Stanley cups: Customers sue over presence of lead in popular tumblers

The popular Stanley cups are seemingly everywhere, but that doesn’t mean every customer is thrilled with the product.

Two Stanley tumbler owners have filed a lawsuit in California alleging the cup-maker’s parent company, Pacific Market International, was negligent in disclosing the presence of lead in the viral product.

According to Bloomberg, the proposed class action lawsuit surrounds the company’s vogue Adventure Quencher tumblers, which are insulated, stainless steel cups that feature a removable lid, a bulky handle and reusable straw.

In January, Stanley released a statement that confirmed their products are manufactured using lead, which is highly toxic. However, the company maintained their cups are still safe to use because the small amount of lead is found only in part of the tumbler’s vacuum seal insulation at its base, which is covered by a stainless-steel layer.

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Stanley assured its customers there is very little possibility of lead exposure.

“Rest assured that no lead is present on the surface of any Stanley product that comes into contact with the consumer nor the contents of the product,” Stanley wrote in the statement.

Stanley said only in a “rare occurrence” would one of their tumblers become damaged or worn enough to break the seal and expose someone to lead. (In this instance, Stanley said they would honour their lifetime warranty.)

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But the lead disclosure came too late for the customers who filed the negligence lawsuit.


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“As the manufacturer and designer of these products, the Stanley Defendants knew or reasonably should have known about this lead issue for years but chose to conceal it from the public presumably to avoid losing sales,” the legal filing reads.

The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for breach of warranties, fraud, unjust enrichment, false advertising and defective manufacturing under various consumer protection statutes.

Prior to Stanley’s disclosure, the lawsuit alleges a customer would have had no reason to suspect lead was used in the product.

In a statement to USA Today, Stanley called the lawsuit and its allegations “meritless.”

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“As we have shared, there is no lead present on the surface of any Stanley product that comes into contact with the consumer nor the contents of the product,” the statement said.

Concerns over lead in Stanley products first arose after social media users posted unverified claims that at-home lead testing kits were able to detect the chemical in after a swab. Since the Stanley tumblers have become a much-desired status symbol of sorts, especially among school-aged children, the allegations about lead exposure reached millions.

Kevin Wilkinson, a professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Montreal, told Global News that it would be “very difficult” for someone with a Stanley cup in good condition to be exposed to lead. Unless the cup is cracked or worn, it should be safe.

“What we’re worried about is the bio accessibility, so what’s coming off of the surface? If it’s covered with either another metal or the lead is pacified somehow then it shouldn’t be a problem,” Wilkinson explained.

There have been no confirmed reports of any health issues related to owning or using a Stanley tumbler. The company’s products are still considered safe under U.S. regulatory requirements.

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Stanley claimed to be working on an alternative insulation component that does not include any lead.

Still, they are not the only water bottle maker to use lead in their manufacturing processes, and many other brands on the market also use the chemical for insulation purposes.

But the use of lead is not an industry-wide standard. In fact, a number of companies similar to Stanley have boasted that their products are lead-free, including the popular brands Hydro Flask and Owala.

Why is lead bad for you?

Exposure to lead can lead to a range of serious health effects, including anemia, vomiting and diarrhea. It can also cause neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, renal and reproductive effects, according to Health Canada.

The health authority said “there is no established threshold blood lead level below which harmful health effects do not occur.”

Children are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of lead because their bodies absorb the toxin more than adults, the Canadian Paediatric Society informed. This is because children absorb a higher percentage of lead than adults do, and their developing organs and systems are more susceptible to the toxic effects of lead.

— With files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield 

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