Nozzlegate–Scandal in the Garden

A basket of Peppy Blue Star petunias hanging from the railing

A basket of Peppy Blue Star petunias hanging from the railing

As my garden has expanded from a random collection of containers to a small urban oasis, I’ve found myself sloshing through the apartment day after day with one overspilling watering can after another. So I finally decided it was time for the purchase I’ve been thinking about for months–a garden hose. I went down to the local hardware store and was delighted to find a very cool one called the XHose—or as the package calls it, “the incredible Xpanding hose!” When filled with water, it expands to 50 feet; when emptied again, it contracts to its original length of just 18 feet, for easier storage in a cramped urban setting.

The XHose didn’t come with a nozzle, but that was OK, because someone had given me one last year. But when I went to detach the nozzle from its cardboard packaging, I was stunned to see this comment on the back:

“WARNING: This product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Do not place your hands in your mouth after handling the product. Do not place the product in your mouth. Wash your hands after touching this product.” (Their bold-faced type, not mine.)

I felt the joy draining out of me like the water out of my “incredible Xpanding hose,” as it shrivels back up to its original length. The pleasure of gardening, as far as I’m concerned, is bound up in the healthful, natural experience. I love watching the thirsty soil soak up the rain and seeing my plants change daily, as they sprout new leaves and buds. I derive deep pleasure from clipping herbs, cherry tomatoes, and greens from containers right off the stoop of our house, knowing exactly how and where they were raised–purely and organically. Can I really spray my plants with water that may contain lead?

I know people who won’t give their plants tap water at all, claiming that the chlorine and other contaminants harm the plants. Instead they feed their plants distilled water. I’m not one of them. Our tap water has been tested, and considering New Jersey’s reputation as a giant toxic waste dump, it’s surprisingly clean (though it does contain chlorine).

Today I went back to the hardware store in search of a lead-free nozzle and found that every single one on the racks carried the same warning or a similar one. So maybe there’s a lead-free nozzle out there. But until I find it, I’m going nozzle-free.

Related post: Taking a Hosing

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