In my effort to raise the family a little healthier and greener one of my baby boards at Babycenter.com got me started on researching various concerns regarding things like lead in dishes, melamine dishes, etc. I will try to post what I find on each topic here once I’ve completed my research. If you missed my post about lead in dishes you can check that out here.
“What Is Melamine?
Melamine is an organic compound, created by combining urea with formaldehyde to produce a hard and sturdy resin. Melamine resin is fire and heat resistant, durable, and versatile. It is used to produce tiles, whiteboard and a variety of kitchen items, including melamine dishes.
Melamine was first developed in the 1830s. It was first regularly used for plastics and laminates in the 1930s. Melamine dishes were used on U.S. Navy ships during World War II. In the 1950s, amidst a desire for everything new and modern, melamine or “Melmac” dinnerware became both a stylish and practical addition to the American home. Melamine dishes scratched easily and fell out of favor in the 1970s. Read more: Is Melamine Safe in Dishes? | eHow.com
- The scare a few years ago pertained to melamine actually being added to baby formula which is toxic and can cause many issues such as kidney stones and renal failure.
“a report from the National Toxicology Program that states,Melamine resin, a hard thermosetting polymer made from melamine and formaldehyde, is widely used in the US in the form of kitchenware, including plates, bowls, mugs and utensils. Reports in the literature indicate that some kitchenware based on melamine resin leach considerable amounts of melamine monomer. A migration of up to 2.5 mg melamine/ 100 cm2 was observed under conditions that simulate an exposure to hot acidic foods…”
“Melamine is restricted by a specific migration limit (SML) of 30 mg/kg (equivalent to 5 mg/dm(2)) and formaldehyde, along with hexamethylenetetramine expressed as formaldehyde, is restricted by a total (T) SML(T) of 15 mg/kg (equivalent to 2.5 mg/dm(2)). In all cases the migration of melamine was much lower than the SML for this monomer. The migration of formaldehyde exceeded the SML(T) for 5 of the 50 samples tested. The failure to comply with the SML(T) was accompanied by a number of visible surface effects including discolouration and/or pitting of the simulant contact surface and cracking of the articles.”
“It has been found that melamine does not migrate from melamine-formaldehyde tableware into most foods. The only measured migration, in tests, was from some samples (three out of 19 commercially available plates and cups) into acidic foods, under exaggerated conditions (that is, the food was held in the tableware at 160 oF for two hours). When adjusted for actual-use conditions (cold orange juice held in the tableware for about 15 minutes), the migration would be less than 10 parts of melamine per billion parts of juice. This is 250 times lower than the level of melamine (alone or even in combination with related compounds – analogues – known to increase its toxicity) that FDA has concluded is acceptable in foods other than infant formula (2,500 parts per billion); in other words, well below the risk level. In addition, such highly acidic foods make up only about 10% of the total diet, so the dietary level of melamine in these scenarios would be less than one part per billion.” (Melamine in Tableware: Questions and Answers)
The common recommendations to limit melamine leaching appears to be:
- Do not microwave them!
- Even though most say dishwasher safe it might be better to gently hand wash them as dishwashers can cause them to buckle or warp. (Melamine Dinnerware Safety)
- Toss out any damaged dishes
- Acidic foods can increase leaching (PubMed-Migration of melamine and formaldehyde from tableware made of melamine resin)
So the overall consensus appears to be as long as there are no defects (cracks, buckling, chips, etc.) in your dishes melamine dishes are safe provided you do not microwave them. Some caution that while the FDA does say the low levels that do leach into food will naturally be excreted by the body “safe levels” can always change and if you are really worried you should err on the side of not using them.
I’ll be moving onto researching what I had hoped to start utilizing more this year, my crockpot!