Lawsuit Wins Protection for Children from Lead Risks in Garden Hoses

San
Francisco –
A California
court signed a final settlement late last week in cases brought against makers
of garden hoses by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). Under California's toxics law
Proposition 65, CEH sued the producers for hoses that leach lead into water, a
potential hazard especially for children who drink from hoses or play in hose
spray. Lead can cause brain damage and irreversible developmental problems in
children.

 

The
companies that settled include the country's largest producer and distributor of
garden hoses, the Ridgefield N.J.-based Tekni-Plex
company, maker of Colorite
Waterworks brand hoses. Other companies in the settlement are Teknor Apex of Pawtucket, Rhode
Island and Flexon Industries
of Newark, NJ. CEH cases against other companies, including Sears, Kmart and
Martha Stewart, are ongoing.

 

 "In these hot summer days, it's nice to know
that kids will be able to drink from hoses safely," said CEH Executive Director
Michael Green. "Our yards shouldn't
be danger zones where children are poisoned while they're cooling off in the
sprinkler."

 

Lead
leaching into hose water can come from the vinyl (PVC) material used to make
hose or from brass nozzles on hoses. In producing PVC, lead is often added as a
stabilizer. In sunshine, lead in hose water is a particular concern, as heat can
cause hoses to leach even higher levels of lead.

 

In
the settlement signed Friday by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay, the companies agreed to reformulate their
products to reduce lead exposures below California's Prop 65 standard by 2007. In
addition, warning labels on any hoses that could cause exposures above the
standard would carry a prominent warning label reading, "Do not drink water from
this hose. Wash hands after use."

 

 CEH filed legal notices to the hose makers
last fall, after a July 2003 Consumer Reports story, "Dare you Drink From Your Garden Hose" exposed the problem of lead from
garden hoses. The organization is represented in these cases by the Lexington
Law Group, LLP, a San
Francisco firm specializing in environmental and consumer
public interest litigation.

 

California's
Proposition 65 toxics law and its Unfair Competition Law allow for citizen
enforcement when consumer products contain illegal levels of toxic chemicals. In
previous public interest cases, CEH has used these California laws to change
entire industries, including pressuring the wood playground equipment industry
to stop using arsenic-treated wood, and eliminating health risks from lead in
major brands of baby powder and children's medicines.