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Does Stainless Steel Leach into Water?

Photo by Ruijia Wang on Unsplash

A recent post on stainless steel cookware revealed when to avoid cooking with stainless steel and when it might be acceptable for some people.  The post was based on studies that showed that stainless steel cookware leached nickel and chromium into acidic food that was cooked for a long period of time.  But what about stainless steel water bottles?  Are they safe to use or do they leach heavy metals into water and other beverages that are not highly acidic?


Stainless Steel Does Not Leach into Plain Water

One study looked at a number of beverages with different PH levels and found that chromium and nickel did leach into beverages with high acidity such as fruit juice.  It also leached into a solution with high alkalinity.  However, there was no detected leaching into distilled water, which has a PH of 7 and is considered neutral because it is neither acidic nor alkaline.  It also did not leach into beverages with low acidity such as tea (PH of 6.65), coffee (PH of 6.50) and milk (PH of 6.88).  Tap water was not tested in this study but the EPA recommends that municipal drinking water have a PH level from 6.5 to 8.5.  Based on the result of this study, it is unlikely that tap water would cause leaching.


Does This Mean I Can Keep My Stainless Steel Water Bottles?

The choice to drink out of stainless steel is a personal one.  Individuals with nickel sensitivity may choose to avoid any contact with stainless steel.  Also, this is the only study found that looks specifically at water and other low-acid beverages.  Further studies would be beneficial.

Glass bottles are a safe alternative however, they are prone to breaking and are often heavy.  If you do choose to keep your stainless steel bottles make sure they do not have the following features:

Sealing dot or painted markings

Read more about how one blogger detected lead from the sealing dot, which is a dimple at the bottom of some bottles, and from paint or painted markings on the bottles.

Plastic lids that are not BPA or BPS free

In my opinion, plastic lids are of greater concern than the stainless steel bottles because hormone disrupting chemicals can leach from all types of plastics depending on the additives used.  Unfortunately, there are no safer alternatives that provide the functionality and convenience of a plastic lid, particularly if used for sports or other outdoor activities.

Low-grade stainless steel

Look for #304 or 18/8 food-grade stainless steel.

Is Nylon Toxic

Question from T

Is nylon toxic?

Lisa’s Answer

Nylon is made from petroleum but, in its pure form, it is one of the safest plastics.  The problem with nylon and many other plastics is that they may contain additives for additional functionality.  For example, nylon fabric may be treated with highly fluorinated chemicals (PFASs) to make it waterproof.

Lead in Corelle Dishes

Question from Becka

Yes wondering also if the color in the
Corelle dishware actually is lead free
And if it is not if it leaches into say a Corelle
Bowl if the color /paint is only on the outside of the bowl ?
Appreciate ur help ,,
Also if Anchor Hocking blue glass made today is also lead / toxic free or not?

Lisa’s Answer

It depends if it is new or vintage.  All new Corelle dishware  are lead-free and pass California Proposition 65.  New Anchor Glass items also are lead-free.

Glass Water Bottle with Non-Plastic Lid

Question from George

I am looking for a water bottle (glass preferably), to have the alternative to stainless steel.

Since I use reverse osmosis water, it can be 6.5-7pH with no minerals left in it (rain water).

Apparently this type of water due to being ‘demineralised’ can react with stainless and make the stainless leach into the water (chromium nickel etc) to balance the water out.

This would result in using a stainless steel bottle 7 days a week for 2 litres of water a day (14 litres of water in a week) a very unpleasant metal flavoured health hazard.

So I look for glass… (alternatives like you said you look for alternatives).

Problem is, every glass bottle has either plastic, aluminium, or stainless still lids.

The ones with silicon lids that I found are narrow mouth and a pain to drink from.

Where on earth can one get minimum of 1L water bottle without the metal/aluminium?

Lisa’s Answer

Unfortunately, I have not found a glass bottle without a plastic, aluminum, or steel lid that is functional. The only material I can think of that would replace the ones you mention is glass.  I can’t envision how that would be functional.  Readers, any suggestions?

Softer Latex-Free Mattress

Question from Bonnie

I am allergic to latex but would love to know if anyone has found a comfortable softer type mattress without latex.

Lisa’s Answer

There are many safe mattresses on Debra’s List.  Readers, can anyone comment on which of these are soft?

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Question from Grace

Thank you for all the fabulous info. We are looking to remodel our house and live in it 5-7 years before we build a house with a more non toxic budget. I am trying to find a good wood flooring that I won’t be worried about us living with but also something that we can afford for our remodel. Our contractor would like to use lifeproof vinyl plank, which claim to be phthalate & formaldehyde free. Any other cautions for this brand? This seems good but I would prefer hardwood. I was reading your post which I will link below, was there any final decision on Home Legend Hardwood? Also have you looked into OptiWood? We live in Alaska and have animals & kids so trying to find a balance between price, durability & non toxic.

Lisa’s Answer

While Home Legend claims to be formaldehyde free, an independent test by Andrew Pace of Green Design Center found that it does emit formaldehyde from the back.  Andy tests the products on his site, so you can trust what he sells.  If you are considering another brand, ask the manufacturer for independent testing to support their claims.  Of course, solid wood flooring finished with no or low VOC finishes is less toxic than engineered wood.

Stainless Steel Drinking Glasses

Question from Shauna

Good morning, I stumbled upon your website trying to research stainless steel products from China. I recently got my kids a set of stainless steel cups to drink water from. We primarily drink water or carbonated water in our house. Occasionally they do drink milk. Will nickel be leached into the water? I read your stainless steel section and I couldn’t come to a conclusion as to whether or not they are safe for drinking. It looks like it is only a concern if you have a nickel allergy? Is that right? I am trying to remove toxic Substances from my home and I am starting with the ones that are food and bodies come in contact with. I appreciate your work on your website and I can’t wait to dig in a little deeper.

