You may have heard of the Stanley glass, the trendy water bottle that has people camping outside stores or fighting to get their hands on it.
They’ve become fashion accessories, especially since Stanley has used influencer culture to target women and skyrocket sales of its glasses. The bottles’ reach has been boosted by social media users.
But social media gives and social media takes away. In recent weeks, several widely shared posts on TikTok, Instagram, Reddit and X have fueled concerns that Stanley cups may contain lead, with one X user calling it “The leadership”. YouTubers have also entered the fray. A TikTok video on the subject has been viewed nearly seven million times.
Some Stanley owners, hoping to test the claims, have turned to home lead test kits, which experts say are unreliable. A send-up of the Stanley Cup phenomenon on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend — a sketch called “Big Dumb Cups” — even mentioned the lead.
The main discussion has appeared in Facebook comment sections, as well as in a group with more than 61,000 members called “Stanley Cup Hunters + Drops” — for “passionate Stanley Cup fanatics.”
One person wrote, “If we want to dress up our lead cups with a straw flower cover and a glitter boot and show them off, let’s be!! We know they have lead, you told us. We do not care!”
So you might be wondering: Should I throw my Stanley cup in the fireplace? (No. Actually, don’t throw anything into your fireplace.) We have some answers for those of you who really want to keep up with the times and drink water in style.
Do Stanley glasses contain lead?
Yes, according to the company’s website. It says its “vacuum insulation technology”, which keeps the contents of the cup at an ideal temperature, uses “an industry standard pellet to seal the vacuum insulation at the base of our products”. The sealant, he says, “contains some lead.”
Once the bottle is sealed, Stanley said, the area is covered with a layer of stainless steel, which the company says makes lead “inaccessible to consumers.”
But is it dangerous?
No. Almost certainly not.
Jack Karavanos, a New York University public health professor who studies lead, tested three different-sized models of Stanley Cups on Monday using an X-ray fluorescence detector, which determines the elements of a material.
“There are many places where lead can be found in such a cup,” said Dr. Caravan. “It could be on the inside, on the outside, on the labels, on the decals. And, I didn’t find any lead – sort of surface lead on the surface – in any part of the cup.”
“I’m an expert on global exposure,” he added. “I have done a lot of work in different products and countries. And the threat to human health is really negligible because you’re not going to put your mouth anywhere near that surface and it’s not going to dissolve easily into anything that might invade you.”
But what about the area under the stainless steel?
For this, Dr. Karavanos said he would have to deconstruct the cup itself — by no means an easy task.
“I tried repeatedly to open the bottom lid with various tools and failed,” he said. “Perhaps lead is used to seal the lid closed. In any event, it should further reassure the public that the lead material is highly unlikely to ever be released from the cup and become available for ingestion.”
Dr. Karavanos said home lead tests currently on the market are not considered reliable — and none available today are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Although on Tuesday morning, Dr. Karavanos tried a test at home on a glass and still did not get a positive test.
So we’re all good, right?
Having the cups use any kind of lead to begin with showed “poor thinking” on the company’s part, Dr Karavanos said.
“I’m really disappointed and kind of angry that a company like this is using a known toxic ingredient that’s banned in a lot of one-cup applications,” he said. “I mean, surely there could have been an alternative.”
A Stanley spokesperson referred to the explanation on the company’s website describing the use of lead in the cups. But in a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson said: “Our engineering and supply chain teams are making progress on innovative, alternative materials for use in the sealing process.”
Lead, which is controlled by the federal government, is still widespread in the United States, particularly in paint, cookware, and water that travels through lead pipes.
“There are many health effects associated with lead exposure, such as reproductive toxicity, cardiovascular disease,” said Maria Jose Talayero, a public health researcher at George Washington University. “And what I study most is damage to the nervous system, which results in a variety of neurological effects.”
He added, “But it’s a fact that other cups and other manufacturers don’t use lead, so why have it there in the first place?”