Drinking From Garden Hoses

Reader Contribution by Staff
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I’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

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