Lisa’s Answer

I just posted an article on drinking beverages from stainless steel.  Read it here.  It is best to use stainless steel marked #304 or 18/8.  Do the cups have a marking on them?  The study finds that low-acid beverages do not leach.  Unfortunately, this is just one study so more information would be beneficial.  I would not recommend using stainless steel for carbonated water as it is more acidic (PH of 3-4) which is more likely to causes leaching.  I use stainless steel bottles for plain water when glass is not practical.
Toxins in Tea

Toxins in Tea

There have been many references in the news in the last few days about a new study that confirms that plastic tea bags release plastic particles into brewed tea (1).  One tea bag can release billions of microplastic and nanoplastic particles into the brew.  This is thousands of times higher than previously found in other food and drink.  There is not sufficient research to determine the health impact of ingesting this amount of plastic on a regular basis.


How to Tell if Your Tea Bag is Made of Plastic

Fancier tea bags that come in pyramid shapes, sometimes called sachets, are often made of nylon or PET plastic.  You can see a slight sheen to the material.  Unfortunately, this is not the only type of tea bag that may contain plastic.  Many tea bags made with natural fibers are sealed with polypropylene plastic.  These bags may not be as much of a concern as those made entirely of plastic but there are plastic-free alternatives.


Other Things to Worry About in Your Tea

Epichlorohydrin is an epoxide often added to tea bags, coffee filters and sausage casings to make them stronger.  Though considered food safe, epichlorohydrin is an occupational human carcinogen.

Heavy metals such as lead, aluminum, arsenic and cadmium have been detected in both organic and conventional teas (2).   The heavy metals are contaminants from the soil in which the tea is grown.  A 2013 study found lead in all samples ranging from 0.1 mcg/L (micrograms per liter) to 4.39 mcg/L.  This is below the action level of lead for public drinking water (15 mcg/L) but lead is thought to be harmful to human health at lower levels.  The study found that some countries of origin had higher levels of metals but later studies contradict the results so it might not be as simple as looking for tea from specific countries.  Steeping time of 2 to 4 minutes reduces the transfer of metals to the tea by 10% to 50%, so make sure you are not steeping too long.

Pesticides have been detected in tea samples.  A French study found 17 pesticides among popular tea brands, with many above EU safety limits.  Look for organic tea with certification from reputable organizations such as USDA, QAI or CCOF.


You Can Find Plastic-Free Tea Bags

Look for tea bags made of natural fibers such as manila hemp.  Steer clear of bags made of polylactic acid, which is derived from corn starch.  It may sound like a natural material but is actually a synthetic polyester.  There are no independent studies that confirm one way or another that it releases plastic into tea but more natural choices are available.

Here are some certified organic tea brands with plastic-free bags:

Numi Organic Tea is USDA Certified tea with compostable tea bags made from manila hemp.  They are oxygen-whitened and the tag is made from 100% recycled materials and soy-based inks.

Organic India is USDA Certified tea with tea bags made from unbleached, biodegradable fiber.

Choice Organic Teas are USDA Certified.  The tea bags are made from 100% unbleached, natural abaca fibers and are free of plastics and plasticizers.  They are sewn shut with a natural cotton string or use a staple to seal the bag and attach the string.

Traditional Medicinals are CCOF Certified herbal teas.  The compostable tea bags are madefrom a combination of wood pulp and manila hemp. The tea bags are attached with food grade aluminum staple wire to teabag string made of raw cotton and a paper tea tag. They are whitened using oxygen and peroxide.

Bigelow -All of their 18/20/28 count boxes and 100 count boxes are made from wood pulp and abaca.  They are free of plastics, chlorine and epichlorohydrin.  Only 5% of their products (40 count boxes) use a thermoplastic seal to close the bags but they are in the process of converting that to a plant-based sealer over the next few months.  Not all Bigelow teas are organic but those that are have been USDA Certified.


Loose Leaf Tea is Best, if Brewed in Non-Toxic Containers

You can eliminate the tea bag entirely and opt for loose leaf tea.  There are many certified organic loose leaf tea companies on Debra’s List.  Look for cups, teapot and strainers made of non-toxic materials that will not leach toxins into tea.

Glass is the most non-toxic material for brewing, straining, and drinking tea.  Teapots with glass infuser or teacups with glass infuser are readily available.  You can also use a French Press made of glass to brew tea.

Organic Cotton Reusable Tea Bags are both non-toxic and environmentally friendly.  Here is an example.

Ceramic teapots or cups are safe choices if they are made with lead-free glaze.

Stainless Steel may leach nickel if left to brew for a long period.  If you are an infrequent tea drinker and are not sensitive to nickel, using a stainless steel strainer for 2 to 3 minutes at a time is not concerning.

The health benefits of tea are well documented.  If you select natural fiber tea bags or use loose leaf tea and brew it using non-toxic utensils, the benefits should outweigh any risks.





Lead in My Blue Glass Dishes

Question from Becka

Curious about cobalt blue glass dishes I bought at cost plus world market on early 2000, Are they Lead free? They have no brand name on them

Lisa’s Answer

Colored glassware does not typically contain lead.  See this Q&A post with the chemistry of colored glass.  Given that there is no information on the product, I can’t say for certain what it contains.

Odor Neutralizing Laundry Products in EU

Question from Sharon

Does anyone know of a European supplier of laundry products odor-neutralizing (specifically chemical / formaldehyde) ? I learned about EnviroKlenz (only U.S., though) and their EU supplier in Denmark, called OdorKlenz — but they do not ship to where I am, in The Netherlands. Need help!!

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any.  Readers?


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