Is Your Dinnerware Made of Melamine? It’s Time for a Change
Plus 4 safer alternatives
Melamine dinnerware is chic, trendy, and popular. It’s for sale across the gambit from Walmart to Williams Sonoma, but that doesn’t make it a good choice. Melamine dinnerware has been linked to a number of significant health risks because the chemicals it’s made from can leach into the food that is in them. If you are going all-out to eat healthy, it’s a good idea to choose a dinnerware that’s much more user-friendly.
What is Melamine, Anyway?
Melamine is an industrial compound created from one of three chemicals, urea, hydrogen cyanide, or dicyandiamide. The melamine resin from which dinnerware is made is a result of its combination with formaldehyde, a substance classified as a probable carcinogen. Melamine resin resists heat and fire, making it a versatile product used in the manufacturing of floor tiles, plywood, and laminated flooring in addition to dinnerware.
In 2008, melamine masquerading as protein was used to adulterate milk and infant formulas in China, which ignited safety concerns worldwide. Six babies were killed and thousands of people were sickened. At that time it was known that ingesting melamine could result in reproductive damage and bladder or kidney stones which can lead to bladder cancer.
Melamine resin is harmful if swallowed, inhaled during the time an odor is detectable, or absorbed through the skin. When it leaches into food, it ends up inside of the person eating that food.
This was documented in a study published in JAMA in 2013. Half the participants ate hot soup from melamine bowls and the other half ate hot soup from ceramic bowls. High levels of melamine were found in the urine of those eating from the melamine bowls, but residue was not found in those eating from the ceramic bowls.
According to the study authors, “Although the full clinical significance of levels of urinary melamine concentration has not yet been established, the consequences for long-term melamine exposure still should be of concern.”
An oocyte is a cell in an ovary that may undergo division to form an embryo after fertilization has taken place. In a study published this year, the effect of melamine treatment on female reproduction was examined in mice. Melamine was found to negatively affect oocyte architecture, oocyte development, and fertility. Specifically, ovary weights were reduced, oocyte cytoskeletons were abnormal, DNA methylation levels were reduced, and mitochondrial distributions were abnormal. The sizes of litters from melamine-treated mice were significantly reduced compared with the controls.
In late 2014, researchers studied the effects of melamine on spleen lympocytes in mice. They observed several changes in form and structure of the lympocytes. Melamine caused a decline in spleen lymphocyte activity and altered the programmed death of cells known as apoptosis. Lymphocytes such as T-cells, B-cells and macrophages produce antibodies and help the body fight infection and avoid cancer.
Melamine is not confined to dinnerware. It can be found in bowls, mugs, utensils, and other plastic and home improvement products. You can identify melamine resin products by their smooth-as-silk finish, their bright appealing colors, and their density. Be sure to avoid the use of them with infants and children.
Also be sure not to microwave anything in melamine. Heat increases the leaching of chemicals into food. And never use high acidity foods such as cola drinks and tomatoes and blueberries in them.
Better yet, when finances permit, repurpose the melamine and replace it with dinnerware products that are eco friendly. These include:
- Stainless steel
- And even bamboo.
Don’t dump your melamine in the recycle bin – it can’t be recycled. But that’s OK because there are so many things to do with those bright colors. Use the cups as organizers, the saucers as candle holders, and stack the plates under houseplants. Hang them on the wall, or prop them up in bookcases to break the monotony of all those angles. Melamine mugs make great office organizers.
See, it’s not all bad.