London: Enamelled drinking glasses, including beer, wine and spirit bottles, may contain potentially harmful levels of lead and cadmium, a study warned today.
Researchers at the University of Plymouth in the UK 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 limit level.
Tests showed that flakes of paint often came away from the glass under when simulating sustained use, indicating the substances could be ingested over a prolonged period.
“The presence of hazardous elements in both the paint and glaze of decorated glassware has obvious implications for both human health and the environment,” said Andrew Turner, from University of Plymouth.
“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 Turner.
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,” he said.
More than 70 per cent of the products (52 out of 72) tested positive for lead, and the metal was found in all recorded colours, including the decorated gold leaf of some items, according to the study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
A similar number (51 out of 72) tested positive for cadmium, with the highest concentrations usually encountered in red enamel.
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 parts per million (ppm), the researchers noted.
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.
Turner said additional analyses confirmed that hazardous elements are also used to decorate a wider range of consumer glassware that has the potential to be in contact with food.
These include the exteriors of bottles for the storage of beer, wine or spirits, the external text and logos on egg cups, jugs and measuring cups, and the undersides of coasters and chopping boards.
“Given that safer alternatives are available to the industry, the overall results of this study are both surprising and concerning,” he said.