Love to decorate your glassware with art? Beware, the paint used can contain potentially toxic levels of lead and cadmium, increasing health risks, a study has shown.
The findings showed that in enamelled drinking glasses, flakes of paint often come off, which could be ingested over a prolonged period and prove hazardous for human health.
For the study, researchers at the University of Plymouth carried out 197 tests on 72 new- and second-hand drinking glass products, including tumblers, beer and wine glasses, and jars.
They found lead present in 139 cases and cadmium in 134, both on the surface of the glasses and, in some cases, on the rims, with concentrations of lead sometimes more than 1,000 times higher than the safe limit.
“The presence of hazardous elements in both the paint and glaze of decorated glassware has obvious implications for both human health and the environment. So it was a real surprise to find such high levels of lead and cadmium, both on the outside of the glassware and around the rim,” said Andrew Turner, lead researcher from the varsity.
“There are genuine health risks posed through ingesting such levels of the substances over a prolonged period, so this is clearly an issue that the international glassware industry needs to take action on as a matter of urgency,” Turner added.
The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, analysed a range of glassware using portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry.
The lead concentrations ranged from about 40 to 400,000 parts per million (ppm), while quantities of cadmium ranged from about 300 to 70,000 ppm.
According to the US Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the limit levels for the externally decorated lip area of drinking glass are 200 ppm and 800 ppm, respectively.
“Given that safer alternatives are available to the industry, the overall results of this study are both surprising and concerning,” Turner said.