Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

Toxic Shock

by Susan Littlefield


Results from a study done by Michigan-based Ecology Center's Healthy Stuff.org had some alarming news for gardeners. 179 common garden products such as hoses, garden gloves, kneeling pads, and garden tools were tested for levels of lead, cadmium, bromine (associated with flame retardants), chlorine (associated with polyvinyl chloride or PVC), phthalates, and BPA. Two-thirds of the products were found to contain levels of some toxins high enough to be of concern.

For example, 30 percent of the products contained lead levels greater than the 100 ppm maximum set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission for children's products. Of particular concern are the findings for garden hoses. Lead levels eighteen times higher than the federal drinking water standard were found in one hose, and all hoses sampled contained phthalate plasticizers that are currently banned from children's products. Although it has long been recommended that water from garden hoses not be used for drinking water, it can still present risks. Hoses are used not only to deliver water to our food plants but to fill children's wading pools or to deliver water to sprinklers for kids to run through on a hot summer day.

There are some things you can do to minimize your exposure to undesirable compounds from hoses. When purchasing a new hose, choose one made from PVC-free natural rubber or polyurethane. Select ones labeled ″drinking water safe″ and ″lead-free.″(Marine stores often carry hoses meant for carrying drinking water.) Don't leave your hose sitting in the sun since heat can increase the leaching of toxins from the hose into the water. Let your hose run for a few minutes before using it to water the food garden or for children's activities, since standing water in the hose will have the highest level of contamination.

For more information on the results of the study and suggestions on what you can do to reduce your risks, go to: Healthy Stuff.

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