Moms Clean Air Force just launched a “DRINK SOME WATER” campaign—to help parents understand why it is so important to cool down during heat waves, and to bring home the connection between global warming, extreme temperatures, and children’s health. Heat stroke can be fatal. Global warming is not good for human life.
Our ace creative director, Kate Caprari, collected pictures of kids drinking water—and the troubles that ensued perfectly illustrate the quandary parents today find themselves in when trying to do the right thing: how to choose between the lesser of two evils.
We knew enough not to use photographs of kids drinking from plastic bottles, when most of us can get delicious, free water right from the tap. But when we sent around some great pictures of kids drinking from garden hoses—a delightful thing that I do all the time while I’m gardening—our squeaky green Ronnie immediately spoke up. And, as always, she had the research to back up her warnings.
“Those hoses are terrible sources of water!” she said. “They might contain lead, BPA, PVC. Endocrine disruptors. Neurotoxins.”
Ronnie was referring to research released by the Ecology Center, which tested water coming from standard garden hoses. Hose fittings contain brass, an alloy that can contain up to 8 percent lead. One in three tested had levels of lead that exceeded drinking water standards–water from one by 18 times the level. Hoses aren’t covered by the same lead laws that govern plumbing fixtures–even though those hoses are watering our food. Lead is also used as a stabilizer or pigment, especially in yellow and green houses. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that especially affects children. Newer hoses, purchased since 2007, when a lawsuit led by California regulated lead in hoses, might be lead-free. (Thank you, California, once again for leading the way.)
But no one has regulated BPA, an endocrine disruptor. BPA is present in water from hoses, at a level 20 times higher than what the National Science Foundation considers safe. PVC (nicknamed “poison plastic”) hoses–most vinyl hoses–contain phthalates, used as plasticizers, which leach into hose water. Pthalates are endocrine disrupters, and some studies link them to liver cancer. Even some hoses made from recycled materials contained flame retardants and heavy metals, cadmium and antimony, leading the researchers to wonder if manufacturers had recycled flame retardant-treated plastics.
The Ecology Center offers a list of safe garden hoses, as well as a few tips: replace hoses with natural rubber hoses. Let the water run a few moments before watering plants (because you have to consider what kinds of toxics you are putting on your edibles, as well.) Store your hose in the shade.
We nixed pictures of hoses, for about five minutes. Then we started talking about the deeper issue. We had photographs of children drinking from zippy cups; even if those didn’t contain BPA the substituting chemical could be toxic. On it went.
What is more important? Avoiding toxins? Or getting a sip of fresh water on a scorching day–from any available source?
As a mom, I came down on the side of “DRINK SOME WATER.” Get plenty to drink. Get it from the safest vessels, but don’t avoid it if the only source is a water fountain or a garden hose–or a plastic bottle. We have pictures of kids drinking from hoses–but we’re saying they are safe hoses. And we’re warning you about this problem.
During heat waves, we must keep our children hydrated.
Doesn’t this conundrum perfectly capture what we parents face each and every day? It isn’t right that our stuff might contain toxins. It isn’t right that only those of us with the money to buy green can escape toxic stuff. Anyway, toxins are lurking where even the savviest consumers least suspect them.
There should not be known toxics in any of our stuff.
It was one thing when no one knew that plastics could disrupt the normal workings of our hormone system. Now we know.
For manufacturers to continue to use toxic chemicals is immoral. They must stop—and the retailers we trust must stop carrying products that contain toxics.
Only a large scale overhaul of the regulations that govern what chemicals get into our stuff can begin to protect us. That’s why the Safe Chemicals Act is so important.
We should not have to choose the lesser of two evils as we raise our children. We want the best of all possible worlds for them.