Lead Poisoning in Children: Is Drinking from a Garden Hose Dangerous?

Lead poisoning in children, is it a real concern? Can drinking from a garden hose be dangerous? Can water from a garden hose cause lead poisoning in children? It is the middle of July, and here that means hot, scorching weather. It is pool season were I live. With small children too young to swim, a local community pool membership is pointless. I wanted something to give them a bit of safe and convenient backyard fun. Well I found it in a Sports rectangular Family Pool.

Hose Water: Can it Cause Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children?

Will drinking from a garden hose cause lead poisoning in children?
Will drinking from a garden hose cause lead poisoning in children? sxc.hu | author: Les Powell

My husband and I set up the 20 x 7 ft pool and we were ecstatic that it was easily inflatable with an Intex electric pump and instantly collapsible. Within 10 minutes we had the pool ready for water. And when the boys were done playing we could deflate the thing in 5 minutes. This meant we could set up and take down the pool daily if we wanted and not have to worry about killing the grass or having one of the boys sneak into the pool unsupervised, and the water would be fresh from the hose and clean for every use.

Two weeks into having the new pool, my younger son started to get pretty brave. His older brother liked to drop quarters and then fish them out again. Well, he wanted to stick his face in the water—to see up close what his brother was doing—and so he did, only to come up choking the bit of water he swallowed on the way down. It was all harmless exploration, or so I thought until I turned on the television this morning for a special segment on ABC’s Good Morning America.

It was about garden hoses and the harmful amount of lead they leak when we use them to water our gardens and fill our pools. According to that report, some garden variety hoses are leaking 20x the amount considered safe for use. Does that mean that drinking water from a garden hose will cause lead poisoning in children? Still not down to the bottom of my coffee cup, I immediately think of my son who is running around nakies with his swimsuit over his head. He can’t wait for me to finish so that he can take the plunge again today.

The report named specific brands of hoses with lead leaking violations, all clearly labeled “Not for drinking”. Then they named a few camper/RV hoses currently on the market that are lead-free and safe for drinking.

In the midst of all this life shattering news about lead poisoning in children my son grabs his dump truck. I am half-way through dressing him, but obviously not fast enough. He says he wants to wash it in the pool. I’m struggling to help him get his second leg through the trunks without spilling my coffee or tuning out the lead poisoning from garden hoses hype on T.V.

Do I drain the pool? Should I run out and buy a lead-friendly hose at more than twice the price? Do I carry buckets of water from my sink? By the time I get done running around trying to protect my son from lead poisoning it will be time for his nap. I reason that one or two gulps of pool water, or sips from the garden hose will certainly not permanently harm him, after all these are things I did myself as a child. But I’m still not comfortable with the idea.

According to Consumer Reports review on garden hoses and lead,

“It’s OK to drink from a hose only if it’s labeled safe or if you flush it first. Otherwise, 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” Get the Lead out of the Garden Hose.

I put down my cup and do a quick Google search on lead poisoning in children from garden hoses. According to the National Safety Council Library of Facts about Lead, lead poisoning in children can produce a wide range of adverse health effects. There are tens of millions of children who have suffered health problems from lead poisoning. So it’s a real concern.

The site claims that the dangers of lead poisoning in children lessen with age:

“Young children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead’s harmful health effects, because their brains and central nervous system are still being formed. For them, even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage. At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning. Within the last ten years, children have died from lead poisoning in New Hampshire and in Alabama. Lead poisoning has also been associated with juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.”

So how much hose water would my son have to drink before being getting lead poisoning? I couldn’t find the exact answer to that, but did find that the CDC did a study on a 13 month-old infant that had lead poisoning after drinking formula on a daily basis mixed with lead-contaminated tap water. This is common for those with old plumbing systems, and the solution is to run the faucet or the hose for about 30 seconds before drinking any water from it or using it to fill your tub or pool, always use cold water for cooking and drinking, and get a good faucet filter. This type of exposure to lead poisoning in children is much higher than exposure through a swimming pool a couple of days a week.

Or is it?

I researched a little further and learned that the body will naturally eliminate low levels of lead naturally, as long as the person maintains a healthy diet Using a healthy diet to naturally manage low levels of lead exposure.

