Every now and then I read something that reminds me of the ubquitous and far-reaching dangers in the world around me. It seems like I can't even enjoy the simplest things in life these days without being reminded that everything is trying to kill me. Case in point for me this week came on Grist, when a reader asked Umbra about the dangers of garden hoses. Is your Minneapolis concrete garden path a highway to hell?
Garden hoses? I thought to myself. What could be wrong with garden hoses?
As it turns out, potentially a great deal, because plastic hoses could leach chemicals into the water -- that same water you're using on your organic fruits and vegetables that you might not be bothering to wash because you think you know what's on them. And, of course, that same water that's trickling into the soil for your plants to take up, allowing chemicals to concentrate in their stems, leaves, and fruits.
The leaching per watering session may not be much, but it builds up over time. And while the health risk might be lower than some other risks around you, it's by no means nonexistent, which means it's worth ameliorating it if you can. Reducing risks can help you stay that much safer in the world around you, and while you shouldn't live in constant fear, prudent caution is a good trait to have.
Many hoses include pthalates and other softeners to prevent kinking and make them more comfortable to use. In addition, some are treated with antimicrobial products like triclosan to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, a common problem with garden houses. All of these chemicals are linked to human health problems, and they aren't the kind of thing you want spilling out all over your food, especially if you have children, who are particularly vulnerable to food-borne chemicals.
Looking out at the bright shiny garden hose coiled neatly against my house, I'm almost tempted to go on a mission throughout the neighborhood, ripping hoses out at the roots and saving my neighbors from themselves. You see, it's not just that plastic hoses contain health risks: the standing water that sits in them, according to Umbra, has been revealed to have lead and other chemicals, leached out from the plumbing in hose bibs and other equipment.
Seriously, don't drink the water! And if you don't want to drink it, you might be thinking twice about putting it on your plants, right?
Umbra recommends switching to a rubber hose in order to avoid some of the chemical leaching problems. Her suggestion is also handy for you, because rubber hoses can be less subject to irritating kinks and cracking (it's still important to store hoses in the shade and discharge water after use so they don't sit around filled with water after watering, though). It's also a good idea, she says, to run the hose for a few seconds before turning it on the garden to allow it to flush out before you get going with the watering.
Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.