All it takes is one nice weekend to get us motivated around the house and prepping for summer. If you are like many of us in the NEK you probably spent some time outside last week planting, mulching and all those little things that come with home ownership and summer. What you might not know is that there can be some underlying health hazards in those common summer practices, so we’re here to help.

You can spot a freshly mulched garden bed or shrub garden from pretty far away. They look fresh and clean and maybe even have a nice smell of oak, pine or cherry. What you might not see are all the dangers that fall between those wood chips! Did you know that garden mulch can be highly flammable? Just recently a local family learned this lesson after the sun reflected just right on their fresh mulch and sent it into a blaze. Turfscape Inc. out of Ohio says, “Mulch is a combustible material. It can be easily ignited by improperly discarded smoking materials or by spontaneously combusting. Hundreds of small and large fires are started this way every year. The risk is that what starts as a small outdoor mulch fire can quickly spread to buildings. A mulch fire can be well underway before someone notices or is alerted by smoke alarms or sprinkler systems activating.” This is something to think about as we all work on our landscaping this summer.

Speaking of gardening, once you get those veggies and flowers in the ground you probably want to give them a fresh drink from the hose. Did you know that lots of people also give themselves a big gulp from the hose as well? And, it might not be a great idea due to the toxic materials that can be found in your hose. The Ecology Center researchers did a second year of testing that found the same results of high levels of hazardous chemicals in garden hoses, including; “many of those banned in children’s products. Phthalates and the toxic chemical BPA were all found in the water of a new hose after sitting outside in the sun for just a few days.

The study is a follow-up to a 2012 study that tested 90 garden water hoses. This year, 21 garden hoses were tested for lead, cadmium, bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants), chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC), phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, among other serious health problems.”

Along with that, there are also other concerns that can be lurking from summer projects that you might want to think twice about before you start. For example, if you are scraping a garage or deck make sure to use drop cloths to catch all that chipped paint so furry friends and children aren’t in them or eating them. If you are doing bigger projects in the yard make sure to think safe while digging. Mark bigger holes with posts and a fluorescent flag so no one falls in or missteps.  If you are working on a roof, get all those nails up! Leftover roof nails can be a popular cause to head to the ER when someone steps on one. If you are working on tree removal think of the best possible and worst possible outcome. Taking a tree to the face or having it fall in the wrong place can be dangerous and risky.

The summer is a great time to get projects done, all while enjoying the sun and getting some exercise, but they can also be hazardous. Before you just hop to it ask yourself if there might be a more healthful way to keep everyone safe this summer. Or in laymen’s terms, think twice, act one, and keep your summer nice!


Mary Hoadley – Director of The Wellness Center