May 6, 2017
* hyperbolic seller's descriptions of the material, which is a PVC polymer;
* contradictory seller's descriptions of maximum working water pressure;
* presence of toxic chemical additives in the hose affecting health safety;
* warranty issues violating federal law and FTC's Pre-sale Warranty rule;
* development of black mold within about 3 to 4 months after installation.
By November 2018 none of the above issues have been corrected and they still remain a matter of concern.
The following applies to all ZillaGreen models and lengths of Flexzilla garden hoses of the Legacy Mfg. Co. (a division of Weems Industries, Iowa), made in Taichung City, Taiwan.
MATERIAL. The tube of the hose is made of at least two layers. The material of the innermost layer is described as a hybrid polymer --i.e., a substance comprising synthetic polymers and inorganic or organic components, or both-- whose undisclosed components are claimed to be safe for water drinking, while no information is provided on the material(s) of the other layer(s). Nonetheless, as I explain below, a 2016 laboratory analysis found in *all* layers a high concentration of multiple chemical additives used to make PVC flexible, so the hose has considerable amounts of PVC throughout the entire tube wall. Thus, this so-called "premium hybrid polymer" is but a PVC composite.
WORKING PRESSURE. According to the page's description and hose markings, the maximum working pressure is 150 psi at 70°F, but in May 2017 the manufacturer replied to a query in the Customer Q&A section by saying "the working pressure for the Flexzilla Garden Hose is 165psi" (amzn.to/2IR2LTE). Keep in mind the maximum working water pressure decreases rapidly as hose temperature increases so a hose may at least swell when left out in the sun under high water pressure on a hot day.
HEALTH SAFETY. In general, a hose without PVC is much less likely to contain toxic contaminants like heavy metals, flame retardants, or phthalates (see below) than one with PVC, especially if the PVC were recycled. I was unable to find any verifiable evidence supporting the sales pitch that the hose is water-drinking safe. Curiously, neither the website of Legacy nor that of Flexzilla provides such evidence. Despite this, in replying to a query about water potability in the Q&A section, Legacy claimed "the hose meets or exceeds the standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation" (amzn.to/2LCiKT6).
Such foundation, a testing and certifying body whose name was changed to NSF International almost 30 years ago (!), does not have at the time of writing either Legacy or Weems in its database of certified companies, nor a certified product with the brand name Flexzilla. Since, that claim could also mean that a Flexzilla hose was analyzed in a professional laboratory against the NSF/ANSI 61 water standard, I did a web search for Flexzilla test reports over the last few years (given that the result of such a test normally would be valid for only one year). Alas, I did not find the claimed results. What I found, however, was the _Garden Hose Study 2016_ of the Ecology Center (Michigan) that analyzed many hoses including a 50-ft Flexzilla, whose tube is just described as PVC. Multiple phthalates were detected in all layers of this hose with a laboratory tool (FTIR) with a minimum detection limit of about 1% by mass. Contrary to Legacy's claims of safety, the hose was rated HIGH for phthalates and was given the negative evaluation of *high overall level of concern*. This is bad news to those planning to use a Flexzilla hose for water drinking, watering vegetables, or letting children play with it.
Phthalates, short for ortho-phthalates, are chemical plasticizers used to soften the vinyl of PVC to make it flexible (at concentrations typically between 10% and 35%) since PVC is brittle and rigid if not plasticized. These additives are not chemically bonded to the PVC and can easily migrate (leach) from the polymer. They are endocrine disruptors targeting human hormonal function and the male reproductive system, so --depending on their concentration-- exposure to phthalates is a health risk incurred with some flexible plastic things like this hose (but not with others, like drinking-water bottles, whose material does not have these plasticizers). Several phthalates have been *prohibited* in the United States since 2008 (15 U.S. Code § 2057c) above 0.1% in products for children under 3 years of age and toys for children under 12 years, and some other phthalates have been provisionally *banned*. Both Canada and the European Union also limit their use.
The main reason for this prohibition is that phthalates are suspected of causing behavioral problems and lowering IQ in children -- just as they are suspected of causing male genital defects during pregnancy, reduced sperm counts in men, and facilitating weight gain by interfering with metabolism. All products sold in California containing any of six phthalates (BBP, DEHP, DIDP, DBP, DnHP, and DINP) or other toxic contaminants must carry the state's 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." Flexzilla hoses sold in that state do carry a sticker with this warning. There is no honest cause for Legacy not to provide the same warning to shoppers in this page as California residents shop here too. This is particularly egregious as the Amazon page "About California Proposition 65" (amzn.to/2xkHM67) allows honest sellers to warn shoppers with a link to that page in the Product Information section here.
