TL; DNR - hyperbolic touting of the hose material that is simply a PVC compound; - has high phthalates levels, toxic chemicals capable of disrupting health; - extensively attacked by black mold just a few months after installation; - incomplete...
- hyperbolic touting of the hose material that is simply a PVC compound;
- has high phthalates levels, toxic chemicals capable of disrupting health;
- extensively attacked by black mold just a few months after installation;
- incomplete access to warranty terms violates FTC Presale Warranty rule.
By June 2021 none of the health risks have been corrected and remain a matter of concern.
This review applies to the Flexzilla hoses distributed by Weems Industries Inc. doing business as Legacy Manufacturing Co. In reality, the hoses are manufactured by Jieh-Ming Plastics, a Taiwanese company (also d/b/a Mr. Hose in Taiwan, and Jieh-Ming Polymer Materials in China) specializing in hose production and PVC compounding. Jieh-Ming has been listed in the past as a buyer of recycled plastic scrap. (My thanks to D.T. for help in verifying the real manufacturer''s name.)
The tube wall of the hose has three layers. The material of the innermost one is described as a hybrid polymer (i.e., a substance comprising synthetic polymers and inorganic or organic components, or both), whose undisclosed components are touted to be safe for water drinking. No information is given on the materials of the other two layers.
As described below, however, a 2016 laboratory analysis listed all three layers as PVC, and detected in all of them high concentrations of chemical additives used for making PVC flexible. The presence of PVC throughout the entire hose wall is also indicated by levels of chlorine concentration, ~330,000 ppm, found in these layers. The touted "special polymer blend" therefore consists of PVC, the most environmentally damaging plastic.
By and large, hoses without PVC are less likely to contain toxic contaminants, such as heavy metals, flame retardants or phthalates, than hoses with PVC, particularly when the PVC is recycled instead of pure. I was unable to find verifiable evidence in the Web (Legacy and Flexzilla websites included) supporting the sales pitch that the hose is water-drinking safe.
Despite this, when replying to a 2017 query about water potability in the Q&A section here [see amzn.to/2LCiKT6], Legacy claims "the hose meets or exceeds the standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation." Currently, such a foundation --a testing and certifying organization whose name changed to NSF International some 30 years ago-- does not have any certified product with the brand Flexzilla in its database. Since such claim could have also meant the hose was analyzed against the NSF/ANSI-61 water standard by a third-party laboratory, I further searched for Flexzilla water test reports over the last decade, reports which are typically valid for only 12 months. I did not find any. What I found, however, was the _Garden Hose Study 2016_ of the Ecology Center (Michigan), which included a 50-ft Flexzilla hose whose material is listed as PVC. Using IR spectroscopy, a laboratory analytical technique, the study detected multiple phthalates (suggesting a recycled PVC) in all three layers. Contrary to Legacy''s claims of safety, levels of phthalates in the Flexzilla hose were so high as to receive the negative rating of "high overall level of concern" (see one of my figures). This is bad news to those planning to use a Flexzilla hose for water drinking, watering vegetables, or letting children play with it.
Phthalates are chemical additives ("plasticizers") used to soften the PVC''s vinyl and make it flexible. They are both water soluble and not bound to the vinyl, so they can easily leach from a PVC hose into those drinking from it. Absorbed phthalates can disrupt hormonal function, affecting children --both in utero and born-- as well as adults. Depending on concentration, the exposure to phthalates is a risk incurred with some flexible plastic things, like this hose, but not others, like drinking-water bottles that do not use these chemicals. Following the EU''s 1999 phthalate ban, several phthalates were PROHIBITED here in 2009 (15 US Code §2057c) above 0.1% in products for children under 3 years of age and toys for children under 12, and some other phthalates were provisionally BANNED. Canada adopted similar restrictions in 2011.
The reason for this prohibition is that phthalates may increase the risk of allergic illnesses (asthma or eczema) and of IQ/behavioral alterations in kids, and of pubertal breast changes in boys and girls. They are considered a risk of male genital defects during pregnancy and reduced sperm counts in men, and of increased fat in mice (see
, a recent book of an epidemiologist of note). Any product sold in California that contains any of six phthalates as well as a number of other toxic substances must display the Proposition 65 Warning : "this product contains one or more chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm."
