Drinkers are probably safe, but the environment is not.

By Mike Pomranz
July 02, 2019
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I love alcohol as much (probably more) than the next guy, but I’m also not under the illusion that alcohol can’t be harmful if you drink too much of it. However, I was under the illusion that the bottle it came in was safe (outside of some hooligan bashing you over the head with it!). However, according to new research from Andrew Turner at the University of Plymouth in England, the enameled decorations on many common booze bottles actually contain unsafe levels of toxins.

The study looked at 89 glass bottles in total, 24 of which were “enameled,” be it “images, patterns, logos, text and/or barcodes of a single color or multiple colors,” according to the university. Of those two dozen beer, wine, and spirits bottles — all of which were purchased within the past two years at retail — 12 were deemed to have enamels “based wholly or partly on compounds of either or both lead and cadmium” and at “potentially harmful levels.”

The good news is that the study does not appear to imply that these toxins are directly harmful to consumers; however, the paper does state that this issue could be a “concern from an environmental and, potentially, occupational exposure perspective.” Specifically, the research found that these toxins could leach from the enamels into landfills, and at levels “exceeding the U.S. Model Toxins in Packaging Legislation and, therefore, defined as ‘hazardous.’” As a result, the commercial use of these enamels could prove dangerous not to drinkers, but to society-at-large.

Importantly, booze bottles are not alone in this issue. Turner has previously found similar problems in everything from toys to drinking glasses. “It has always been a surprise to see such high levels of toxic elements in the products we use on a daily basis. This is just another example of that, and further evidence of harmful elements being unnecessarily used where there are alternatives available,” he said. “The added potential for these substances to leach into other items during the waste and recycling process is an obvious and additional cause for concern."

As for accountability, Turner added that many companies simply passed the buck. “Governments across the world have clear legislation in place to restrict the use of harmful substances on everyday consumer products. But when we ed suppliers, many of them said the bottles they use are imported or manufactured in a different country than that producing the beverage,” he continued. “This poses obvious challenges for the glass industry and for glass recycling and is perhaps something that needs to be factored into future legislation covering this area.”

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