Ask Tamara: Which mugs are lead-free?

AskTamara Ask Tamara

Question: Which mugs are lead-free?  What mugs do you use in your home?

Answer: When I first got my hands on an XRF and started testing things for lead one of the very first things I tested was my favorite set of Chantal mugs.  I actually had a whole set of these mugs in different colors & I had purchased them to go with my favorite Chantal tea-kettle.  I was really upset and surprised that these mugs that I had purchased new at a reputable store in 2003 (made by a reputable company no less) tested positive for lead.

chantalmugThose “favorite mugs” tested positive at 679 parts per million (ppm) lead.

Total lead content in mugs (as detectable with an XRF) is not regulated, however – for context – the amount of lead considered unsafe in an item manufactured as intended for children is anything that tests positive for lead at 90 ppm lead or higher. [The good news is that since children’s items are regulated, newly purchased children’s mugs legally must have coatings below 90 ppm lead.]

Since testing my first mug I have probably tested close to 1,000 mugs (they are one of the most popular things that people ask me to test) and almost all of them have had some amount of lead, some at ridiculously high levels (in the tens of thousands of parts per million!)

A few years ago I learned a story of a Seattle couple who were both sick with an illness that their doctor was having difficulty diagnosing. After some investigation it turned out that they were lead-poisoned from drinking their morning coffee from the same leaded-mugs each morning (as part of their morning ritual.)  Please check out the articles linked below for more information on that as well.  Coffee is very acidic (as is juice and many other beverages) and will leach lead from mugs, especially mugs that have high lead content and are heavily used on a daily basis.  If you have coffee every morning like I do, it is a good investment in your health to make sure you have a lead-free mug.

Since there is not a reliable consumer method for testing mugs for lead and other toxic heavy metals (outside of free XRF testing which may or may not be available in your area, the most reliable cost-effective measures require “digesting” [aka destroying] the mug to determine the lead content – and that is generally in the $40 to $200 range per item depending on the scope of the test) it makes sense to stick with known lead-free options.  In the absence of an XRF available to test every potential mug choice – it’s best to stick with clear glass (as long as you can be assured that it is not leaded crystal.)

Click HERE to see some of the mugs I have tested for lead and their lead-levels.

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links where a purchase made
after clicking will support this website without costing you extra!

Mugs that are the same as (or similar to) the lead-free or lead-safe ones we use in our home:

I also recommend anything new from Ikea and pretty much any clear glass mugs that are not crystal (including vintage clear glass).

I used to recommend mugs purchased at Starbucks because I had a streak there where every Starbucks mug I had tested was either lead-free or below 90 ppm lead.  However that streak ran out last year (I think with the expansion of their mug selection and likely the expansion of the manufacturers they are using) so I no longer recommend them for a guaranteed lead-free mug.

Another great option for lead-free mugs is something made by a local potter who sources and mixes their own glazes.  Potters will usually mark their wares “lead-free” these days (if they are lead-free) because that is a good selling point!  If the mugs are not marked, just ask the potter if they know if they use lead-free glazes or not. My favorite potter on the planet (who uses lead-free glazes) is Greg Williams / Ceramic Generations of San Anselmo, California.  I have known him for 27 years and his pottery is so beautiful, each piece is a true work of art. (I don’t know if he has a website these days but if you google him you can find his contact information!)

Read more about the concern for lead in pottery here.

Things I avoid when purchasing mugs:

  • Anything labeled “crystal” or marked “leaded crystal”
  • Anything from Riedel or Waterford (just to be safe, since you don’t have an XRF at home to test those items yourself)
  • Anything glazed (unless it is being sold as “lead-free” from a reputable company and has been tested by a third party)
  • Anything with an enamel coating (such as those blue and with speckled enamel coated metal camping cups)
  • Anything with decal image or logo applied to the surface inside or out (those decals are almost always very high lead, especially if you can feel them with your finger tip/ if they are slightly raised above the rest of the surface of the mug.)
  • Paint-It-Yourself Pottery mugs (unless a known third party has tested their glaze for lead-content.)
  • Almost anything from a thrift store (it’s just not worth the risk).

