Read this Before You Drink from that Garden Hose

July 11, 2016

High levels of toxic lead and phthalate chemicals are still present in many garden and yard water hoses, according to researchers at the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. The new research also discovered that half of the vinyl (PVC) hoses tested contained electronic waste (e-waste) vinyl contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Thirty-two garden hoses from six national retailers (including The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Amazon) were tested for lead, cadmium, phthalates, bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants), PVC plastic, antimony, and tin (indicating organotins). Water from select hoses was also tested. Such chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, and hormone disruption, among other serious health problems. Results were released at www.HealthyStuff.org.

The report calls on national retailers and manufacturers to phase out the use of lead, phthalates, and contaminated vinyl scrap plastic in garden hoses.

“Even if you actively avoid putting harmful chemicals into your yard or garden in the form of pesticides, you could still be adding hazardous chemicals into your soil by watering with one of these hoses, ” said Gillian Miller, Ph.D., staff scientist at the Ecology Center. “The good news is that none of these chemicals are necessary in garden hoses, and a number of safe hoses are available.”

Examples of the worst products include:

  • The Home Depot retailed HDX 15ft Utility Hose containing phthalate plasticizers and 6.8% (68,000 parts per million) lead
  • Walmart retailed Swan Hose Reel Leader 5/8 in x 6 feet Hose containing phthalate plasticizers and 0.52% (5,200 parts per million) lead
  • Lowes retailed Apex NeverKink 5/8 in x 50 feet containing a mixture of chemical hazards commonly associated with e-waste: phthalate plasticizers, lead (366 ppm), antimony (1,779 ppm) and bromine (1,592 ppm)

Best products

Top rated hoses were all polyurethane hoses: Big Boss AquaStream Ultra Light, Pocket Hose Dura-Rib II, Room Essentials Coil Hose with Multi Pattern Nozzle, and Water Right Professional Coil Garden Hose.

Highlights of Findings

  • PVC (vinyl) hoses frequently contained elevated lead, bromine, antimony, and phthalates in the flexible hose part. Non-PVC hoses did not contain these contaminants.
  • 29% of the PVC hoses (7 of 24) contained at least 100 ppm and as high as 68,000 ppm lead.
  • Phthalates were found in 75% of PVC hoses tested (18 of 24).
  • Bromine > 1000 ppm and antimony > 500 ppm were found in 50% of PVC hoses. Analysis suggests recycled electronic waste vinyl was used in a number of PVC hoses, resulting in high levels of bromine (indicating brominated flame retardants), lead, antimony, and tin (indicating organotin stabilizers).
  • BPA and lead were found to leach from some hoses into water.

What Was Found in the Water

  • Lead was found in the water from half of the hoses (3 of 6) whose water was tested. These water samples contained 13, 19, and 20 ppb lead, respectively. The EPA action level for drinking water is 15 ppb.
  • Lead was not detected in the water from the drinking-water-safe hose tested.
  • BPA as high as 87 ppb was found in two of the hose water samples.
  • A previous study found the phthalate DEHP at 25 ppb in one sample of hose water, which is four times higher than federal drinking water standards. EPA and FDA regulate DEHP in water at 6 ppb.

The market has started to shift to safer materials and products

  • The study found a large reduction in the number of metal hose fittings with elevated lead, from 40% of tested hoses in 2011 to 15% of hoses in 2015.
  • The ten hoses labeled “Drinking water safe” were free of significant lead, bromine, antimony, and tin. However, 30% (3 of 10) contained phthalates.
  • Polyurethane hoses labeled safe for drinking (2 tested) contained no chemicals of concern.

What You Can Do

  • Read the labels: Buy hoses labeled “drinking water safe”. The label “lead-free” is a good choice in most cases, but not all. While none of those hoses had bromine or lead in any of their parts, some contained phthalates. The label “lead-free couplings,” however, refers only to the hose fittings, which means the flexible hose part may contain lead. Many of the hoses with “lead-free couplings” contained hazardous elements and phthalates. Avoid hoses with a California Prop. 65 warning that says, “This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.”
  • Buy a PVC-free hose: Polyurethane and other non-vinyl hoses are much less likely to contain chemicals of concern. If the label doesn’t list the material of the hose, it is most likely PVC. See healthystuff.org for sample products.
  • Let it run: Always let your hose run for about five seconds before using, since the water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the highest levels of chemicals.
  • Avoid the sun: Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals into the water. If you do store it in the sun, let the water run cool before use.
  • Don't drink water from a hose: Unless you know for sure that your hose is phthalate-free and drinking water safe, don’t drink from it. Even low levels of lead may cause health problems. Some PVC hoses labeled drinking water safe contain phthalates.
  • Take action: Write to retailers and garden hose manufacturers, and ask them to “mind the store” and eliminate these toxic chemicals in garden hoses.

