I need to run a hose from a tap to my campsite. I have a drinking water rated hose, but I'd like to know whether brass splitters and hose fittings (sold as gardening items) are safe -- I believe brass can contain lead.

I'm in Australia if that makes any difference.

This is the sort of item I mean: https://www.bunnings.com.au/holman-3-way-brass-manifold_p3130735

edit Since asking this question I have found out a bit more:

  • No Australian garden fitting is allowed to contain lead, according to a Holman representative. But I am pretty sure that this is not true.
  • According to a Gardena representative "[their products] are not recommended for use with potable water. There are specific brass pipe fittings that are made from dezincification resistant brass (DZR) for this use. You will find the marking "DR" on these fittings" DZR brass still contains lead, but because the Zinc is not leached as easily, more of the lead stays in the metal too.
  • Why don't you just use fittings that are rated for drinking water? Using ones that aren't is unnecessary and may be dangerous.
    – Qudit
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 7:23
  • I have not been able to find fittings explicitly rated for drinking water. I'd appreciate any pointers.
    – tgdavies
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 10:00

4 Answers 4


As you suspected, brass hose fittings are known to contain lead, which can cause severe health problems of many types. It doesn't take a lot of lead to be dangerous, and some studies even find lead poisoning in children who drink out of hoses while playing in the yard.

Several sources say not to drink from a hose with brass fixtures, even if the hose itself is rated as safe.

I'd be especially concerned in your proposed set-up, because even if you shut it off, residual water can sit in the top horizontal section of the fixture. That water has more time to be affected by the lead in that section, before making its way down through the other lead-containing brass fittings.

A number of studies emphasized that even hoses marketed as safe to drink from only include the hose. The brass fittings are studied separately, something many people don't realize.

From Consumer Reports:

Is it safe to slurp from a garden hose? I recommend that you don’t... The brass fitting on the ends of the hose are also likely to contain lead. Based on some testing we did a few years ago, water left standing in the hose can absorb worrisome amounts of lead and turn your first gulp into a health hazard.

From The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, United States:

Dr. Allan said some hoses are made without harmful chemicals, and are marked as such. He said the hose fixture matters as well. Brass fixtures, for example, release lead which will contribute to health risks.

From Is your garden hose safe for drinking?

Mind the Fixture:
Most of the outdoor fixtures are made of brass. The brass is unregulated, and most of the time it contains lead... be always mindful of the fixture and if you have the money, change it regularly.

Backyard Boss also says that toxins can be present in the fittings, and the only way to be really safe is to just skip drinking from the hose.

In conclusion, it really isn’t a good idea to drink from a garden hose... it may also pick up extra toxins or pollutants through your garden hose or fixtures and fittings.

The State of California in the United States has very strict regulations regarding the safety of drinking water, listed in the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Brass hose fittings are not regulated, even though they've been found to contain significantly unsafe levels of lead in many studies.

Unlike residential plumbing fixtures, which must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the brass fittings on hoses are not regulated, even though 30 percent of those tested in the study were found to exceed safety limits for lead. Source

In California itself, however, brass hose fittings have to be marked with a warning. See here for a hose nozzle with the warning attached.

California Proposal 65: The brass in this product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer or birth defects or reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

I strongly suggest seeking a safer product. Now that you're armed with respected information, you won't fall prey to someone trying to tell you it really doesn't matter. Check local or online garden supply companies. Find safe-minded gardening organizations, many of which are parent groups, and ask what they're using. Building supply stores can work too, just be firm and tell them not to sell you a brass product.


Various sources say 5 to 10 micrograms/deciliter of blood is the usual point of concern. In adults symptoms show up at around 60. Children are developing so the lower 5 is recommended as their max level.

Half life of lead in blood is about 40 days -- may be longer in children because some is absorbed by bone, then released as bone is remodeled.

But the average adult has 5 liters of blood, or 50 deciliters of blood. At 5 micrograms / dl an adult would need have 250 micrograms or .25 milligram (mg)

The standard in the U.S. is that the water supply can have no more than 15 ppb lead. That's parts per billion. 15 micrograms per liter or 1.5 micrograms per deciliter. (Canada's is 10 micrograms/dl)

That means that an adult has to drink 20 liters of water to top up his blood supply with lead. If drinking from a maximally allowed toxic fitting.

The science news article below mentions running a tap all out for 10 minutes, then letting it run at a trickle for 3 days. This with most common water supplies will cause the carbonate in the water to form a film on exposed lead in the fitting. This drops the leached lead level by a factor of 10 or so. (varies depending on the water) You can take this same approach with your brass manifold.

Here in Canada I can get a free water test. Pick up a bottle from my local health clinic, fill it from my tap, and drop it off. I get a chemical analysis about 3 weeks later. In my house I take the water from a brass tap in my laundry room. I have lead soldered plumbing through out the house. My reports read: Below limits of detection. More reading finds that common tests can detect 1 ppb.

I would suggest buying a fitting, running some water through it, and having it tested. You can buy mail in kits if your local health board doesn't do the test.

If it's marginal, then use a water filter to grab the lead. Put this on one tap used for cooking and drinking. Lead is not absorbed through the skin to any great degree, so bathing and showers are fine.

As to kids drinking out of garden hoses: Every kid I've seen drink from a hose, lets it run until the water is cold. The stagnant high lead water is gone before he drinks it. I wouldn't worry about it.

OTOH the organics from the hose...



It looks like yes garden hose connectors are not regulated to the same level as say interior hoses,

One section which may be neglected however, is the home’s garden hose. While seeming miniscule, if not addressed, the garden hose can still be a source of lead exposure; it is, after all, often used for bathing pets, watering plants, and taking the occasional drink while outdoors on a hot day.

Garden Hose Fittings May Be Neglected When Making a Home Lead-Free

but at the same time, people want lead free garden connectors, and adding "lead free" to your search should bring up the correct items.

  • Are you ignoring the lead in essentially all brass and bronze faucets and valves? Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 16:56
  • @blacksmith37 Some brass connectors are sold as "lead free" Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 21:27
  • I meant all those produced before about 2010. It would be interesting to see the FDA definition of "lead free" and the required quality assurance. Commented Oct 7, 2018 at 15:27

Check with a recreational vehicle supply store, they should have hose fittings such as tees and wyes (perhaps plastic rather than brass) that are safe for potable water.

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