When tested with an XRF instrument this Polar Express mug was positive for high levels of Lead both inside and out. These are the souvenir mugs you get your hot cocoa in when you go for a ride on a Polar Express train. This is a relatively new mug that my friend got when she and her family took a ride on the Polar Express train. There is a “16” on the bottom, so I think it may have been manufactured in 2016.
While these are being sold as a souvenir item on a train (and is therefore likely to be considered exempt from current federal standards) it is important to note that the most likely customer to purchase hot chocolate in this cup is a young child (a parent purchasing hot cocoa for their child.) As a result of the most likely customer for this product, an item like this should be regulated to the same strict standards as items that are made expressly to be used by children. This means that it should be less than 90 ppm Lead in the paint, glaze or coating or less than 100 ppm Lead in the substrate. At 27,900 ppm Lead in the exterior glaze and more than 5,000 ppm Lead in the interior (food surface) glaze (!) this item far exceeds these standards and should be considered illegal given the likely and anticipated use by children.
Continue reading below to see the full XRF test results for this mug.
When testing is done with an XRF instrument, the amount of Lead that is considered toxic / unsafe in the paint, glaze or coating of an item intended for use by children is any level 90 ppm and higher. Mugs are not considered “items intended for use by children” (unless they are expressly sold as “baby mugs”) and are not regulated in the same way.
Want some ideas for lead-free mugs? Check out this post.
Below are the XRF test results for the mug pictured here. Each different area was tested for at least 60 seconds (for the results reported below.) If a metal is not listed it was not detected.
Green Paint on Outside of Mug:
- Lead (Pb): 21,600 +/- 700 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 358 +/- 31 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 1,533 +/- 137 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 6232 +/- 288 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 11,900 +/- 500 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 270 +/- 67 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 618 +/- 201 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 615 +/- 74 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 1,363 +/- 130 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 15,700 +/- 600 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 574 +/- 170 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 4,646 +/- 329 ppm
Continue reading below image.
Black Area (Train) on Outside of Mug:
- Lead (Pb): 27,600 +/- 900 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 371 +/- 32 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 1,455 +/- 136 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 1,998+/- 151 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 10,500 +/- 400 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 289 +/- 68 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,414 +/- 258 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 247 +/- 50 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 810 +/- 97 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 14,400 +/- 600 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 597 +/- 176 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 4,827 +/- 334 ppm
Green Glaze on Inside Food Surface of Mug (words):
- Lead (Pb): 5,991 +/- 207 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 51 +/- 14 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 1,254 +/- 112 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 1,053+/- 135 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 14,300 +/- 500 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 291 +/- 67 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 893 +/- 212 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 1,157 +/- 99 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 2,338 +/- 176 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 15,900 +/- 600 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 811 +/- 147 ppm
White Glaze on Mug:
- Lead (Pb):83 +/- 17 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 1,457 +/- 87 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 15,700 +/- 400 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 419 +/- 54 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,008 +/- 162 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 1,613 +/- 83 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 3,285 +/- 154 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 19,000 +/- 500 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 199 +/- 86 ppm
Why is this a problem?
While a newer mug like this has likely been leach tested and determined to be safe at the time of manufacture, I do have concerns with any newly manufactured functional ceramic piece with Lead levels this high. I have even more concern given there is a high Lead glazed area found on the inside food surface of this mug. Please read this post for more details about these concerns. The problem with leach testing standards is that they only apply at the time of manufacture. There are no guarantees that an item will not eventually leach after regular and frequent use as intended (month or years after the item was compliant with leach testing standards.)
All of the Polar Express mugs I have ever tested have tested positive for high levels of Lead. I would never choose to have one of these in my home and would not want to drink out of one if I visited your home. If you have one of these, maybe use yours for a pencil or pen holder?
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