Drinking From Garden Hoses

| 6/14/2011 10:05:29 AM

Drinking From Garden HosesI’ve read that a garden hose can leach toxic chemicals from the plastic into water as it flows through the hose — especially if the water is hot, after the hose has been lying out in the sun. Is it dangerous to drink from a garden hose or give this water to livestock? Would using a food-grade hose be better? 

Do garden hoses release traces of chemicals from the plastic into the water flowing through them? Sure. Is drinking water from a hose a serious health issue? I’d say no.

First, consider that most people run the hose until the water is cold before they take a drink. This would flush out virtually any traces of these chemicals. Next, it just takes a little fundamental physics to see that any toxins that leach into the water will be a mere drop in the bucket. If we did the surface-area-to-volume measurement, coupled with the flow characteristics of 40 PSI (pounds per square inch) water moving through a typical hose, and we knew the solubility characteristics of any chemicals in the hose, we’d discover that the amount of potentially toxic materials actually dissolved in the consumed water is miniscule — possibly immeasurable. If you did additional math, you would discover that if you filled a 300- to 3,000-gallon stock tank with your garden hose, you would be at it for quite a while, and again, the amount of potentially toxic hot water would be tiny. Your livestock would probably be at more risk from some water-borne parasite than plastic toxins leaching from hoses.

It doesn’t really make sense economically or environmentally to replace perfectly good hoses with food-grade hoses — the health risk simply doesn’t justify it. But when the time does come to replace them, if you want a food-grade hose, shop for “boat or RV supply hoses.” Expect to pay about $30 for a 50-foot length with a 5/8-inch inside diameter.

— Oscar H. Will III, Ph.D. in biochemistry and Editor-in-Chief, Grit 

Photo by Fotolia. 

7/1/2013 12:24:36 PM

A clarification on the delivery of water from a holding tank to a stock tank - I easily serve 100 Icelandic sheep, or 10-15 cows, from a 150 to 300 gallon stock tank in western Oregon.  They have float valves to deliver water on demand from the holding tank.  That water sits for a long time in the hose system.  Thus, yes, I am quite concerned about the toxins in the hose.

7/1/2013 12:09:48 PM

Oscar - on my farm the 5,000 gallon tank we fill from the creek has no hoses involved so is clean, and from that high point the water to the pastures is delivered via poly pipe that is clean.  A smaller stock tank can be placed at the spigot - but that's much too inflexible.  We do management intensive grazing and need water at more locations.  Very tempting to always use garden hoses, but gee they have that label on them saying drinking from them can cause cancer.  So we have rigged up "hoses" with valves on the end from poly pipe.  And we are extending the permanent pasture water system to have more places to tap in so we are less and less likely to have to use any hoses / move water.



Bearclaw - be happy your farmers are worrying about things like this so you have a chance of getting healthy food to eat.

Neal Williams
7/22/2011 12:42:17 PM

I have tasted some bad tasting water when I first turned on the garden hose but it soon disappeared when flushed out. As far as the cattle tank goes, I have 60 mother cows and 62 calves some far. They are getting water from a tank that holds 3000 gallons of water and a small pond too. I wish it would rain

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