Don’t Panic Over Study that Found Lead in Garden Hoses

Garden hose outside a house

Lead and other toxic chemicals are often found in vinyl hoses, but it's nothing to worry about, expert say. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

“Yikes!” we thought when we first read about a HealthyStuff.org/Ecology Center study that found high levels of lead and other toxic chemicals in water sitting around in vinyl garden hoses. It’s frightening to think about spraying lead onto our growing salad greens and losing any of our remaining IQ points.

But HealthyStuff.org research director Jeff Gearhart tried to talk us down.

“It’s important to keep things in context,” Gearhart says: The lead in hose water is just a drop in the bucket compared to the high concentrations of lead from peeling paint often found in urban gardens.

Not feeling much better, because we know that lead exposure is cumulative — a little from paint, a little from vinyl garden hoses with brass fittings, and the next thing you know, you’re losing your memory.

Where were we?

Oh, yeah, precautions you should take when watering your garden.

  • If you already own a vinyl hose, flush out standing water for two minutes before spraying your plants.
  • Test your soil for lead and other metals. Metal tests often can be performed by the same labs that run routine soil tests.

Gearhart’s study also found small amounts of lead leaching from vinyl garden gloves. So, to be extra safe, trade in your vinyl gloves for natural fiber or latex gloves.