Do Glazed Mugs Contain Lead?

Ceramic mugs are glazed to make them stain-resistant, food-safe, and waterproof, plus they give mugs a glass-like finish that accentuates bright colors and decorative patterns. Ceramic glazes are, therefore, quite beneficial, but is there a downside to these mug coatings?

Some glazed mugs contain lead. Ceramic glazes and decorations covering the surface of some traditional or handmade mugs may contain lead. It is less likely, however, for lead to be found in mass-produced mugs since most U.S mug manufacturers have stopped using lead in their glazes. 

If a glazed mug is not appropriately manufactured, any existing lead can be released into the prepared or consumed liquid they carry. For most people, however, glazed mugs do not pose a significant risk of lead exposure. The manufacturing process in the U.S, for example, is strictly regulated by various laws which ensure the safety of glazed cups and mugs.

Types Of Glazed Mugs That May Contain Lead

Glazes found on earthenware and stoneware items are known to have a more significant potential for containing lead. It may be present in antique and vintage porcelain and bone china items made long ago when people were unaware of the dangers of lead.

Consumers should also be careful when purchasing and using antique or handmade ceramicware baked in old kilns. Older kilns sometimes contain residue lead that can transfer to ceramicware.

If a ceramic mug is baked for long enough and at a high enough temperature, it may still be safe to use. But to avoid the risk altogether, it is best if you steer clear of the following:

Health Risks Associated With Lead In Mugs

Leaching refers to the release of lead in the glaze of, for example, a mug. The amount of lead that can leach from a glazed mug depends on the amount of lead in the glaze or decoration, the type of glaze used on the mug, how the mug is used, the variety of liquids served in the mug, and how long these liquids are left in the mug.

When lead leaches, it can pass into the beverage you are consuming from the mug and enter your body, which can result in lead poisoning. This entry into your body is possible because of lead’s chemical structure, similar to calcium, making it easily absorbable by one’s bones. To confirm any suspicion of lead poisoning, you must conduct a blood test.

The symptoms associated with lead poisoning in the body can be easily overlooked and even fatal. It is, therefore, vital to take notice of the following health issues that may appear in adults as a result of lead poisoning or an excessive amount of lead:

The risks that lead poses for children are even more severe and include

How Is Lead In Glazed Mugs Regulated?

In the U.S, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started regulating the level of lead in products and the sale of glazed ceramics in 1971. Glazed mugs, for example, that exceed the FDA-approved lead levels may not be legally sold in the U.S.

The Consumer and Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in America banned using lead in paints in 1977. However, this ban did not include lead in ceramic glazes. CPSC has since published guidelines that limit the level of lead in all products, regardless of their material composition.

Local state laws have since been passed and implemented to control the use of lead in products such as mugs and cups.

Proposition 65 is one law requiring California businesses to provide warnings when they expose the public to harmful chemicals, such as lead. Ceramic products with lead levels below the Proposition 65 standards are considered safe to use. Those that exceed the lawful lead levels may be sold, but only if a written warning accompanies the product.

Lead-free And Lead-safe Mugs

Lead-free glazed mugs contain no lead. Lead-safe mugs have some lead, but the amount of lead that can potentially transfer to a beverage, and thus your body, is not harmful.

In the U.S, the CPSC requires any products that are branded as safe for children to have a lead content of below 90 ppm. The FDA limits the amount of lead in cups and mugs to that which results in no more than 0.5 μg/mL of lead in an acidic leaching solution.

If you are unsure about the potential risk of a glazed mug or any other ceramic product, the FDA recommends getting a home lead testing kit (e.g., a high-precision XRF instrument) at your local hardware shop. These testing kits can assess the risk of lead poisoning posed by a particular product.

To avoid the risk of lead altogether, you can use mugs made from glass. Glass mugs typically do not contain glaze unless painted or decal-type decorations are on them, and it is safer than options such as plastic mugs, for example.

Conclusion

Though most American manufacturers no longer use lead in their glazes, avoid using glazed ceramic mugs from unknown or unidentified sources unless you have verified that it has no lead. Even buying glazed mugs from a so-called ‘reputable’ store might still result in mugs that contain some level of lead.

It is well-known that lead can cause serious health problems in adults and children. Suppose you experience any of the symptoms associated with lead poisoning. In that case, you are advised to get a blood test as soon as possible to confirm the source of the ailment and seek appropriate medical attention.

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