Introduction: Tamara Rubin is an independent advocate for consumer goods safety, and she is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children. She began testing consumer goods for toxicants in 2009 and was the parent-advocate responsible for finding Lead in the popular fidget spinner toys in 2017. She uses high-precision XRF testing (a scientific method used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for metallic contaminants – including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, and Arsenic. She is trained and certified in using an XRF instrument and has been doing this type of testing for more than 11 years now.
Tamara, were you surprised to find this much Lead in a brand new coffee cup from Starbucks?
Frankly – even though I know how bad this brand has rated (from a toxicant perspective) over the years [I’d estimate I have personally tested more than a thousand Starbucks branded mugs for people over the last decade] – I am really shocked that a brand-new 2019 Starbucks product has Lead at levels this high.
Isn’t this illegal?
For those who are new to this website: While it is – incredibly – not in any way currently illegal to have this much Lead in a mug (!) in the U.S., it seems like – in this “post-Flint” era of Lead awareness – companies should do better than including one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man in dishware that is intended for use with hot / acidic beverages (tea/ coffee) on daily basis.
To read more about the concern for Lead in pottery and dishware, click here.
And in case someone from Starbucks is reading this post:
Starbucks — WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STEP UP AND INSIST ON THE REMOVAL OF LEAD AND OTHER HEAVY METAL TOXICANTS FROM THE DECORATIVE COATINGS USED BY ALL VENDORS IN YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN? You are a huge company. Where’s your corporate responsibility and accountability when it comes to the planet, our children and their future? What possible excuse could you have for manufacturing brand-new high-Lead-content products emblazoned with your name??
And let’s be clear: the end product is not the only concern here…The big picture concern here is that you as a company are supporting/creating a demand for Lead-based pigments. Starbucks – this means you are supporting/instigating the demand for the mining, refining and manufacturing of Lead – along the entire global supply chain. Shame on you.
Let’s talk! (Seriously — I have been consulting for a LOT of companies recently; send me your products prototypes BEFORE you put them on your stores’ shelves and I can let you know if they have Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Arsenic or Antimony BEFORE you unknowingly sell things like coffee mugs featuring neurotoxic-heavy-metals-laden-coatings to your unsuspecting customers!)
New to my website? Click here to learn a little more about who I am and how I test consumer goods for heavy metals!
How much Lead did this mug have exactly?
When tested with an XRF instrument, this 2019 gold-glazed Starbucks brand mug (purchased new at a Starbucks store in Washington State in 2019) had the following readings:
On an exterior area with just the golden glaze:
- Lead (Pb): 15,700 +/- 400 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 693 +/- 70 ppm
On the black glaze on the interior of the mug:
- Lead (Pb): 764 +/- 45 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 1,509 +/ 87 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 6,411 +/- 249 ppm
Focused on the white logo area on the interior of the mug:
- Lead (Pb): 630 +/- 42 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 1,734 +/ 98 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 5,052 +/- 275 ppm
All tests were done for a minimum of 60 seconds each – using a freshly calibrated Niton XRF instrument (an XL3T XRF testing in “Consumer Goods” mode). Tests were repeated multiple times on each component to confirm the results. All test results reported on this blog are science-based, accurate, and replicable.
To read more about the concern for Lead in vintage and new pottery items, click here.
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
For context, the amount of Lead that is considered unsafe (and illegal) in products “intended for use by children” is anything 90 ppm or higher in the paint, glaze or coating and anything 100 ppm or higher in the substrate (in the case of a mug, this would be the base ceramic of the mug.) These standards are for XRF-detectable total Lead content (not leach-test results – which is a different standard / different type of testing.) Dishes (including mugs) are not regulated in the same way as children’s items – as they are not considered to be “items intended for use by children.” In my opinion, this is a significant regulatory loophole — as frankly I don’t know any children who don’t use dishes.
To read my summary about Starbucks-branded mugs (which I would never recommend at this point), click here.
To see other mugs I have tested (and there are hundreds examples of mugs I have tested up on the site) – click here.
For Lead-free mug choices, click here.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions!
Starbucks, are you listening? Please consult with Tamara Rubin and have her help you make your products better.
Are all Starbucks mugs full of lead? And this high of content or just that particular one?
Hi Cindy! Thanks for commenting.
Not *All* but MANY are and there is no way for an average consumer to know the difference, so I personally think consumers should avoid the brand entirely until they intentionally clean up their act and make an announcement about doing so (and until new product from the company consistently tests Lead-free and cadmium free.)
There are several more examples linked in this post: https://tamararubin.com/2018/04/asktamara-do-starbucks-mugs-have-high-levels-of-lead/
Chuck Clausen says
Hi Tamara, I have a white Starbuck’s ceramic travel mug which has black marks in the glaze on the inside of the mug. The marks were present when I bought the mug a couple of years ago. Of course, the black marks can’t be removed because they are clearly part of the manufacturing process. I thought it was just a flaw in applying the glaze but after reading your article I now wonder if those black marks are an indication that the mug might not be safe to drink from, especially when a hot beverage is involved. Might those black marks be a sign of lead? I’ve had other Starbucks ceramic mugs with the same black marks on the inside of the mug which were present when the mug was newly purchased. Based on what I’ve described would you please share your opinion about what that black marks on the inside of the mug might be.
Can you send me a picture?
I would like to send you a photo of the black marks inside the cups but I don’t see a way of sending or attaching a file to my comments. The black marks in the cups are definitely the result of the manufacturing process.
I sent some photos of the cup to you. I used the email address appearing below your photo.
Omg I have that cup…. I drank out of it for a while then made it a pen cup. I’ll leave my pens in it but never drink from this again!!!