#HappyMugShopping

Tamara Rubin
Environmental Activist
Unexpected Lead Expert
Mother of Four Boys

Some articles that may be of interest:

  1. http://www.web-pub.com/library/brochure/leadmugs.html
  2. http://www.lead.org.au/bblp/silent-epidemic.html
  3. http://www.ehow.com/about_5474957_dangers-glazed-ceramic-coffee-mugs.html

chantalbottom2003 Chantal “Made In China” mugs
As high as 679 parts per million (ppm) lead
Non-detect for arsenic

These were my mugs (before I started testing everything I own with an XRF!) … I was totally bummed to let them go, but now I have only lead-free mugs in my house!

#XRFTesting
Learn more at http://tamararubin.com/blog/
watch the trailer to my film at http://www.MisLEADMovie.com


Affiliate link disclosure: If you choose to purchase any items after clicking the Amazon links above, Amazon pays me a small kick back as a thank you for sending business their way. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this website, allowing me to keep sharing information about childhood lead poisoning prevention (as well as making it possible for me to keep sharing about safe products for your home and family) ... Sharing this information in turn helps families everywhere protect their children from potential environmental toxicity in their homes. I only link to products that are the same as (or very similar to) ones that I either have direct personal experience with in my home or that I have personally tested with an XRF Instrument and found to be lead-safe or lead-free. December 2016

25 Responses to Ask Tamara: Which mugs are lead-free?

  1. Tara January 28, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    Hi Tamara!

    Thanks for all the information about safer mugs. I actually have Corelle mugs right now. =( I had considered going with glass ones like the options you listed but I found myself afraid the glass would explode and cause injury (I came across a ton of reviews describing that). So I started hunting around for additional lead-free options.

    Some folks on Amazon are under the impression that these Le Creuset mugs are lead and cadmium free, and Wellness Mama endorses them as well. I was wondering if you’ve tested any? I know a lot of other Le Creuset items came back with lead, cadmium, and arsenic in your testing.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003F24D12/ref=twister_B003F24D26?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
    http://www.lecreuset.com/mug

    • Tamara January 30, 2017 at 1:19 am #

      I may have tested some of those, but I don’t recall doing so (I have tested thousands of items and they’re not all stored in my head at this point!) However I HAVE tested some ceramic Le Creuset things that were positive for very high levels of lead, so when I have tested an item that is inconsistent in that way I am not comfortable making a recommendation. To wit; I recently tested a new white Corelle mug purchased in October 2016 with a set of Corelle dishes, and I was surprised that it was lead-free! Since I have tested so many of their mugs and found them to be high lead, and only tested this one that was lead-free – I am not willing to make a blanket statement about the newer Corelle mugs (like I could say “Newer Corelle mugs appear to be lead free” – but that would be an irresponsible statement as lead content is as much dependent on color as on age… and it is still possible that the new white ones are unleaded but the new ones in other colors may still have lead (as their recent counterparts have.)

      • Tara February 14, 2017 at 11:38 am #

        Thank you so much for your swift and thoughtful reply. I truly appreciate all the work you do!

  2. Sarah February 15, 2017 at 6:13 am #

    Do you have a recommendation on non glass, lead free mugs? Thank you so much for all you do BTW. You are a beacon of light in the fog. 🙂

    • Tamara February 16, 2017 at 12:50 am #

      All of the items I have personally tested from Ikea recently have been lead free. Some Ikea items might test positive for lead below 90 ppm and that is considered safe by all standards today (US and European), so Ikea is a good place to start if you want ceramic mugs. I don’t have any other recommendations though – in terms of another brand of ceramic mugs that have consistently tested lead free. I personally use a stainless mug or a glass mug… plus I have a few handmade ceramic mugs made by local artists that are also lead-free.

