From Cupcakes to Chemicals, by Julie Gunlock. Excerpt from Chapter 2, “Be Afraid of Everything”
A few years ago, I was watching the news and was shocked to learn that my garden hose was incredibly dangerous. Say what? The newscaster anachoring the program that night seemed really upset about this story. He leaned forward in his seat, stuttered…and…wait…did I see him tear up? Did his voice just crack? Oh my gosh, he’s going to cry!
This.is.a.serious.problem. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! NOW!
…Yet the facts behind the “killer garden hoses lurking in your backyard” are hardly scary. The news story centered on the fact that most garden hoses are made of polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC. PVC has high levels of lead and other chemicals and, therefore, the claim was that since children and pets sometimes drink from garden hoses, they were getting big doses of toxins when taking the occasional sip.
But before you read any more, just think about it: Do children and pets really drink a lot of water from garden hoses? Is the garden hose a main source of water for children and pets? Are they drinking gallons of water this way?
Sure, during summer months, kids consume some “garden hose water” as they play in the sprinkler or splash in the kiddie pool. They make take a gulp or two when mom’s watering the garden. But in general, kids do not get the bulk of their water in any given day — much less during their lives — from the garden hose.
…I was lucky I had time to look into this story and question its merits. I was able to ignore the hysteria and consider the facts. And those facts are reassuring. Most garden hoses are indeed made of polyvinyl chloride, which is toxic if consumed in large quantities. Yet it is impossible — let me repeat that word, impossible — for a human to consume enough water to reach toxic levels of PVC exposure. Why is this impossible? Because the amount of chemical that leaches into the water is so minuscule that a person would have to consume massive amounts of garden hose water in order for it to be a problem. And if a person attempted to drink the amount of water required to reach PVC toxicity, they’d first die of dilutional hyponatremia — death by water overdose.
…[But] right now there are moms out there who are sitting on patios watching their toddlers run through the sprinkler or jump in the kiddie pool who are filled with fear of their garden hose. You can almost envision the scene: Instead of just enjoying the moment watching their kids play and laugh, these moms are periodically stopping to pester junior not to drink through the hose.