Are Melamine Dishes Safe?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Q: I have some pretty melamine dishes, and I thought they were a good reusable option, especially for picnics. But I’m concerned that perhaps melamine is actually unsafe, and could leach toxic chemicals. Can you help me out with this?

Sent by Renee

Editor: Renee, our understanding is that it’s best to stay away from melamine plates. Melamine is an organic compound that is made by combining urea with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant. So, if the word “formaldehyde” isn’t enough to turn you off, this report from the National Toxicology Program states that there are a number of potential hazards associated with melamine and its derivatives:

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.

For more reading on melamine, see: Melamine: In Formula, In Candy, In Kids’ Dishes from Healthy Child Healthy World.

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