The decoration on some beer, wine, and spirits bottles contains potentially dangerous levels of such toxic metals as lead and cadmium, according to a report just released by a researcher at the University of Plymouth in England, and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
The author of the study, Dr. Andrew Turner, an associate professor in environmental sciences at the university, obtained some dozens of bottles from local and national retail outlets, in sizes ranging from 50 ml to 750 ml (the standard wine and bottle size), between September 2017 and August 2018.
Analyzing 89 bottles or fragments with x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, Turner found that the glass from 76 of them tested positive for low levels of lead and 55 contained cadmium. The concentrations were too low, however, to cause environmental or health concerns.
More worrisome were the levels of these compound Turner found when he tested the enamel decoration on 24 of the bottles. Half of the decorations showed cadmium concentrations as high as 20,000 parts per million and lead concentrations of up to 80,000 parts per million.
The metals have the ability to leach from the bottles, he said. The possibility that they could be transferred to other items during waste disposal or recycling was “an obvious and additional cause for concern,” he added. For that reason, they might well be added to the list of surprisingly dangerous common things in your home.
The study didn’t suggest that external decorations could affect the liquid inside the bottles, but it seems possible that the toxins could be transferred to the hands of those pouring it. Just be careful the next time you’re opening a bottle of one of America’s most delicious beers.