Akita Rescue Society of America


Water Hoses & Health

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Water Hoses and Health

How many ways do you use a water hose in your daily life with your dog? Fill their water pails?  Fill a baby wading pool?  Give them water from a hose while walking on a hot day?  Play water games?  Do you use your water hose to water home grown vegetables?  Do your kids play with the water hose during those hot summer months?  All of these?

For some reason, the really important things that affect our immediate health never become major headlines in the news.  Let Al Gore come out with a global warming story and watch that take over the nightly news, or another recall from Chinese products will surface with world shattering news coverage.

Unless you have been reading the small print in the back pages, you may not know that every time you open that hose for your dog or your kids, you are exposing them to one of the most lethal toxins known—LEAD!  Never mind toys manufactured in China, “Made in America” water hoses are a profoundly dangerous item that we all use every day.

Row upon row of neatly wound water hoses in the garden sections of stores all contain the same ingredients but only in California did voters make this information mandatory to the public when they approved Proposition 65 in 1986.   

The message must clearly communicate that the chemical in question is known to the state to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude a person from providing warnings other than those specified in subsections (b), (c), and (d) which satisfy the requirements of this subsection, or to require that warnings be provided separately to each exposed individual.”

Hoses are sold with a large label attached at various points.  When you get it home, and if you turn it over to read further, you’ll see the following: “Warning: This hose contains chemicals, including lead, known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.  Wash hands after use.”

The article triggering a small spate of back page news items was from Consumers Report: “…the water standing inside may contain worrisome amounts of lead and other chemicals that leach from the hose itself. Many hoses are made of polyvinyl chloride, which uses lead as a stabilizer.

We tested 16 new hoses, brands sold at national chains and on the Internet. Four were labeled safe for drinking; six had warning labels. The remaining six weren’t labeled either way.

The four hoses labeled safe for drinking typically contained less lead in their construction than the others. In our tests, those hoses leached minuscule amounts of lead into water that had been standing in the hose
for 20 hours or more. We measured concentrations well below 15 parts per billion, the level in drinking water at which the Environmental Protection Agency requires remedial action. In fact, tap water contained as much lead as some samples. (The time the water stands in the hose; water temperature and acidity all affect the amount of lead leaching.) Hoses containing the highest amounts of lead, only two of which carried a "do not drink" label, leached 10 to 100 times allowable lead levels in the first draw of standing water.

However, even extremely low levels of lead may cause health problems. A recent study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that lead levels in the blood even lower than the current definition of toxicity may adversely affect a child’s IQ.”

On July 12, 2007 “Good Morning America” covered a story about reporters from ABC's Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV.  The reporters bought 10 garden hoses randomly at places like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target and Ace Hardware.

They filled sections of the hoses with clean water, sealed the ends and put them outside for about a day. Then they delivered that water to a lab. Five of the 10 hoses came back with levels of lead higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency allows for drinking water: 15 parts per billion. Four of those came back with extremely high lead levels. Of the four hoses with the extremely high lead levels, the lab found one with lead levels of 290 parts per billion, which is almost 20 times higher than what the EPA allows for drinking water.

"Hoses tend to be made of PVC, which is a dirty plastic, and lead is used as a stabilizer in that plastic," said Charlie Pizarro, associate director at the Center for Environmental Health.”

Scary!  Let’s look at the effects of lead:

THE THYROID AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Whether or not long-term exposure to inorganic lead is associated with harmful effects on thyroid and immune system function has not been well studied yet and the available evidence is weak. In one study, firearm instructors with low exposure to inorganic lead had reduced numbers of some types of immune system cells. This observation is a very early indicator of impaired immune response.

THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Effects on the gastrointestinal tract tend to be observed following high exposure to inorganic lead compounds, although they have sometimes been noted in workers with moderate exposure. Symptoms include loss of appetite, inflammation of the stomach walls (gastritis) and colic, with severe abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting, constipation, anorexia (loss of appetite), weight loss and decreased urination. In severe cases of lead exposure, a deposit of lead occurs in the gums near the base of the teeth. This deposit is visible as a blue-gray line.

THE KIDNEYS: Reversible kidney injury has been observed in some workers with repeated low exposure to inorganic lead compounds. Irreversible kidney damage has been observed following long-term, moderate exposures. An increased number of deaths due to kidney disease were observed in smelter and lead production workers with moderate lead exposure.

