My day always starts with a cup of strong, black coffee (no sugar either), and until recently I honestly didn’t care what kind of glass or cup I poured my coffee in. Unfortunately, that changed when I came across an article in the Hindustan Times, which talked about how my ceramic cup could potentially be leaching lead and cadmium into my beloved coffee.
The article was based on a study conducted by researchers from Assam University, Silchar, and was published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research. The researchers found that brightly coloured ceramic mugs were leaching lead and cadmium into heated beverages like tea and coffee, in amounts exceeding the permissible limits prescribed by the USFDA for these metals in ceramic ware and cups (There are currently no prescribed standards in India).
Both lead and cadmium are potentially highly toxic. Lead toxicity has been associated with side effects such as damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and even death, while cadmium has been linked with damage to the kidneys and liver.
Unfortunately, it is not only adults who use these cups. Children also use them on an almost daily basis because malt beverages like Bournvita, Horlicks, and Complan are extremely popular today. Lead poisoning in children has been associated with a lowered IQ and behavioural issues, among other problems. Similarly, cadmium toxicity in children has been associated with lowered cognitive ability, as well as damage to the kidneys and reproductive system.
While the simplest solution to this problem would appear to be creating stricter manufacturing regulations and quality controls, just coming up with new laws won’t work in a country like India, with its large number of small scale manufacturers and abysmally understaffed law enforcement systems.
The only solution that I can think of right now is to use a stainless steel glass while drinking any hot beverage.