Melamine is a chemical compound comprised of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. It is a white substance that was first created by a German chemist called Justus von Liebig in 1834. It is harmful if swallowed or inhaled and can cause damage to the reproductive system and kidneys. In 2008 many brands of Chinese infant formulas were found to contain high levels of melamine, which led to 50,000 hospitalizations and 6 infant deaths from kidney failure. It is also a known carcinogen and can even cause death in large amounts. However, despite these drawbacks melamine has many uses in a variety of industries.
Uses of melamine
- Melamine is often combined with formaldehyde to melamine resin. This is a hard plastic that is used for kitchen utensils and plates. It can also be used as a construction material and in furniture making.
- It is also used as an additive in high-resistance concrete.
- It can be used as a fertilizer, but there are many cheaper options so it is not often used.
- Due to its high nitrogen content, melamine is a fire retardant and is often added to products to reduce the risk of fire.
- It is sometimes added, illegally, to food products to show an increase in the protein content. In standard food testing nitrogen is measured to determine the protein levels in the food. However, melamine can be used fool these tests.