THE PERIPHERAL NERVOUS SYSTEM: Peripheral nerve function (nerves of the arms and legs) has been harmed in workers exposed to low to moderate levels of inorganic lead. Effects were shown to be reversible following a 5-month exposure. However, only partial recovery may occur, particularly if lead exposure continues or treatment is not carried out.

Peripheral neuropathy (e.g., loss of myelin which insulates the nerves) has been observed following long-term overexposure to inorganic lead compounds. This disorder is often referred to as "lead palsy" and symptoms include weakness of the arms and legs and weakness and paralysis of the wrist, fingers and ankles.

THE BLOOD AND HEART: Inorganic lead can cause harmful effects to certain types of blood cells, including reduced hemoglobin production and reduced life span and function of red blood cells. Reduced hemoglobin production has been associated with low-level exposure to inorganic lead in the workplace. Hemoglobin is the molecule responsible for carrying oxygen to body tissues.

With moderate exposures, anemia has been observed in lead-exposed workers. Low, moderate or high exposures to inorganic lead compounds may increase blood pressure, particularly in men. In two studies, electrocardiographic (ECG) abnormalities were observed in workers with moderate exposure to inorganic lead compounds.

THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM: Central nervous system (CNS) or brain function has been harmed in workers with long-term, low-level lead exposure. Symptoms typically occur with low to moderate exposure and include forgetfulness, irritability, tiredness, headache, fatigue, impotence, decreased libido (sexual drive), dizziness, and depression. Repeated exposure to moderate to high levels can cause encephalopathy (a progressive degeneration of certain parts of the brain). Early symptoms of encephalopathy include dullness, irritability, poor attention span, headache, muscular tremor, loss of memory and hallucinations. More severe symptoms occur at very high exposures and include delirium, lack of coordination, convulsions, paralysis, coma and death.

Disturbances to vision have been observed in workers after months to years of overexposure to inorganic lead compounds. Symptoms range from very slight visual changes to a gradual decrease in vision, with slow recovery or, in some instances, progression to blindness.

Changes in hearing ability have also been reported in lead-exposed workers, particularly those with moderate to high exposure.

Are we looking at possible causes of hypothyroid disease in dogs and the epidemic of hyperthyroid disease in cats?  Can this explain the astronomical increase of bloat?  The neuropathies like myasthenia gravis, degenerative myelopathy, polyneuropathy?  The immune-mediated diseases that plague nearly all breeds?  I have no answers but like you, I have lots of questions!

The number one killer of all breeds of dog is cancer.  Now that we know we are using water hoses that leach chemicals from polyvinyl chloride lined hoses, what type of cancer has been linked to PVC?

Hepatocellular carcinoma.
Testicular cancer
Brain and lung cancers,
Endocrine disruption,

*Angiosarcoma is the human equivalent of hemangiosarcoma—cancer of the blood vessels.

What about the lead and a link to cancer?  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that the evidence for carcinogenicity of inorganic lead compounds to humans is inadequate and has classified these compounds as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). A comprehensive review of more than twenty human studies involving workers exposed to inorganic lead compounds in battery industries, smelters, pigment factories, printing trades and the glass manufacturing industry concluded that there was a significant excess risk of overall cancer (stomach, lung, and bladder cancers), but not cancer of the kidney. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has designated elemental lead as an A3 carcinogen (confirmed animal carcinogen with unknown relevance to humans).

Lead bioaccumulates in the body which means a little lead in your water every day would not be so harmful if the body processed it out, but it is stored in body tissues unless removed by chelation therapy. Water hoses are just one source of lead—the animals used for food are also watered through contaminated hoses and they contain various amounts of lead in their flesh, and so on and so on. There is no legislation to protect you, your pets or your kids from lead contamination that is MADE IN AMERICA!  There is also no outcry against this tragedy.

Infinitely more expensive but a little safer are hoses marked “For Drinking Water.”  They come in ½ inch diameter and much shorter lengths so you need to purchase more of them.  Now how did that happen???

Here are links for additional reading:

The Real Truth about PVC
Consumer Reports
More on Lead Hoses
PVC and Cancer
Lead and Cancer

© 2007 Barbara Bouyet