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Why you may want to get rid of your melamine dishware

Melamine is a popular compound that's used to make a wide variety of dishware sold in Canada. But new research suggests that it can leach into food, posing a potential health concern.

In 2008, thousands of babies in China were sickened and some died after melamine was added to baby formula to improve the protein content. In 2007, thousands of pets fell ill and many died after consuming pet food that was contaminated with melamine.

While the new study doesn't suggest that small amounts of melamine leaching into food could be fatally poisonous, it does raise questions of whether melamine dishware poses long-term heatlh risks.

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In the study, researchers tested the urine of individuals who ate hot noodle soup from melamine bowls. Hours after eating the soup, the participants have trace levels of the resin in their urine. The levels were about eight times higher compared to a group of people served hot soup from ceramic bowls.

It's well-known that melamine can cause kidney problems in high doses. But the question is whether trace levels of the chemical leaching into food will cause any problems.

Reuters Health reported that some experts are advising caution over the new study. Craig Langman, a kidney disease expert at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, told Reuters "It does raise some concerns, but it hardly proves anything."

Health Canada notes that melamine is prohibited from being added to the food supply, but that it may be found in food in trace amounts because it is used in pesticides and fertilizers.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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