“Gardening hoses appear to be a dumping ground for highly contaminated e-waste. Over one-third [38%] of the hoses have the fingerprint of recycled e-waste being used,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director, HealthyStuff.org. “Products designed to handle water should never have e-waste material used as filler just to save a dime.”

“Big retailers like The Home Depot should get toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates out of garden hoses and other products,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “It’s unconscionable that in the year 2016 these chemicals are still found in products on store shelves. Parents shouldn’t have to worry whether the garden hoses their children and pets drink from contain chemicals that may harm their health.”

Since 2007 researchers at the Ecology Center have tested over 15,000 consumer products, including pet products, vehicles, handbags, jewelry, back-to-school products, toys, building products, food cans, and children's car seats.

Macon, Georgia, RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Macon, GA, on July 19–21 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Raleigh Area HAZWOPER and DOT/IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response 24-Hour Training in Cary, NC, on July 25–27 and ensure you are ready to respond in an emergency. Get the transportation training you need in one day at DOT/IATA: Transportation of Hazardous Materials by Ground and Air on June 28. To register for these courses, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Cleveland RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cleveland, OH, on July 26–28 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

How to Implement OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)

OSHA has issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communication Standard, aligning it with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, safety data sheet (formerly called “material safety data sheet” or MSDS), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on safety data sheets.

Environmental Resource Center is offering live online training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. Bring your questions to the upcoming webcasts on How to Implement OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) on July 13 and November 15.

Atrazine, Propazine, Simazine and their Chlorometabolites Listed as Reproductive Hazards

On March 27, 2015, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) provided notice that atrazine, propazine, simazine, des-ethyl atrazine (DEA), des-isopropyl atrazine (DIA) and 2,4-diamino-6-chloro-s-triazine (DACT) would be added to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity for purposes of Proposition 65 with a delayed effective date due to pending litigation.

The listing of these chemicals was initially to be effective on August 3, 2015. Due to Syngenta Crop Protection’s legal challenge to the listing, this was later changed several times because of delays in the litigation. Syngenta’s challenge was unsuccessful in the trial court. Although the case has been appealed, no stay of the listing has been granted. Therefore, atrazine, propazine, simazine, des-ethyl atrazine (DEA), des-isopropyl atrazine (DIA) and 2,4-diamino-6-chloro-s-triazine (DACT) are being added to the Proposition 65 list on July 15, 2016.

Portable Test Rapidly Detects Zika in Saliva for $2

Anxiety over the Zika virus is growing as the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro approach. To better diagnose and track the disease, scientists are now reporting in ACS’ Journal Analytical Chemistry a new $2 test that in the lab can accurately detect low levels of the virus in saliva.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that there was no need to postpone or move the Olympics due to Zika’s presence, but concern over the virus’ spread and its link to serious birth defects is far from allayed. Public health experts debate whether WHO made the right call. But while the discussion continues, scientists are working on new tools to help manage the outbreak. Current gold-standard tests to detect the virus require expensive lab equipment and trained personnel. Low-cost diagnostic methods have been reported but can’t detect low levels of the disease or don’t distinguish between Zika and similar viruses such as dengue. Changchun Liu and colleagues wanted to design a rapid, low-cost, and more reliable point-of-care detection test.

To ensure their system would be highly selective for Zika without confusing it with similar viruses, the researchers looked for and found a stretch of genetic code that is nearly identical for 19 different strains of the Zika virus infecting people in the Americas but not in other pathogens. Then, with materials costing $2 per test, they developed a diagnostic system, which only requires the addition of water to operate. If the Zika-specific genetic sequence is in a saliva sample, a dye within the system will turn blue within 40 minutes. The test even works if low levels of the sequence are present.

