Is It Safe To Drink Water from a Hose?

How Dangerous Is It To Drink Water from a Garden Hose?

Don't drink water from the garden hose.
Water from a garden hose may taste cool and refreshing, but it's likely contaminated with undesirable chemicals. Hero Images, Getty Images

It's a hot summer day and the cool water from the garden hose or sprinkler seems so inviting. Yet, you've been warned not to drink it. How dangerous could it be?

The truth is, the warning is based on fact. Do not drink water from the hose. Garden hoses, unlike plumbing inside your home, aren't manufactured to deliver safe drinking water. In addition to bacteria, mold, and possibly the odd frog, the water from a garden hose typically contains the following toxic chemicals:

  • lead
  • antimony
  • bromine
  • organotin
  • phthalates
  • BPA (bisphenol A)

Lead, BPA, and phthalates are used in garden hoses mainly to stabilize the plastics. The most common plastic is polyvinyl chloride, which may release toxic vinyl chloride. Antimony and bromine are components of flame retardant chemicals.

A study conducted by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, M.I. (healthystuff.org), found lead levels exceeded the safety limits set by the Safe Water Drinking Act in 100% of the garden hoses they tested. A third of the hoses contained organotin, which disrupts the endocrine system. Half the hoses contained antimony, which is linked to liver, kidney, and other organ damage. All of the randomly selected hoses contained extremely high levels of phthalates, which can lower intelligence, damage the endocrine system, and cause behavioral changes.

How To Reduce the Risk

The water from a hose isn't safe for you to drink, it's not good for your pets, and it might transfer nasty chemicals to garden produce.

So, what can you do to reduce the risk?

  • Let the water run. The worst of the contamination comes from water that has been sitting in the hose a while. If you let the water run for a few minutes, you'll greatly reduce the number of toxins.
  • Store the hose in a dark, cool place. Sunlight and warmer temperatures increase the rate of degradation of the polymers and leaching of undesirable chemicals into the water. You can slow down these processes by protecting the hose from excess light and heat.
  • Switch to a safer hose. Natural rubbers hoses are available that are manufactured without toxic plasticizers. Read the label when selecting a new garden hose and choose one that says it has a low environmental impact or is safe for drinking water (potable water). While these hoses are safe to use, it's still a good idea to let the water run a few minutes to remove undesirable chemicals or pathogens on the surface of the hose.
  • Be mindful of the fixture. Most outdoor plumbing fixtures are brass, which is not regulated to deliver potable water and usually contain lead. No matter how safe your hose may be, be aware the water may still contain heavy metal contamination from the faucet. Most of this contamination is removed once the water has run through the fixture, but this is the water furthest from the end of the hose. It's worth repeating: If you must drink from the hose, let the water run before taking a sip.

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