Many people are looking to avoid drinking out of anything plastic for fear it may cause cancer. Yeti stainless steel tumblers are a great alternative to plastic cups and are more durable than glass. But are Yeti Tumbler cups safe to drink out of or is there a chance they may cause cancer?
Yeti Tumbler cups are made from stainless steel and to date there have been no studies to show that stainless steel increases your risk of cancer. Stainless steel contains nickel, which has been linked to an increase risk of cancer when inhaled, but not when consumed orally. So it seems highly unlikely that Yeti cups, or any stainless steel tumblers for that matter, cause cancer.
I wanted to answer this question for myself as I have been drinking out of my Yeti Lowball 10oz cup for over 3 years now and my kids also drink out of stainless steel cups and drink bottles. So I looked into the research and this article summarizes what I found.
Can The Stainless Steel In Yeti Cups Cause Cancer?
Yeti Tumbler cups are made from stainless steel. Some studies have shown that plastic can leak chemicals into our beverages especially at high temperatures. But what about stainless steel? Can it too leak chemicals into our iced tea or hot coffee?
I am not a scientist but having owned a Yeti and RTIC Tumbler and been drinking out of it for over 3 years now I did want to do some research to try and discover if drinking out of a Yeti cup is going to increase my (or my kids’) risk of getting cancer.
I found quite a few studies on the issue, but nothing specifically related to stainless steel drink cups or bottles. The studies more focused on worker in factories with concentrated amounts of the chemicals, or minor studies on stainless steel cookware.
Still we can derive some useful information from this to help us work out if Yeti cups are likely to cause cancer or not. Thankfully the answer is no.
This study looked at workers who had been employed in an industry that makes stainless steel. While the results indicated an increased risk of intestinal cancer in these workers it was impossible to tell if this came from grinding material, grinding agents, stainless steel or some other factor.
The results did not indicate that dust from stainless steel induces lung cancer. This runs in contrast to findings on workers exposed to high levels of nickel who did have increased risks of lung cancer (we’ll discuss this below).
And remember these were people working in areas with concentrated amounts of chemicals and is not simply looking at people drinking from stainless steel.
Do Yeti Tumbler Cups Contain Nickel?
Yeti Tumbler cups do contain nickel and while nickel has been linked to increased chances of lung and nasal cancer this has not been from use of stainless steel but rather from workers inhaling nickel or having skin exposure to it.
Yeti Tumbler cups are made out of 18/8 kitchen-grade stainless steel. The 18/8 tells us what percentage of chromium and what percentage of nickel are present in the stainless steel.
Wikipedia states that this grade contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel.
In fact nickel is actually present in a lot of different foods. This table shows that items like dark chocolate, nuts, chickpeas and even soy beans have high nickel content and even items like meat, eggs, milk and potatoes all contain some nickel.
Can The Nickel In Yeti Cups Cause Cancer?
From the research I have been able to do I couldn’t find any studies that linked consuming items from stainless steel products (both products like stainless steel cups/bottles as well as stainless steel cookware) with an increased risk of cancer due to nickel exposure.
This study states that “Stainless (steel) is readily attacked by organic acids, particularly at cooking temperatures; hence iron, chromium and nickel should be released from the material into the food”.
So it is plausible that some nickel, chromium and iron could be leached into your beverage when using a Yeti cup. Especially if you are drinking hot beverages (eg. Using boiling water for tea or coffee).
Remember, the majority of out nickel exposure and consumption will actually be from the food we eat, not the stainless steel tumbler we drink out of.
Nickel has been proven to increase the risk of lung and nasal cancer in refinery workers who were exposed to high-quantities of nickel. But this is looking largely at nickel exposure through inhalation of dust particles and fumes or through skin contact.
I think the most interesting statement is in this report on nickel consumption and cancer:
“There is no experimental evidence that nickel compounds are carcinogenic when administered orally or cutaneously.”
Btw cutaneously means relating to the skin and orally is when it is consumed through the mouth (but not inhaled into the lungs).
