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

“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

“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
“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