What is Melamine?
What is Malamine?
According to Wiki, Malamine organic base and a trimer of cyanamide, with a 1,3,5-triazine skeleton. Like cyanamide, it contains 66% nitrogen by mass and, if mixed with resins, has fire retardant properties due to its release of nitrogen gas when burned or charred, and has several other industrial uses. Melamine is also a metabolite of cyromazine, a pesticide. It is formed in the body of mammals who have ingested cyromazine. It has been reported that cyromazine can also be converted to melamine in plants.
The term “melamine” may also be used to refer to the plastic melamine resin.
Not to be confused with the pigment melanin and the hormone melatonin.
Melamine is also used in the manufacture of some filters. The material is porous and will admit substances to pass through, but can be used to filter out particles of a particular size. Melamine filters are capable of handling a high capacity and can be used in hot environments due to the heat resistance of melamine. Melamine filters are also extremely efficient.
Aside from common commercial uses, melamine became a topic of much discussion in early 2007, when veterinary scientists determined it to be the cause of hundreds of pet deaths, because of pet food contamination. Prior to these reports, melamine had been regarded as non-toxic or minimally toxic.
However, because of the unexplained presence of melamine in wheat gluten added to mass-produced dog and cat foods, it is the most likely cause. Pet owners report symptoms that are commonly associated with renal failure, which could be explained by the ammonia that may result from the digestion of the melamine.
Melamine by itself is nontoxic in low doses, but when
combined with cyanuric acid it can cause fatal kidney stones due to the formation of an insoluble melamine cyanurate. Melamine is described as being “Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage. Eye, skin and respiratory irritant.” However, the toxic dose is on a par with common table salt with an LD50 of more than 3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.FDA scientists explained that when melamine and cyanuric acid are absorbed into the bloodstream, they concentrate and interact in the urine-filled renal microtubules, then crystallize and form large numbers of round, yellow crystals, which in turn block and damage the renal cells that line the tubes, causing the kidneys to malfunction.
Recent production of melamine in mainland China
Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, both consumption and production of melamine grew considerably in mainland China. In the United States Geological Survey 2004 Minerals Survey Yearbook, in a report on worldwide nitrogen production, the author stated that “(mainland) China continued to plan and construct new ammonia and urea plants using coal gasification technology.”
By early 2006, melamine production in mainland China is reported to be in “serious surplus”.
In April 2007, DSM’s melamine industry update painted a grave global picture.
Between 2002 and 2007, while the global melamine price remained stable, a steep increase in the price of urea (feedstock for melamine) has reduced the profitability of melamine manufacturing. Currently, China is the world’s largest exporter of melamine, while its domestic consumption still grows by 10% per year. However, reduced profit has already caused other joint melamine ventures to be postponed there.
2008 Chinese milk scandal
In September 2008, several companies were implicated in a scandal involving milk and infant formula which had been adulterated with melamine, leading to kidney stones and other renal failure, especially among young children. By 22 September, nearly 53,000 people had become ill, with more than 12,800 hospitalizations and four infant deaths.
Melamine may have been added to fool government protein content tests after water was added to fraudulently dilute the milk. Because of melamine’s high nitrogen content (66% by mass versus approx. 10-12% for typical protein), it can cause the protein content of food to appear higher than the true value.Officials estimate that about 20 percent of the dairy companies tested in China sell products tainted with melamine.