Nickel Can Cause Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Nickel is a very common cause of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). This clinical article states that sensitised individuals usually have a predictable localised response when exposed to nickel.
It also states that “stainless steel cookware is another potential dietary nickel source” and that cooking acidic foods has been shown to leach nickel into the food.
So there is the possibility that your Yeti cup could cause dermatitis and if you are experiencing this then it may be wise to stop using your Yeti cup and go and visit your specialist and get yourself tested.
Can Chromium In Yeti Cups Cause Cancer?
Given Yeti cups are 18% Chromium, can the chromium in Yeti tumbler cups cause cancer?
This report tells us that chromium is a known carcinogen and can increase the risk of cancer. Specifically “chromium (VI)” or “chromium 6”.
But that other forms of chromium (eg. “chromium (III)”) are actually essential nutrients.
Chromium has to be in a valency state of 6 in order to be dangerous to humans. Inside stainless steel the valency state of chromium is 0, therefore posing no health risk. So the chromium in solid stainless steel is not considered a health hazard.
If the stainless steel is subject to corrosion then someitmes chromium ions can be released from the alloy. But even in these cases it usually in the trivalent state (chromium III) which is not a health hazard.
Do Yeti Tumbler Cups Contain Lead?
Vacuum sealed insulation manufacturing often requires the use of a small amount of lead when sealing up the vacuum once it has been created.
This means that a lot of stainless steel cups and bottles of different brands contain a small amount of lead.
This lead is usually seen on the bottom of a cup or bottle and with a lead test kit you can see whether or not the product contains lead.
Yeti cups and bottles contain a protective metal rim on the outside, which is likely there to protect you from coming in contact with the lead.
The lead (from my knowledge) does not appear on the inside of the bottle at all and you shouldn't be consuming lead by drinking out of these bottles.
Yeti state on their FAQ page:
“WARNING: This product can expose you to lead, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.”
Honestly as a parent and as a lover of these cups I this really concerns me. Just the fact that they are still making stuff with lead seems ridiculous to me and in cups and water bottles!
The only manufacturer I was able to find who doesn't use lead in their manufacturing process is Hydro Flask.
This Issues Lead Causes
Lead is long known to be a dangerous product for humans, especially children as they can absorb it faster due to their growing bodies.
High levels of lead can cause anemia, weakness and kidney and brain damage. It can also cross the placental barrier and cause damage to an unborn baby's nervous system.
The evidence researching in this article shows that lead exposure does cause an increase risk of lung cancer and stomach cancer, though the lung cancer findings are not consistent.
There is little evidence of increase risk of kidney cancer or brain cancer.
IARC classified lead as a “possible human carcinogen” based on sufficient animal data and insufficient human data in 1987.
So Do Yeti Cups Cause Cancer?
The evidence suggests that no, Yeti Tumbler cups will not cause cancer, unless you are exposed to the lead hidden underneath the bottom of the cup that is also protected by an extra layer of stainless steel.
They may leach some iron, chromium and nickel into your beverage which you will then consume, but it is unlikely to happen in quantities large enough to cause you any issues.
The lead is my biggest concern. But this appears in a very small amount and is on the outside of the cooler at the bottom and is covered by a protective layer of stainless steel. You shouldn't consume any lead by drinking out of these bottles.
Nickel is the biggest concern other than lead, but we consume nickel orally every single day through the food we eat and studies have only shown a link between nickel inhalation (breathing it in) in factory workers and increased risks of cancer.
Chromium is the other concern, but it doesn't appear in the carcinogenic form in stainless steel and thus is considered safe.
So take a big swig out of your Yeti tumbler cup with confidence and be happy that you're not consuming dangerous chemicals from similar plastic cups.
Where To Purchase Yeti Tumblers
You can purchase Yeti tumblers direction through Yeti’s website, at any store that sells Yeti products or you can purchase them with free shipping from Amazon.com
I’ll link up to the different sized Yeti tumblers below if you’re interested and you can see the latest prices and reviews on Amazon: