Skip to content
Inside Beat

Pour decisions: Stanley Cups stir up lead concerns

Stanley Cups, a popular choice among Rutgers students this semester, are now facing scrutiny following recent concerns about lead. – Photo by Camden Markel

Do you drink enough water in a day? If you’re anything like 47 percent of Americans, probably not. But have no fear, the solution is here: the Stanley Cup, a portable tumbler that comes in tons of sizes and colors and can help you meet your hydration goals every day.

Stanley Cups have gone viral on social media sites like TikTok, with creators touting how much the cups have helped them stay hydrated, whether through plain water or unique, flavored water creations. Huge fans have even gone so far as to collect them and cause chaos at Target stores around the country to get their hands on the newest release.

The Stanley Cup craze has even reached Rutgers. Plenty of students carry the cups around with them to class instead of water bottles like Hydro Flasks, which have faded in popularity compared to the Stanleys. The annual MARK Conference is even giving away free Rutgers-themed Stanley Cups to 75 lucky attendees.

But what’s so special about these cups? According to the Stanley website, the cups are “there for all your adventures so you can make the most of your world (whether you're scaling a mountain or climbing an elm in your own backyard).” This statement, along with the advertising aesthetic of the official Stanley site, suggests that these cups are designed to be durable and easy to take with you as you go on outdoor excursions. 

If they can handle climbing a mountain, then they can certainly handle going back-and-forth with you to work or class every day, right? It turns out, not necessarily. 

In March 2023, Tamara Rubin, creator of the website Lead Safe Mama, discovered that Stanley Cups all contain a lead pellet used to seal the insulation in the cups. This has led to an online panic about the cups, with plenty of TikTok users testing their cups for lead. 

Stanley’s response to Rubin confirms this use of lead, but claims that “the pellet is completely enclosed by a stainless-steel cover, making it inaccessible to consumers.” So the risk does not come from the inside of the cups, but a small dot on the bottom that is covered by the same stainless steel that encloses the rest of the cup. 

Generally, then, the cups should be safe — unless that stainless steel cover falls off. Rubin claims in her 2023 article that some Stanley users have reported the cover coming off, and TikTok users have also shown off their lead-exposed cups. 

But getting the cups to this level of damage is not something that the average consumer would likely do, according to Diane Calello of the New Jersey Poison Control Center. Stanley also covers this specific kind of damage under their lifetime guarantee, so if your cup does become damaged on the bottom and the lead pellet becomes exposed, you can trade it in for a new one. 

Given all of this information, the question remains — is it worth buying a Stanley? If you’re at-all nervous about lead exposure, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution, even if chances of the stainless steel cover becoming damaged are unlikely. 

If you’re into the viral tumbler shape of the Stanley, lead-free companies like Owala and Hydro Flask offer similarly shaped and sized tumblers. These options still allow you to build a collection of different colored cups. They're also cheaper and easier to get your hands on than the Stanley.

With these options, you can still keep yourself hydrated in style without being “lead” astray by a trendy cup with safety concerns.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe