Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ask the Booth: Melamine Dishes

The Conscious Shopper researches melamine.

Sometimes as I try to live a healthy, green, and non-toxic lifestyle, I have questions that need to be researched, but I don't always have time to research them. I'm betting that sometimes you feel that way too, so I thought that periodically here at the Booth we could all pool our collective knowledge and pick each others' brains. If you have a question that you'd like answered by the Green Phone Booth community, email me at greenphonebooth [at]gmail[dot]com

The Green Phone Booth received the following email a few weeks ago:
My children have lots of melamine dishes. How safe are they? Should I replace them? I don't really know what Melamine is, so I'd like your thoughts on it.
My perfunctory research (thank you, Wikipedia) indicates that melamine "is combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a very durable thermosetting plastic used in Formica, and melamine foam, a polymeric cleaning product. The end products include countertops, dry erase boards, fabrics, glues, housewares, guitar saddles, guitar nuts, and flame retardants. Melamine is one of the major components in Pigment Yellow 150, a colorant in inks and plastics."

As far as toxicity, melamine could cause reproductive damage, bladder or kidney stones, or cancer if ingested, but it seems like you'd have to be eating quite a bit daily. There was an outbreak of pet food recalls in 2007 when the US Food and Drug Administration found white granular melamine in pet food imported from a single source in China. There was also a scandal in 2008 when melamine was found in some infant formula, leading to a lot of sick kids and six deaths.

Like Michelle, I have some melamine dishes in my cupboards. These blue bowls I inherited from my parents, making them at least 20 years old. The plates are the ones my kids eat off of daily. I never thought to research what they are made of before, so thanks, Michelle.

What do you know about melamine? Can you tell me and Michelle anything else about the toxicity and whether or not we should be using dishes made of melamine?


Anonymous said...

One thing that I think many people do not know is that you SHOULD NOT microwave melamine.

Melamine is difficult to recycle.

There are many studies on formaldehyde/melamine leaching from these types of plates and cups. Seems that most of the time this leaching occurs at "safe and legal" levels, but heat and acidity of the food in contact can exacerbate the leaching.

One such study can be found:

AmazinAlison said...

I did some research on this a few years ago (when my son was a baby) and decided that we would not be serving him off of melamine.

Here is another good explanatory link:

We've done just fine with small glass Anchor bowls (they are fairly drop resistant -- we've yet to have one break) and stainless steel. A friend uses small stainless steel prep bowls for snacks for her son.

And, if your kid is addicted to having types of food separated, stoneware or stainless steel fondue plates work great.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I've wondered about this too. Since I haven't seen much on it, and it's kind of an unknown for me, I've just opted not to buy it at all. But if you already own it, that's a different decision. . . I have seen separated dishes made of polypropylene at Target, but just solid colors, no cute stuff. I know IKEA carries melamine stuff, and they don't do vinyl.

As for glass with kids, that has not worked for me. I have a tile floor and we've had plenty of breakage on it. I do use stainless steel prep bowls for my kids much of the time. Plastic plates though. I can't find affordable SS plates.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Thanks for the responses! These are very helpful.

Sustainamom also sent me the following links in an email:

@AmazinAlison - Thanks especially for the tip about fondue plates since that's exactly why we have melamine plates.

Kerryanne Cummins said...

I stoped using any kind of plastic in our house with the whole BPA scare with baby bottles a few years ago...jezzes if baby bottles are not safe what is? right? We use glass/ ceramic plates and smalljelly jars for the kids cups! They are cheap and durable, they have not broke one yet and they are 6 & 2! As for the plates, you can find strong glass plates, Pfaltzgraff are very durable, sometimes they might get a chip in them but still useable, my kids use the saucers and dessert plates as thier plates. Hope this helps!

Bartley's said...

I linked your blog post at

Thanks for the great information. I always knew I didn't like those plastic kid character plates.

Kerryanne Cummins said...

Moring wonderful women of The Green Phone Booth! I have an award for you at mt blog. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful "green" information with us!
Kerry @


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