Further, some Legacy claims border on fraudulence. Using the tag Flexzilla Manufacturer, it replied to a query in the Q&A section by saying the hose is "phathalate [sic] free" (amzn.to/2D5xQjT) notwithstanding the fact that it was publicly known since at least one year before the reply that phthalates are found in high concentration in all layers of the hose. This misleading information, and the fact that it has still not been subsequently corrected more than one year after its publication can be parsimoniously interpreted as _deceptive_. Given that heat increases the leaching of additives (with the phthalates leached from the innermost layer reaching the water, and those leached from the outermost layer accumulating on the hose surface), it is left to one's imagination what is the exposure risk in the image Legacy shows here of a child drinking from the PVC hose held in his hand out in the sun.
BLACK MOLD INFESTATION. About four months after I installed the hose (connected to a hose reel and kept dry off the grass or any other wet surface), it began developing black mold. This is shown in my first picture, taken after rubbing the hose with a wet paper towel to remove dirt; for comparison purposes, the figure's inset shows the same hose when it was installed. This is not a rare or isolated as proved by a number of reviews complaining of mold.
Plasticized PVC is very susceptible to fungal attack since plasticizers can serve as a nitrogen or carbon source for fungal species. A mold-infested object represents a health risk because, in addition to the toxins mold can produce (mycotxins), mold releases millions of spores small enough to be air- or water-borne that can cause lung, ocular, and skin reactions in people sensitive to the fungus. At least for several plasticizers, mold infestation can lead to degradation and deterioration of the plastic, making it brittle and allowing the mold to penetrate deeper. This is not new information: such susceptibility and biodeterioration are known since WWII. If the inner surface of the tube also becomes infested by mold it would be a *major* water-safety risk.
I contacted Legacy and a Technical Support agent informed me, with a polite laconism worth of that recommended in cross-examinations, that the company does not offer a solution for getting rid of the fungus. After pressing the issue, I was told that "no mold was found in the innermost surface of a moldy hose" Legacy had dissected. Curiously, neither such dissection nor its results are publicly available. With a so-called "magic" melamine sponge I could remove many mold stains on the surface, but not others that seemed deeper. This cleaning does not solve deeper fungal growth, which may include the inner tube surface, and is only a temporary cosmetic fix: the mold returns even if the hose has been removed from the spigot and kept without contact with water -- this is shown in my second picture, taken some months after removing the hose and keeping it dry in the garage once the mold began to reappear after the cleaning (the hose was hung in position for the purpose of taking the picture).
EXPRESS WARRANTY. An unattractive aspect of the hoses is the manner the company has handled the matter of the warranty. Starting in 2017 Legacy began to offer a limited lifetime warranty instead of a one-year one. But what are the terms of the warranty? Well, that us a matter of confusion. Despite the lifetime warranty claim for the garden hoses, the official looking "Legacy Product Warranty Statement" (available in PDF format via the _warranty link_ in the Product Information section for the 50-ft and 75-ft hoses only) unambiguously states in pidgin legalese that _all_ garden hoses (which fall under the "All Other Legacy Products" category) have a limited warranty of only *one year* from the date of purchase, and not a lifetime.
The warranty link for some other hose lengths (which is absent for yet other hoses) does not yield a copy of the warranty, providing instead an Amazon email address to request it. At the time of writing, however, Amazon does not have the copy, and neither the Flexzilla nor the Legacy websites disclose the terms. The weird, dissociative mixture of some hoses having at the same time warranties of different duration, and some other hoses not having available warranties, amounts to a festival of non-compliance with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. §2301 et seq., the federal law governing consumer product warranties) as well as the FTC Rule on Pre-Sale Availability of Written Warranty Terms (16 C.F.R. Part 702). This is a byzantine way to provide an express warranty that, over an unclear duration, would repair or replace (in a penny-pinching, customer unfriendly manner) a defective hose if --and only if-- it were first shipped to an authorized Warranty Service Center with transportation charges prepaid, along with proof of purchase date and original retail label. You would think that, in addition to the overt distrust of clients implicit in the above requirements, they themselves do not have much confidence in the quality of their product: Compared to the warranty of lighter and water-safer hoses than this one, its warranty terms are not only draconian but, due to the onus of having to prepay shipping of a hose (which can weigh up to 15.5 lbs depending on its length), also costly.
According to Legacy, but not legally affirmed by a legal court's decision, the black-mold infestation is not covered by warranty -- tough luck for Flexzilla customers who bought hoses that became Moldy Black (I bet that the company will not put a trademark for this color.) It is criticizable that Legacy imitates the three legendary Japanese monkeys, albeit changing the proverb to SEE NO MOLD, HEAR NO MOLD, SPEAK NO MOLD. Most companies, if not all, would gladly replace a relatively low-cost product to protect their reputation, even more if the defect were rare. Thus, it is fair to conclude that the company considers the Moldy Black defect too frequent to be covered by its unfriendly penny-pinching warranty.