Assessing risk of lead exposure from insulated beverage containers

Steel thermo tumblers on white background

January 29, 2024 – Amid concern raised by social media users about the potential risk of lead exposure from Stanley mugs, experts are weighing in on how serious the risk is and what consumers should watch for.

A January 24 article explained that various brands of insulated beverage containers—including the currently popular Stanley mug—include an encased pellet containing lead that helps seal the container’s insulation. In the Stanley container, a circular steel barrier on the bottom covers the pellet. It’s possible that lead exposure could occur if the cover comes off.

One of the experts quoted in the article was Ronnie Levin, instructor in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health. She noted that lead is “an all-systems toxin. … There isn’t a system in your body—from your nervous system to your immune system to your reproductive system—that isn’t harmed by it.”

Given that children are particularly vulnerable to lead—it can affect their intelligence and behavior—Levin and others in the article recommended that parents keep an eye on the bottom of the cups to make sure the cover stays in place. “Though lead poisoning is unlikely to happen from a single instance,” Levin said, “if a child puts the bottom of one of these cups against their mouth or rubs the surface with their fingers and then puts them in their mouth, contamination can occur.”

She added, “If that barrier [on the Stanley cup] remains intact, you won’t be exposed to any lead and won’t suffer any negative outcomes.”

Read the article: Do Stanley cups contain lead or pose a risk of lead poisoning? Experts weigh in

Photo: iStock/Thatphichai Yodsri