Watch Group Pushes for Toxic-Free Mugs without Lead, Cadmium and Other Hazardous Substances

 Coffee mugs with lead and/or cadmium on the colored design.
Coffee mugs with no detectable lead or cadmium on the colored design.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group on toxic chemicals in products and wastes, urged coffee mug makers to use non-hazardous ingredients that will not pose risk to human health and the environment.

The group’s call for toxic-free mugs came after a chemical screening of 20 assorted mugs that detected high levels of lead and/or cadmium in 18 of the samples, including three of the four Duterte-inspired mugs.

The samples were obtained from various retail outlets in Davao, Makati and Manila Cities for P25 to P150 each.

“While the hazardous substances may or may not leach to the liquid, it is possible that these may be released through mechanical damage of the glazed or painted decorations,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“As a precaution against possible human exposure, beverage and food containers should be toxic-free and safe for both children and adults to use,” he pointed out

The non-detection of cadmium and lead in two samples, including one Duterte-inspired mug and one “It’s more fun in the Philippines” mug, provides evidence that mugs can be made without lead glaze or lead paint.

Dizon noted that toxic cadmium and lead may also be released into the environment when the mugs are broken and thrown in open dumps or landfills.

He likewise noted that the samples provided no precautionary warning that the glaze or paint used in the mugs contains lead and/or cadmium to warn off buyers.  There was no information too about the mug manufacturers.

With the help of a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group detected lead and cadmium, which are among the “top 10 chemicals of major public health concern,” according to the World Health Organization.  

The five samples with the highest levels of lead were:  “Polska Wojciech #1” (17,900 ppm), “DU30: #PartnerForChange” (10,500 ppm), “Happy Birthday” (9,492 ppm), “DU30: Change is Coming“ (9,269 ppm) and “M&M” (8,686 ppm).

For cadmium, the five samples with the highest levels were: “Hello Kitty” (4,700 ppm), “The Amazing Spiderman”  (3,302 ppm), “Happy Birthday” (3,092 ppm), “Nicecafe” (2,833 ppm) and “Bright and Early Coffee” (2,286 ppm).

According to the key scientific findings for lead published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),  “lead is a heavy metal that is toxic at very low exposure levels and has acute and chronic effects on human health. It is a multi-organ system toxicant that can cause neurological, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, haematological and reproductive effects.”

Cadmium, according to UNEP, “is a non-essential and toxic element for humans mainly affecting kidneys and the skeleton. It is also a carcinogen by inhalation. Cadmium is accumulated in bone and may serve as a source of exposure later in life.”