Most parents know melamine dinnerware as well as its convenience-factor very well: melamine dinnerware is extremely sturdy, hence the reason that it is so often used for children’s dinnerware.
Melamine is an “organic,” nitrogen-rich industrial compound, created from one of three materials: urea, dicyandiamide or hydrogen cyanide. Hard melamine resin (used in melamine dinnerware) is created by combining melamine with urea and formaldehyde, and is fire and heat resistant.
A few years ago, it came to light that melamine was used in certain brands of pet foods and infant formula as a cheap filler. This followed reports of illness and deaths from renal failure in the animals and babies that had consumed these products. Shortly thereafter, questions were raised about the safety of melamine dinnerware.
While melamine resin is fixed and unchanging, excessive heat can make the plastic unstable and allow the resin to decompose back into its original elements, several of which are highly toxic. For this reason, you should never put your melamine dishes in your oven or microwave.
While the levels of melamine in dinnerware are considered safe by the FDA, you should be wary of melamine dinnerware with any scratches or those accidentally subjected to extreme heat. Also, history and recent events (lead in lipstick, anyone?) tell us that what the FDA deems “safe” may not actually be so, particularly when bioaccumulation is considered. For this reason, we will choose to avoid melamine dinnerware, particularly for children, since there are other, safer options available. While these other options may break, to me this risk outweighs that posed by melamine.