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Why Is There Lead in Stanley Cups and Other Reusable Water Bottles? (Updated)

You can see the little ball Stanley is referring to at the bottom of his drink container. It seals those layers together where they meet at the bottom of the bottle, in a process called lead soldering. Technically, the container contains lead, but it is encased in stainless steel and should never come into contact with your drink or skin. However, if you drop your water bottle or it is otherwise damaged and this piece of steel comes loose, there is a chance that the lead could be exposed to your skin.

Lead is a toxic metal of natural origin. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. “Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones.” High levels of lead exposure can be fatal. At lower levels of exposure, which can occur with a microscopic amount, lead poisoning occurs. In adults it can cause nervous disorders, decreased kidney function and fertility problems. In children, it can cause developmental delays and seizures. The WHO says children are “particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because they absorb four to five times more ingested lead than adults.” .”

“Lead is ubiquitous in the environment, so low levels of daily exposure are a reality,” says Jane Houlihan, national health and science director for Healthy Babies Bright Futures. “Exposures and risks are increasing every day due to lead in food, water, household dust and soil. This makes it even more important for companies to keep lead out of consumer products. “Children don’t need another potential source of lead in their lives.”

What do other brands use?

Lead solder is inexpensive and easy to use and is common practice by a variety of manufacturers. However, there are alternative methods available. Several of the reusable water bottle companies we contacted do not use lead in their manufacturing process. Here is the list:

  • Owala (no track), which makes popular bottles like FreeSip and a plastic Stanley cup, says it has never used lead in its manufacturing process. “Producing vacuum-sealed containers using lead-free solder is more expensive and complicated. However, from day one we committed to Owala to use lead-free solder in our bottles,” says an Owala spokesperson.
  • Hydro Flask (lead-free since 2013), another internet-famous water bottle company, stopped using lead solder more than 10 years ago. “In mid-2013, Hydro Flask’s production process was out of control because the brand designed a proprietary sealant, TempShield,” says a Hydro Flask spokesperson.
  • Klean Kanteen (no protagonist) also forgoes lead and instead uses a non-crystalline silica bead to create its vacuum-insulated bottles. “The process, which uses silica instead of lead, is the same except that more heat is required to melt the silica,” says Rich Haver, the company’s director of global operations. While some forms of silica can be dangerous if very fine particles are inhaled (sand is made of crystalline silica, so it is even finer than that), this does not apply to non-crystalline silica glass. “Silica in its non-crystalline form does not have the same respiratory health properties as crystalline silica,” says Marty Cohen, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington.
  • MiiR (used lead) confirmed the use of lead in its manufacturing process with some of its products. According to his website, “This pellet contains lead to improve manufacturing efficiency, reduce waste, and ensure a complete seal. For these reasons and because there is no lead exposure, MiiR uses this process with confidence.”
  • LifeStraw (used lead) manufactures filtered straws and bottles that eliminate bacteria, microplastics and parasites from water. For this reason, we really liked the Go Series Filtered Water Bottle. That makes it the most surprising company to confirm that it uses “a lead solder point as part of the manufacturing sealing process.”
  • Other brands (unknown): The following companies have not responded to our requests for comment: yeti, Swell, hydrojugand Green Steel. (sirs responded but has not yet given us an answer. We will update this story when they do.)

The problem of lead in manufacturing

Even if the glass or bottle is never damaged and you are never exposed to lead, if it is used in the manufacturing process, workers are still close to the material in some way. The EPTAC welding training institute says on its website that the amount of lead in solder is unlikely to cause serious health problems, but there is still a risk for workers exposed to lead during the process.

“When lead is used in manufacturing, there is a risk of lead exposure for consumers of those products, especially for products intended for food consumption, such as beverages,” says a representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. of Diseases. “There is also a potential risk to the occupational safety of workers and, without proper safeguards, could be a risk to workers’ families due to lead exposure they take home.”

If your Stanley bottle or mug becomes damaged, you can request a replacement under Stanley’s lifetime warranty. We asked Stanley if customers could return unused glasses or if the company plans to change its manufacturing process, but he only pointed us to the same page of information about lead use.

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