s so hard to find a drinking water safe nozzle that works and lasts. 🙁

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I recommend trying to return the nozzle. If you purchased it from Amazon, they are pretty good about facilitating returns. If not, the manufacturer may send you a replacement. I haven’t had that problem with the nozzles I purchased but I have had problems with leaking. I admit that I leave mine sitting out so it’s probably my fault for leaving them exposed to the elements. Please let me know if you find a better option.

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