Vermont Chemical Disclosure Program Now Online, Reports Due January 1, 2017

Vermont’s Chemicals of High Concern in Children’s Products Act requires reporting on the presence of certain chemicals in products intended for children under 12 years of age to the Vermont Department of Health. The Department's Chemicals of High Concern in Children’s Product Rule requires disclosure and reporting of toxic substances that are intentionally added to a children’s product at a level above the product quality level (PQL) produced by the manufacturer or are present in a children’s product produced by the manufacturer as a contaminant at concentrations of 100 parts per million (ppm) or greater. The list of chemicals of concern includes several common chemicals, such as:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Benzene
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Methyl ethyl ketone
  • Bisphenol A
  • Several phthalate esters
  • Propyl and butyl paraben
  • Styrene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Toluene
  • Phenol

The initial reporting deadline was July 1, 2016, but the Department's online system for reporting was not ready, therefore, a 6-month grace period was granted. The new reporting deadline is January 1, 2017.

Tonawanda Coke Fined $175,200 After Worker Suffers Fatal Injury

The death of a Tonawanda Coke Corp., employee who was pulled into the rotating shaft of a coal elevator on January 6, 2016, could have been prevented, an inspection by the Buffalo, New York, Area Office of OSHA has determined.

As he prepared to grease and lubricate the elevator, the worker's jacket was caught, pulling the man onto the rotating shaft. OSHA determined that the employer neither shut down the elevator at the River Road plant in Tonawanda nor locked out its power source, as required by OSHA's hazardous energy-control, or lockout/tagout, standard. They also found the company failed to train employees on how to use energy-control procedures.

"Training employees on lockout procedures and ensuring those procedures are used would have prevented this needless loss of a worker's life," said Michael Scime, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "Compounding this tragedy is the disturbing fact that OSHA cited Tonawanda Coke in the past for not following the requirements of the lockout standard. Yet, the company exposed both the victim and another employee who greased and lubricated plant equipment to these same hazards. This is unacceptable. It is Tonawanda Coke's responsibility to eliminate these hazards once and for all and protect its employees."

OSHA's inspection determined that Tonawanda Coke failed to:

  • Ensure the shut down of power sources for the coal elevator and a machine in the plant battery department and that energy isolation devices had lockout devices affixed
  • Guard projecting shafts and bolts on the coal elevator against employee contact
  • Provide hazardous energy control training to authorized employees and inform them of the location of energy control devices. This resulted in a repeated violation.
  • Conduct and certify an inspection of energy-control procedures. This resulted in a repeated violation.
  • Ensure the full lock out of an energy control device
  • Maintain working surfaces in a clean and dry condition
  • Ensure to bolt covers of electrical disconnects used in a classified location fully

As a result of these conditions, OSHA has cited Tonawanda Coke for two repeated and six serious violations of workplace safety standards and proposed a total of $175,200 in fines for those violations. The repeated violations are based on similar hazards cited during OSHA inspections in 2010 and 2014.

Altamont Ambulance Service Fined $290,100 for Exposing Employees to Bloodborne Pathogens

Federal safety and health investigators found Altamont Ambulance Service, Inc., in Illinois failed to follow specific guidelines to protect emergency healthcare workers from exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other hazards while providing patient care.

On July 6, OSHA issued five willful, 16 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations to the emergency medical service provider with proposed penalties of $290,100. The agency opened inspections in January 2016, after receiving a complaint alleging violations of OSHA's bloodborne pathogen exposure and various other health and safety standards.

"OSHA has specific guidelines to protect healthcare workers who provide patient care," said Aaron Priddy, OSHA's area director for its Fairview Heights office. "Altamont Ambulance Service has a responsibility to protect both its patients and staff from injury and illness during procedures, and to keep its workers safe at its facility."

The agency's Fairview Heights area office found the employer failed to:

  • Establish an exposure control plan for bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious material
  • Make Hepatitis B vaccination series available to employees
  • Train workers about chemical and bloodborne pathogen hazards and precautions
  • Develop an emergency response plan
  • Dispose of, clean, or launder contaminated personal protection equipment
  • Train workers in operations level emergency response
  • Communicate decisions on the use of personal protective equipment to employees
  • Develop a respiratory protection program to protect again infectious diseases
  • Train workers about the use of hazardous chemicals in their work area
  • Conduct an exposure determination for blood borne pathogens
  • Provide injury and illness logs to inspectors within four hours
  • Mark, keep clear, and properly light emergency exits
  • Follow electrical safe work places. Investigators found opened breaker panel boxes, extension cords used as fixed wiring, and exposed light sockets.
  • Train workers in the use of fire extinguishers

View the current safety and health citations.

