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Parental guidance: Don't drink from garden hose

A girl cools off in Portland, Oregon.

A girl cools off in Portland, Oregon. Credit: AP, 1996

Q. Is it harmful for kids to drink water from an outdoor garden hose?

A. It can be.

A recent study of 90 garden hoses by the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Ecology Center found lead, BPA and other toxic chemicals in the water of hoses sitting in the sun for a few days (details can be found on healthystuff.org). Amounts exceeded safe levels recommended by federal drinking water standards, the study says.

Unless you know your hose is drinking-water safe, don't drink from it, says Jeff Gearhart, research director for the Ecology Center, a nonprofit group that researches chemical hazards in consumer products. He also advises buying hoses that are natural rubber or labeled safe for drinking water, and flushing out any hose to get rid of water sitting in it each time it's used.

"Exposure to lead is absolutely a concern in pediatrics," says Dr. Michael Grosso, a pediatrician and senior vice president of medical affairs at Huntington Hospital. "By all means, stay away from drinking garden hose water. It's an easily avoidable source. You're not going to be able to easily get your garden hose tested. I would make the assumption that it's a problem versus not a problem. Go inside and get a glass of water."

Incidentally, pediatricians recommend all children be screened at ages 1 and 2 for lead exposure, which can come from sources such as paint in older houses. If indicated, a finger prick or full blood test can detect chronic overexposure, which can cause such problems as a reduction in IQ.

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