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Lead in Coffee: Questions and Answers

22 January 2017

After informing the public of finding presence of lead in samples of dozens of coffee machines in cafes, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economy are answering some questions you might have been asking yourself:

How does lead affect one's health?

In adults, lead exposer is associated with heart diseases and high blood pressure. Furthermore, lead may impair kidney function and damage the reproductive system of women and men.

Small children and developing fetuses are most sensitive to lead effects. During pregnancy, melted lead is released from the mothers bone tissue to help build the fetus's skeleton. Lead passes from mother to fetus through the placenta, as well as to the baby through the mother's milk. A strong connection was found between lead exposure and an increased risk of miscarriage, birth weight reduction of infants and cognitive development of children (eg, IQ, learning capabilities).

Is there a permissible lead concentration in coffee?

 The maximum concentration of lead in water originating from coffee machines should not exceed 10 micrograms per liter.

Were all coffee machines found with an abnormal level of lead?

No. about 30%of the machines tested so far were found normal, ie, lead concentrations in the water used for coffee were lower than 10 micrograms per liter. The rest of the machines were found with lead levels ranging from 20-150 micrograms per liter. Metal parts and pipes inside the machines may release lead.  Lead amounts change from machine to machine, depending on the material used, the production process and the maintenance of the coffee machine.

Are all machines with lead exceptions prohibited to use?

All machines with lead concentrations over 20 microgram are prohibited to use.

Is it possible that the irregularities found are from the tap water?

No. tap water is checked for lead traces on a regular basis.

How about coffee prepared at home with an electric kettle? Should I be worried about that?

 The Ministry of Health does not have any data indicating the presence of heavy metals in water heated in the home kettle

I am pregnant and drink coffee at work and in coffee shops regularly. Is there risk for the fetus?

The answer depends on how much coffee you drink (frequency and volume) and lead concentrations in the specific machine. If you are afraid, you can contact you physician, to decide in its discretion whether it is necessary to test the concentration of lead in the blood.