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Beverages intoxicated by lead in crystal.

Beverages intoxicated by lead in crystal

Lead crystal, containing 24 to 32 percent lead oxide, is revered for its brilliance and clarity. But preliminary experiments by two New York City researchers now indicate that extremely high levels of lead, a toxic heavy metal, can migrate from crystal decanters into the beverages they hold. The team's findings suggest that "long-term storage of anything in lead crystal is really to be avoided," says Joseph H. Graziano, who led the study.

Graziano, a toxicologist at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, recalls that when internist Conrad Blum first questioned him about lead migration from glass, he thought Blum was "crazy." But Blum's home tests, showing the apparent leaching of lead from crystal into wine, piqued his curiosity. The two Columbia researchers describe their subsequent investigation in the Jan. 19 LANCET.

Blum supplied three lead-crystal decanters from home. He and Graziano cleansed each decanter and poured in port. Two days later, they began periodic samplings of the wine. "When we analyzed the first sample, I couldn't believe it," Graziano says. Lead showed a steady increase, from an initial level of 89 micrograms of lead per liter to between 2,160 and 5,330 [microgram'/l four months later.

White wine doubled its lead concentrations within an hour of being poured into one lead-crystal glass, and tripled within four hours, they found.

Alcoholic beverages in 14 lead-crystal decanters brought in by colleagues showed similar spikes. Two brandies stored in lead crystal for more than five years accumulated 19,900 to 21,500 [microgram]/l lead, the researchers found. (EPA's lead standard for drinking water is 50 [microgram]/l, and there have been discussions of lowering it to 20 [microgram]/l.)

Because a single glass of the contaminated brandy "contains as much lead as you would ordinarily become exposed to in a month from all other sources" -- including air, water, diet and dust -- Graziano contends that consuming such drinks would be "stupid."

And in a letter submitted Jan. 8 to the JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS, Graziano, Blum and Columbia colleague Vesna Slavkovic report that apple juice and infant formula leach lead from crystal as effectively as alcohol does. In juice samples that sat in lead-crystal baby bottles for four hours, lead levels spiked from an initial 1 [microgram]/l to 166 [microgram]/l. Warm formula attained comparable levels in 15 minutes and reached 280 [microgram]/l in four hours. Because infants are more sensitive to lead's effects than adults, the authors suggest "that the sale of these [crystal baby bottles] be forbidden," and have sent the new data to the FDA.

According to a statement issued last week by the Lead Industries Association (LIA), the alcohol study suggests "there is negligible risk" from beverages placed in lead-crystal barware "for short periods of time, such as during a meal." LIA and another industry group, the International Lead Zinc Research Organization, plan a study of the risks posed by long-term storage of alcohol in lead-crystal decanters. FDA is already conducting a similar investigation.
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Title Annotation:lead contamination of beverages from crystal decanters
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 26, 1991
Words:505
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