How safe are your gardening tools?


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You’ve committed yourself to organic, chemical-free gardening. Give yourself a pat on the back. But have you considered those gardening tools you use to tend to your crops? No? Well, a new study has, and you’re not going to like the findings.

Researchers at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Ecology Center tested the levels of toxic chemicals in a number of gardening products, and found that 70.4% of them had chemical levels of “high concern.”

HealthyStuff.org screened 179 common garden products, including garden hoses (90); garden gloves (53); kneeling pads (13) and garden tools (23) for lead, cadmium, bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants), chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride or PVC), phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) — chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals.

Here are some of the findings:

• Thirty percent of the products contained more than 100 ppm lead in one or more component (100 ppm is the Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard for lead in children’ products).
• Of the garden hoses sampled for phthalates, 100% contained four phthalate plasticizers, which are currently banned in children’s products.
• Two water hoses contained the flame retardant 2,3,4,5-tetrabromo-bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (TBPH).
• Water sampled from one hose contained 0.280 mg/l (ppm) lead. This is 18 times higher than the federal drinking water standard of 0.015 mg/l.
• BPA levels of 2.3 ppm was found in the hose water, which is 20 times higher than the 0.100 ppm safe drinking water level used by NSF to make sure that people aren’t exposed to levels of a chemical that exceed regulated levels.
• The phthalate DEHP was found at 0.025 ppm in the hose water, which is four times higher than federal drinking water standards. EPA and FDA regulate DEHP in water at 0.006 mg/l (ppm).

“Even if you are an organic gardener, doing everything you can to avoid pesticides and fertilizers, you still may be introducing hazardous substances into your soil by using these products,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center. “The good news is that healthier choices are out there. Polyurethane or natural rubber water hoses, and non-PVC tools and work gloves are all better choices.”

Don’t let these findings derail you from tending to your garden. There are steps you can take to better ensure your gardening tools are safe for your flowers and veggies:

• Always read the labels before purchasing a garden product. Avoid hoses with a California Prop 65 warningthat reads: “This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Choose hoses that are “drinking water safe” and “lead-free.”
• Let your hose run for a few seconds before using; water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the most chemicals.
• Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals from the PVC into the water.
• Don’t drink water from a hose, unless you know that your hose is drinking water-safe. Low levels of lead can cause health problems.
• Buy a PVC-free hose: Polyurethane or natural rubber hoses are better choices.

Here are some examples of PVC-free watering hoses:

• Commercial Premium Rubber Hose (GoodYear)
• Premium Rubber Hose (Swan)
• Industrial Hot Water Rubber Hose (ACE)

• Flat Soaker Hose (Gilmor)
• Green Coil Hose with Nozzle (REnew Room Essentials)
• Purple Coil Hose with Nozzle (REnew Room Essentials)
• Red Coil Hose with Nozzle (REnew Room Essentials)
• Taupe Coil Hose with Nozzle (REnew Room Essentials)
• Soil Soaker (Tractor Supply)
• Soaker Hose (Swan)
• Heavy Duty Garden Hose (Flexon)
• Sprinkler Hose (ACE)
• Soaker Hose (ACE)