This put things into a much more realistic perspective for me. The chances of my son getting lead poisoning from swimming in a hose-filled family pool are pretty slim. I plan to make sure I’ve got a good hose brand, and I will certainly run the water until it is good and cold before I begin to fill the pool. I’m not concerned. I’ll just teach him to hold his breath and not drink pool water; Problem solved!

If you are Worried about Lead Poisoning in Children

The lead-free hose brands tested in the Consumer Reports article and labeled safe for drinking were:

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3 Comments on Lead Poisoning in Children: Is Drinking from a Garden Hose Dangerous?

  1. To answer your question about how lead enters the body:

    1. Ingestion of lead compounds trapped in the upper respiratory tract or introduced into the mouth on fingers, food, tobacco, or other objects.

    “Lead occurs in water in either dissolved or particulate form and is more easily absorbed at low pH. Significant quantities of lead can be ingested from stagnant water in pipes or water coolers with lead solder. The popularity of home renovation poses a serious health hazard from the paints containing lead pigments (used in Australian houses prior to 1970). Cases of paint ingestion have increased markedly. Children are apparently attracted to the paint because of the sweet taste of lead acetate found in these paints. Research by CSIRO [4] has confirmed that leaded paint particles invisible to the naked eye can be transported some distance and contaminate the wider neighbourhood. Houses previously ‘de-leaded’ were found to have been contaminated by lead paint from other renovations or from deteriorating surfaces in the neighbourhood.”

    “A large amount of the ingested lead passes through the body unabsorbed and is eliminated in the faeces (adults absorb ~5-15% of ingested lead and retain less than 5%; children absorb ~50% and retain ~30%). Most of the absorbed lead is captured by the liver and partly excreted in the bile. Consequently, a large amount of lead is necessary to cause toxic effects by this route and a long period of exposure is usually necessary to produce symptoms.”

    2. Inhalation of dust, fumes, mists or vapours.

    “Common air contaminants are absorbed easily from the respiratory tract and symptoms tend to develop more quickly. If the lead particles are small enough to reach the alveoli of the lungs, then up to 70% of the inhaled dose can be absorbed. In industry (e.g., smelting, battery production etc.), inhalation is more common than ingestion. The Australian National OHS Commission (NOHSC) has recommended a standard for inorganic dust (such as PbO, PbO2 and PbSO4) of 0.15 mg/m3 air for TLA-TWA (Threshold Limit Value-Time Weighted Average).”

    3. Through the skin.

    “This route is most common in the case of organic compounds of lead such as tetraethyl lead (Tetra-ethyl lead, abbreviated TEL, is an organometallic compound with the formula (CH3CH2)4Pb. Once a common anti-knock additive in gasoline (petrol), TEL usage was largely discontinued because of the toxicity of lead. It is still used as an additive in the aviation fuel known as avgas.but it is not important for inorganic forms of lead.)

    For the general population, exposure to lead occurs from inhaled air, dust of various types, food and water, with an almost equal split between inhalation and ingestion pathways. In the body, there is an active reservoir of lead (up to 10%) in the soft tissue and in the circulating blood (this is why a blood test is a good indicator of lead levels). The other 90% resides in bones where it replaces calcium but is innocuous. However, it may be remobilized under conditions where the body increases its demand for calcium, such as in times of high fever. Lead interacts with the thiol (-SH) groups in enzyme proteins and interferes with their chemical reactions. In most cases, lead accumulation in the body is reversible. This is clearly shown by the variation of blood lead levels during and after periods of workplace lead exposure at the Division.”

    The following information has been taken directly from: http://www.minerals.csiro.au/safety/lead.htm

  2. You mentioned this information above:

    The lead-free hose brands tested in the Consumer Reports article and labeled safe for drinking were:

    * Teknor Apex Boat & Camper NeverKink
    * Swan Marine/Camper
    * Gardener’s Supply Co. 33-469
    * Better Homes and Gardens Kink-free

    I looked this up the first one: Teknor Apex Boat and Camper NeverKink and one of the reviews stated this:

    [one star out of five]
    “bad news…
    “This hose has a very small warning label hidden inside the wraping that says do not drink from this hose,and wash hands after using. may contain lead and chemicals which can cause cancer and birth defects. now isn’t this a hose everyone should want…”

    The actual Amazon.com website for this product and review is:


    Just for your information.
    – Michael Ledner

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