Unpacking the "Copper Mug Poisoning" Myth
In 2017, a kerfuffle in Iowa involving copper mugs garnered national attention and helped popularize the myth that drinking out of them was somehow dangerous. The issue arose when local health inspectors found some copper drinking vessels in a bar that were tarnished and pitted and decided to invoke a decades-old health statute that was based on outdated science. In a normal world, the story never would have gained traction, but in the current environment where media outlets are in a never-ending battle to come up with the most hysterical headline, this tiny incident suddenly gained national attention and fueled the myth that drinking out of solid copper mugs was/is dangerous. It’s not.
The Myth of the Poisonous Moscow Mule Mug
Once a story gains traction in the popular media, even an inaccurate one, it’s really difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. The 2017 incident in Iowa led to stories that claimed all copper drinking vessels were being banned in all of Iowa because their use could be fatal. To use a polite word these stories were nonsense.
First of all, Iowa health officials, realizing the firestorm they’d created by invoking an outdated health statute, attempted to do damage control, but few people were listening. A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals appeared before the press and tried to calm fears by stating “It’s not like if you drink from a copper mug you’re going to die.”
Secondly, any “ban” on copper vessels was limited to certain restaurants. Again, the state came out and said “Whether you drink from copper cups at home is entirely up to you.” They wouldn’t say that if they believed copper mugs were actually dangerous.
Third, the decades old regulation only applied to using copper with foods that have pH levels lower than 6.0. That list includes foods like artichokes, peppers, pimento, plums, limes and apples. None of those, save for limes, are used to make a Moscow Mule. And since lime is only used as a garnish you can pretty much discard any concerns about that.
Finally, there is scant evidence that the pH 6.0 level has any real-world validity. People have been using copper pitchers, goblets, mugs and other drinking vessels for thousands of years and little if any scientific proof has emerged that they pose any danger. The only caveat being mugs that may be poorly maintained. Just as you wouldn’t drink out of a dirty cup or glass you shouldn’t drink out of a copper mug that hasn’t been properly cleaned and maintained. That’s just common sense.
A Few More Facts About the Copper
Let’s start right off with the most salient fact regarding mugs made of copper: if there were scientific proof they posed a health threat they would be immediately recalled from store shelves nationwide and online sales would be banned by the FDA. That hasn’t happened because they do not pose a danger. Both the FDA and the EPA have stated there is no evidence of copper cups increasing a person’s risk of cancer or causing other alleged health issues.
One study concluded that you would have to drink from a copper cup several times per day, every single day for 25 years before you might have to start worrying about getting too much copper in your diet. If you are drinking 3 or more Moscow Mules every single day for that long your problem isn’t copper.
Copper is not only a safe material for drinking vessels, it also provides an array of health benefits you’ll never get from ceramic mugs or regular drinking glasses. One study published by the National Institutes of Health determined that copper pots can actually eliminate harmful bacteria in water. Not only that but the anti-microbial properties of copper do not diminish even after many decades if the copper is properly maintained.
So What’s Going on Here?
The myth that a custom copper mug could somehow poison the user or lead to the development of cancer took hold because media outlets jumped on an innocuous story resulting from the sudden enforcement of a decades old statute in Iowa. Nothing about the story was particularly newsworthy, but it did have the potential to generate clicks on news websites if the facts were misrepresented in a certain way. And that’s what happened. New outlets twisted the facts to generate views and when the hysteria died down they move on to some other outrage-du-jour.
Countless bars and restaurants nationwide were left to cope with the fallout from these misleading stories, with some taking Moscow Mules off their menu just so that they wouldn’t have to keep defending copper cups to misinformed patrons. And, as is often the case, the media members who gave birth to this myth moved on to other things without caring much about the financial harm they caused.
The Bottom Line
As long as you use high-quality solid copper mugs from Paykoc and you take care to maintain them properly you have nothing to fear. In fact, copper has been proven to provide a variety of health benefits while posing almost no risk. So now that the summer BBQ season is here make sure to stock up on customized, laser engraved copper mugs from Paykoc, and drink to your health!