Legacy''s reaction to queries in the Q&A section on the presence of phthalates has ranged from ignoring them, as in a 2014 query [see amzn.to/3cbugD9], to replies that border on fraudulence, as in its 2017 reply [see amzn.to/2D5xQjT] that the hose is "phathalate [sic] free", notwithstanding the Ecology Center study had been published the year before. Parsimoniously, this misleading reply, and the fact it has not yet been corrected, can be interpreted as deceptive. As heat increases leaching, with phthalates leached from the hose''s inner layer mixing with the water output and those from its outer layer accumulating on the hose surface, it is left to one''s imagination what is the exposure risk in the image that Legacy shows here of a child (it used to be a toddler in a prior version of the page) drinking from this PVC hose held in his hand out in the sun.
Despite Legacy''s acquaintance with the Prop-65 warning, it did not provide it in its several Amazon seller pages over at least the past 7 years. Finally, perhaps relenting to criticisms of its rather non-transparent selling practices, it added the warning here in 2021. But it was sloppily done -- at the time of this writing, there is no risk warning when the 100-ft hose is selected (for some strange reason, the option for this hose selection is currently labeled 5/8" instead of 100 ft).
BLACK MOLD INVASION
About 4 months after I attached the hose to a reel, kept dry off the grass or any other wet surface, it began to be invaded by a black mold. This is shown in an attached picture taken after rubbing the hose with a dry paper towel to remove dirt (as well as some mold), and whose inset shows the same hose when it was installed. This invasion is neither an isolated nor a rare case as proven by the number of US-reviews complaining of it.
Handling the moldy hose left black sticky stains on the hands. A mold invaded object is a health risk : mold not only can produce mycotoxins but also release millions of tiny spores that become air- and water-borne, causing lung, ocular, and skin reactions in those sensitive to them. Plasticized PVC is susceptible to fungal attack because additives can serve as a nitrogen or carbon source, and, at least for several plasticizers, mold can degrade and deteriorate the plastic, making it brittle and allowing the mold to penetrate it even further. Of course, mold developing in the inner surface of a hose is a MAJOR water-safety risk, and the hose needs to be flushed to remove the black-mold flecks in the standing water inside.
I contacted Legacy, and a Tech Support agent informed me over the phone, with the polite laconism recommended in cross-examinations, that they do not offer a solution for getting rid of the fungus. After pressing the issue, I was told that "no mold was found in the inner surface of a moldy hose" that they have dissected (though, curiously, neither the dissection nor its results are publicly available). In contrast, a number of reviews here show mold can develop inside the hose.
With a melamine sponge I could remove some black-mold surface stains or flecks, but not others or those deeper in the wall. Cleaning the hose surface does not solve deeper fungal growth that can reach the inner layers, and is only a temporary cosmetic fix since the mold returned even after I removed the hose from the spigot and stored it in the garage. This is shown in my third picture, taken some months after removing the molding hose (the hose was hung in position for the sake of taking the picture).
In 2017 Legacy began to claim a limited lifetime warranty instead of one year. What are the terms of the warranty, however, is a mystery for shoppers of some of these hoses. At this time there are 3 warranty outcomes: (i) When the 5-ft, 10-ft, or 25-ft hose is selected on top of the page, the Product Information section displays a Warranty & Support link to ask Amazon a copy of the warranty -- I did so and was told to contact the manufacturer. (ii) When the 3-ft or 100-ft hose is selected there is no warranty link at all, and you are left on your own. These two outcomes are in violation of the FTC Rule on Pre-Sale Availability of Written Warranty Terms (16 C.F.R. Part 702). (iii) When the 50-ft or 75-ft hose is selected, not only that link but another link (50-ft hose) or two more (75-ft hose) under "Product Guides and Documents" allow the downloading the warranty. How bizarre.
Its terms, written in High Pidgin Legalese, are user-UNfriendly. A defective hose would be repaired or replaced if, and only if, you ship it with the transportation charges prepaid to an authorized service center along with a proof of purchase date and, on a separate document, the original retail label and your name and address. In addition to the distrust of clients implicit in these terms, Legacy shows very little confidence in the quality of the Taiwanese hoses it distributes: compared to the warranties of hoses that are water-drinking safer than theirs, the terms are not only draconian but also costly, as you have to prepay shipping for a hose that can weigh up to ~11+ lbs (75-ft). Meh.
According to Legacy, though not legally affirmed by judicial opinion, the invasion of black mold is not covered by warranty -- tough luck for those customers who bought hoses that became Moldy Black. (I bet Weems will not put a trademark for this color.) It is censurable that Legacy imitates the three legendary Japanese monkeys, albeit changing the proverb to SEE NO MOLD, HEAR NO MOLD, SPEAK NO MOLD, and is fair to conclude that it considers the Moldy Black defect too frequent to be covered even by its unfriendly penny-pinching warranty.