By: Erin Kayata
Stanley cups, a brand of insulated tumblers, are the latest “it” water bottle, following in the footsteps of Nalgene and Hydro Flask before it.
Their popularity prompted pandemonium at Targets over a chance to get the brand’s limited-edition Valentine’s Day collection and a skit on “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at the craze. Youths aren’t immune either: Parents have taken to social media saying their kids have been bullied for not having a Stanley cup.
But now, these massive handled cups are gaining traction for another reason: Consumers are concerned about the risk of lead poisoning from a lead pellet concealed in the base of the mugs.
Users on social media raised the alarm about the presence of lead in the tumblers over the last few weeks. These claims gained traction as some people began using home lead-testing kits on their mugs to suss out the risk.
So, are Stanley cups safe? Though the practice of using lead as a whole poses some risks, the products shouldn’t cause lead poisoning unless the bottom comes off and exposes the lead pellet, says Kimberly Garrett, an environmental toxicologist and a postdoctoral research associate working at Northeastern University’s PFAS Project lab.
“From what I understand, that’s an industry standard,” Garrett says of the lead pellet. “Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe, but it is completely insulated within the mug. With regular use, it’s not supposed to pose any risk. However, I have read some reports of the bottom falling off in a very specific way and then exposing that lead. It’s a situation where if the structural integrity is maintained, it’s not supposed to be a risk to people.”
The company says the lead pellet is used “to seal the vacuum insulation at the base” of mugs and that the pellet is covered by a layer of stainless steel. It says the likelihood of the cap coming off due to “ordinary use” is “rare.”
“Rest assured that no lead is present on the surface of any Stanley product that comes into contact with the consumer nor the contents of the product,” Stanley writes on its site.
However, the Stanley cup is not the number one thing people need to worry about when it comes to lead poisoning, says Neil Maniar, director of the master of public health in urban health program at Northeastern University and professor of the practice in health sciences. Lead can be found in the pipes and paint in older homes, as well as in cosmetics, toys, jewelry and even dishware.