Outrageous Levels of Lead and Other Toxic Metals Found in Drinking Glasses

Above: Drinking glasses with low or non-detectable levels of lead.  Below: Drinking glasses with high levels of lead.
After detecting toxic lead in coffee mugs and tea cups, the EcoWaste Coalition found even higher levels of the infamous chemical poison in drinking glasses.

As a sequel to its latest investigation focusing on lead in beverage and food containers, the group on July 1 - 4, 2014 bought 100 pieces of decorated drinking glasses from 20 retail outlets in Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Parañaque, Pasay and Quezon Cities.

The drinking glasses, costing P6 to P30 each, were generally unlabelled and a handful with limited markings shows that the products were made in China and Indonesia.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group screened the decorative enamel of the glass prints for lead, a poisonous chemical that can harm the brain and central nervous system and disrupt the normal function of the endocrine system.

“The outrageous levels of lead in the colorful prints outside of the glasses may rub on to the hands or get into the mouths of kids and adults using these glasses,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“While it will not make you ill at once, the chronic exposure to even low levels of lead over months or years of using tainted glasses should be a matter of concern to all,” he said, stressing that “no safe blood lead level has been determined.”

“As the human body has no need for lead, it’s important to curb all preventable sources of childhood as well as adult exposure to this poison such as everyday things like drinking glasses adorned with lead prints,” he emphasized.

“These tainted glasses can also pollute the surroundings with lead and other harmful chemicals once broken and discarded,” he added.

Out of 100 samples, 90 glasses were found to contain lead at concentrations greater than 90 parts per million (ppm), the targeted threshold limit for lead in decorative paints and other paints under the DENR’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

The lead levels found on the design surfaces of the 90 glasses range from 14,200 ppm to 81,300 ppm.  Of these 90 glasses, 83 had lead above 20,000 ppm.  Twenty-one of the glasses had over 40,000 ppm of lead or more.

The leaded glasses also contained elevated levels of antimony, arsenic, cadmium and chromium.
“We should point out that 10 samples had low or non-detectable lead, indicating that glasses can be embellished with lead safe paints,” Dizon said.

The group had earlier reported finding lead up to 31,000 parts per million (ppm) on the painted designs of 42 out of 50 samples of coffee cups and tea cups bought from various retailers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.”

“Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage,” the WHO said.

“Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations,” the WHO warned.