The kitchen sink sponge. Loofahs. Doorknobs. You're already aware of some of the dirtiest objects and surfaces we're warned to stay away from both in public and even at home; but how safe are your drinking glasses? A new British study warns of the danger of drinking from decorated drinking glasses like tumblers, jars, and beer and wine glasses, due to possibly harmful levels of lead and cadmium.
In the study, from the University of Plymouth and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, researchers studied 72 new and secondhand drinking glasses; of them, about 70 percent tested positive for lead or cadmium, which are both toxic. The lead specifically came from all colors and gold-leaf designs. As for the cadmium, that was found in red enamel. Don't think lead and cadmium were only found on the outside of the glassware, either; researchers also found it along the rim. You know — where you put your mouth?
For the researchers, the news continued to get worse. Not only did they find lead levels that were 1,000 time higher than what's deemed acceptable, they also saw that paint flakes would come off the glass over longer periods of time — meaning this is a risk people may be exposed to for sustained lengths.
For the curious, these two substances are no laughing matter. Cadmium can lead to cancer, kidney problems, and bone softening. Lead has been connected to growth and development complications. According to the World Health Organization, in actuality, "there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe." It's stored our our teeth and bones and builds up over time, eventually affecting our brain, liver, kidney, and bones. To make matters even scarier, it's released in the blood during pregnancy, exposing the unborn baby to it.
It's a known and documented problem, and yet manufacturers around the globe are still selling glassware that can make us seriously ill. In fact, it was just last year that McDonald's had to recall 12 million glasses because the Shrek design on them contained cadmium.
It doesn't end there. Lead can be found in everyday products and you might not even realize it. Children in particular are so susceptible to the dangers due to their tendency to put things in their mouths. Did you know lead might be found in kids' jewelry or anything made of vinyl or plastic? This might include bibs, backpacks, lunch boxes, and car seats. Even mouthing on these products presents a danger. Products made specifically for babies and kids actually pose a threat.
The situation with cadmium is no less concerning. You might find it in mugs, nonstick pans, pigments for ceramic products, and sippy cups. Other places manufacturers sneak it in? Markers and other coloring materials, paint, and lipstick.
Now that we know what to avoid, what kind of container should you drink out of? Your safest bet is still glass — but without any decorative art, of course. You can enjoy your favorite beverages in glassware, but nix the paint. Aside from this, glass offers the purest taste, since it doesn't leave behind any flavors; it's chemical free and made from natural materials; and it's safe to put in the dishwasher. Still, you should make sure it's been tested for lead and cadmium, just to be extra safe.
And while drinking out of plastic water bottles is oh-so convenient and seemingly cheap (even though there are way more affordable options, like investing in a water filter and drinking out of glass or stainless steel), this too comes with a variety of risks and uncertainties.
No matter what, one thing is for certain: no matter how pretty or cute or visually appealing they are, just say no to glass with art!