Judge Upholds OSHA Citations and $249,000 in Penalties Against New York Contractor

Flintlock Construction Services, LLC, of Mamaroneck, New York, was the general contractor for the construction of a 23-story hotel at 325 W. 33rd St. in Manhattan. An inspection by OSHA found that Flintlock failed to protect employees working on scaffolds from potentially fatal falls of up to 26 feet. In September 2013, OSHA cited Flintlock for willful and serious violations and proposed $249,920 in penalties.

Flintlock contested its citations and penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The contractor alleged that some violations were not willful because its corporate principals did not have knowledge of the hazards and Flintlock made at least a minimal attempt at compliance.

After review, Chief Administrative Law Judge Covette Rooney upheld all the citations and penalties. The judge found Flintlock had knowledge of the hazards and the authority to have its subcontractors correct safety hazards. The court also held Flintlock responsible for the oversight of safe working conditions and determined it was the controlling employer at the "325 Project" worksite. The judge's decision also ordered Flintlock to pay the $249,920 in penalties.

"This was a clear case of an employer knowingly placing its employees at risk of deadly or disabling injuries caused by the number one killer in construction work—falls. Judge Rooney's decision upholds our findings and reiterates an important fact: Employers cannot ignore their legal responsibility to safeguard their employees and adhere to workplace safety standards," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

"Employers should take note of this decision and the fact that the U.S. Department of Labor will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action to safeguard employees' rights to a safe and healthful workplace. Their employees' lives and well-being depend on their complying with the law," said Jeffrey Rogoff, regional solicitor of labor in New York.

Flintlock Construction Services, LLC, has filed a petition for discretionary review with the review commission.

Epic Health Services Fined $98,000 After Failing to Protect Workers from Physical, Sexual Assault

The sexual assault of a home health care worker has resulted in a willful citation against one of the nation's leading providers of pediatric home health and therapy services for medically frail and chronically ill children, after it failed to protect its employees properly from the dangers of workplace violence.

OSHA opened an investigation following a complaint on February 1, 2016, from an employee of AndVenture, Inc., who was sexually assaulted by a home care client after the company had been warned by another employee of sexual assaults. AndVenture does business as Epic Health Services and had received numerous reports of verbal, physical, and sexual assaults on employees, as well as a report of an employee forced to work in a house in which domestic violence occurred. OSHA cited the company for one willful violation related to employee exposure to workplace violence, including physical and sexual assault.

"Epic Health Services failed to protect its employees from life-threatening hazards of workplace violence and failed to provide an effective workplace violence prevention program, said Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. "No worker should ever have to sacrifice their physical well-being to earn a paycheck."

OSHA inspectors found Epic Health exposed employees to the risks of physical assaults as they provided nursing care services to both clients and family members and had no system for reporting threats or incidents of violence. The citation includes a number of suggested and feasible means of abatement that the company can implement to address workplace violence issues, including development of:

  • A written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program
  • Workplace violence hazard assessment and security procedures for each new client
  • Procedures to control workplace violence such as a worker's right to refuse to provide services in a clearly hazardous situation without fear of retaliation
  • A workplace violence training program
  • Procedures to be taken in the event of a violent incident in the workplace, including incident reports and investigations
  • A system for employees to report all instances of workplace violence, regardless of severity

The agency also cited the company for failing to record injuries properly on OSHA forms. OSHA fined the company $98,000 for the hazards.

OSHA's "Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers" resource is available online.

Challenge Manufacturing Fined $75,000 for Exposing Employees to Multiple Hazards

OSHA has issued 13 serious and one other-than-serious safety and health violation to Challenge Manufacturing. OSHA opened a February 2016 inspection after OSHA received a complaint of unsafe working conditions at the Kansas City, Missouri, facility that stamps, welds, and assembles automotive parts.

The agency's Kansas City area office found the employer failed to:

  • Conduct noise monitoring in the facility
  • Ensure employees wore hearing protection
  • Evaluate workplaces to determine permit-required confined spaces
  • Install adequate machine guarding
  • Develop, document, and require the use of machine safety procedures such as lockout/tagout to control machine movement during service and maintenance
  • Removed damaged, unsafe powered industrial trucks from service
  • Label hazardous chemicals
  • Train workers on hazards
  • Provide strain relief for cords and cables

The Walker, Michigan-based company also has stamping facilities in Michigan and Texas. The Kansas City plant was opened in 2014.