      • Sarah February 16, 2017 at 5:52 am #

        Thank you that is helpful. IKEA sounds like a good place to start. Do you have any recommendations about which colors might be more likely to be no lead vs low lead?

      • Todd Richardson July 15, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

        I am looking for a stainless steel mug. I presently use a Yeti Rambler but have come to suspect that it has lead in it. Which stainless steel mug do you recommend?

  3. Aaron March 7, 2017 at 5:41 am #

    Hi Tamara,
    I googled “lead in Chantal tea pots” because I found a Chantal tea pot I really like. However, it’s made in China, 2003, and I wonder if it’s likely to have the high lead level you detected in the mugs you have.
    Any thoughts?

    Thank you ~
    Aaron

  4. Denise March 21, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    Tamara,
    I was wondering about Fiesta brand mugs?
    They claim to be lead free.
    I have a set of 4 mugs from them and drink coffee from them every morning.
    Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information.
    Denise

  5. Tapia April 18, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    Mega gulp! Why do you warn against the speckled enamel mugs? My daughter’s Waldorf school uses them

    • Tamara April 20, 2017 at 8:43 am #

      They are almost always positive for lead, and sometimes very high lead.

      • Tara August 6, 2017 at 12:37 am #

        Tamara, my child uses these in our home.
        https://www.novanatural.com/collections/kitchen/products/enamel-cup-bowl-plate-set

        I am wondering if enameled items such as these that are made in Poland might meet higher standards than some of the others that are manufactured elsewhere. I purchased these a few years back with the understanding that enameled items like this are generally safe (I also have some Graniteware brand kitchen items and wash basin), and I tend to trust items from a reputable company like Nova Natural that sells items made from safer materials, often from Europe. Is this set something I should remove from our home?

  6. Denise April 23, 2017 at 10:46 am #

    I just bought VM International (located in Riverside, CA) 14-oz. red coffee mugs. I found them at Smart&Final…The label says made in China. Do you know if these contain lead? Thank you!
    Denise

  7. Dianne Feeney April 26, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

    Dear Tamara,
    Do you know if all Stainless Steel doing mugs are lead free?

    There are ones for cold drinks like water and other for hot drinks such as the portable coffee mugs with lids and handles. Trudeau makes many styles.

    Thank You,
    Dianne

  8. owen May 12, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    Are you testing lead content or lead leaching? Because I thought the numbers for leaching were MUCH lower than 90ppm.

    • Tamara May 14, 2017 at 10:53 am #

      Just lead content, as measured with an XRF.

  9. owen May 12, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    According to this page:
    https://www.fda.gov/iceci/compliancemanuals/compliancepolicyguidancemanual/ucm074516.htm
    Cookware can leach no more than 3ug/mL (microgram per milliliter, also equivalent to 3ppm or parts per million) for flatware, and no more than 0.5ug/mL for things like mugs, cups and pitchers.

  10. Andrew June 8, 2017 at 12:02 am #

    Hi Tamara,

    I recently bought a set of RCR Cristalleria Italiana lead-free crystal classes. Is it possible for crystal to be lead-free?

    Thanks!

  11. Shari Bayes June 12, 2017 at 3:49 am #

    Tamara, have you tested Fiesta brand mugs?
    Thank you,
    Shari

  12. K patenaude June 24, 2017 at 10:35 pm #

    Have you tested Disney mugs at all?

  13. TJ August 4, 2017 at 8:40 am #

    Have you ever tested any items from Crow Canyon Enamelware?

    Thanks,
    TJ

  14. TJ August 6, 2017 at 5:36 am #

    I have been wondering about Padilla mug sets.. They have a unique Southwestern look and I’ve been thinking about buying a set. They claim ‘entirely lead free’

    Another I’ve wondered about, I have a couple pieces from, is Sunset Hill Stoneware. They claim to be the ‘america’s cleanest greenest pottery’ I have a few of their souvenir-style mugs. Unfortunately for me they’re gigantic portions, but they are quite heavy-duty.

Leave a Reply

Designed by Clever Kiwi Web Design