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VPR Issues Alert About Lead In 2011 Artist's Mug

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Vermont Public Radio says the ink used in the design on one series of coffee mugs given out during a membership drive in 2011 contains lead, although not at levels above Food and Drug Administration standards.

The station is contacting listeners who received the mug and plans to conduct tests on designs from other years. 

Mugs were tested after listener Larry Crist contacted VPR on Thursday.  Crist works for the Vermont and New Hampshire chapter of the Red Cross.

He was interested in having lead levels tested in mugs purchased by his organization and decided to take several Red Cross mugs into the health department to be scanned for lead.  He also decided to have a VPR mug tested because he was concerned that it was made in China.  

“So that was really the basis, it was sort of an understanding some time ago that I wonder if these mugs get checked and then deciding to take it in when I took in mugs that I was directly involved with,”  Crist says.

Crist says the test detected lead in the ink used in the design on the outside of the VPR mug. 

Although he assumed the lead was found because the mugs were manufactured in China, in fact it was contained in the ink applied to the mug in the artwork, and that process was done domestically.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children.

On Friday, VPR Vice President Brendan Kinney had tests run on other mugs from the same 2011 series.

Kinney says the results were similar to those from Crist’s test.  However, Kinney says the levels, while above EPA lead limits, did not exceed limits set by the federal Food and Drug Administration, which he says are the applicable standards for dishware. 

“As we’re trying to understand this issue, we are advising and in the process of advising the folks that did receive this mug that this concern has been raised and we’re advising them that they may want to discontinue the use of the mug if they have concerns about the levels of lead in the ink,”said Kinney.

Kinney says the lead in the ink is found on the exterior part of the mug. He says VPR has plans to run tests on mugs from other years, but he’s uncertain what, if any action the station will take if the results are similar to those found in the 2011 series.

“Are the standards that we need to look at the EPA standards or the FDA standards?  That’s something that we’re working hard to understand.  We don’t have all the answers yet,” he explained.

Kinney says the vendor VPR uses for its mugs complies with FDA regulations.  The  company switched to organic inks in the beginning of 2012, and he’s confident lead content is not an issue in mugs distributed by the station since then.