"OSHA has specific guidelines to protect workers from dangerous machinery, chemicals and other hazards in the workplace," said Dave Keim, OSHA's acting area director for in Kansas City. "Challenge Manufacturing needs to re-evaluate its safety and health programs to ensure employees are being protected from job hazards."

Proposed penalties total $75,000.

L&M Supply Company Inc. Exposed Workers to Unsafe Conditions

OSHA in Austin, Texas, cited L&M Supply Company, Inc., for 13 serious, one repeat, and one other violation. The inspection was initiated March 24, 2016, following a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions and allegations that the company did not report two incidents to OSHA involving injuries including an in-patient hospitalization of an employee whose arm became caught in a machine. The repeat citation was issued for failing to guard machinery. OSHA cited the company for the same violation in 2011 at its Willacoochee, Georgia, facility.

Serious violations include failing to:

  • Provide emergency shut off buttons on machines
  • Develop and implement a lockout/tagout program
  • Provide training to employees operating forklifts and other forklift-related issues
  • Guard rotating parts, chains, and sprockets on machines
  • Ensure that electrical outlets and boxes were mounted
  • Label breaker panels to indicate each circuit's purpose
  • Report the in-patient hospitalization of an employee to OSHA within 24 hours

Proposed penalties total $66,600.

"Unguarded moving machine parts cause serious injuries to workers every year," said R. Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin. "L&M Supply Company needs to immediately put guards on every machine part that can cause injury, and report any injury requiring hospitalization to OSHA within 24 hours."

Two Illinois Dental Facilities Fail to Protect Employees from Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA has issued 11 serious violations and four other-than-serious violations to Lakemoor Dental P.C. after conducting inspections at the company’s Lakemoor and Hainesville, Illinois, offices.

The April 2016 inspections were opened after OSHA received a complaint alleging violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen exposure standards. The agency’s investigators found a worker suffered a sharps injury at the Hainesville location on March 9, 2016.

The agency’s Chicago North area office found the employer:

  • Did not establish bloodborne pathogen exposure control plan and hazard communication programs at either location
  • Failed to require the use of appropriate gloves and personal protective equipment
  • Did not provide medical evaluation and follow-up to employees after an exposure incident
  • Failed to make Hepatitis B vaccination series available to employees
  • Did not train workers about chemical and bloodborne pathogen hazards and precautions

“OSHA has specific guidelines to protect healthcare workers in the medical and dental offices who may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens while providing patient care,” said Angeline Loftus, OSHA’s area director for its Chicago North office in Des Plaines. “Dental offices like Lakemoor have a responsibility to ensure patients and staff are protected from injury and illness during procedures.”

Proposed Penalties: A total of $53,900: $29,400 for the Hainesville location and $24,500 for Lakemoor.

Amerway Inc. Repeatedly Overexposed Employees to Lead Hazards

OSHA issued citations to Amerway, Inc., on July 1, 2016, for three repeat and four serious violations, and one other-than-serious violation.

OSHA initiated an inspection on March 9, 2016, as part of the agency's national emphasis programs for lead and primary metal industries. As was the case in October 2011, OSHA cited Amerway again for violations related to exposing workers to unsafe levels of lead, and for respiratory protection failures.

The serious citations relate to the employer's failure to:

  • Implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls to reduce and maintain employee exposures to lead below the permissible exposure level
  • Institute a medical surveillance program for employees exposed to lead above the action level for more than 30 days per year, to include biological monitoring in the form of blood sampling and analysis for lead and zinc protoporphyrin
  • Provide a medical evaluation to employees required to utilize a tight-fitting respirator while working in a regulated area

The other-than-serious violation was due to hazardous chemical labeling deficiencies.

"Amerway still has not taken adequate steps to protect its workers from the debilitating medical conditions related to lead overexposure, which is inexcusable," said Christopher Robinson, director of the OSHA Pittsburgh Area Office. "The most effective way to minimize worker lead exposure is through engineering controls, medical surveillance, training and the use of personal protective clothing and equipment such as respirators."

Proposed penalties total $49,000.

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