What Is Melamine Used For?

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Consider a standard countertop, a dry-erase board and certain types of paper---they can all be made from melamine. Because of its versatility, people use melamine daily, sometimes without being aware of it. It has enjoyed resurgence in the early 21st century as a fashionable material.

How It's Used

  • Melamine is a colorless crystal material of heterocyclic organic compounds (chemical compounds in which one part is not a carbon atom). Its main use is a base material for synthetic resins; when combined with formaldehyde and heated, it forms a durable material. Melamine is typically formulated with fillers and colors. Some well-known makers of melamine products are Melmac and Formica. A liquid resin is also made by integrating butyl alcohol into the melamine/formaldehyde combination. Melamine products are certified by the National Science Foundation.

Benefits and Use

  • Melamine is shatterproof, dishwasher-safe, chip- and break-resistant and attractive; it's manufactured in many colors and patterns, including speckled, mosaic and clear. In its kitchenware form melamine is ideal for children as well as outdoors, on sailing vessels and in nursing homes, as it won't break. It can be molded and compressed into all kinds of basic dishware and displayware such as plates, trays and ramekins. Some companies also manufacture accessories such as vases and other kitchenware such as containers and spoons. Liquid resin is utilized in paints and varnishes and as a laminating agent for wood or cabinetry, paper and textiles.

History

  • Melamine was invented in the 1830s and popular in the 1930s for housewares, but 1950s Melmac was prone to nicks; by the 1970s it was disfavored. In the early 2000s, melamine was rediscovered by kitchenware designers to create retro-style pieces.

    In 2007, China was scrutinized when it was found that unprincipled manufacturers there had misused melamine powder by adding it to food products like livestock feed, pet food and baby formula. Certain testing falsely recognizes melamine's chemical structure as protein, and inside the body it can cause kidney stones and renal failure. As of July 2009, six children and thousands of pets had died from ingesting this compound.

Testing

  • In July 2009, the MaxDiscovery Melamine Test kit was developed to detect melamine in milk, powdered milk, cream, ice cream and chocolate drink; testing for meat and seafood is in the works. In August 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated the screening of certain pharmaceutical ingredients for melamine as well.

Dangers

  • Before using melamine, confirm it is not poorly manufactured---there should be no gaps between the underside of the plate and the surface it rests on. Gaps can cause breakage as well as health issues due to places where bacteria can thrive. Also, melamine cannot be microwaved or used to cook with because it cannot withstand temperatures higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Melamine will not melt, but it will crack, blister or bubble at extreme temperatures and become dangerously hot. Certain manufacturers carry a small line of high-heat melamine that can resist temperatures up to 400 degrees.

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