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Free Essay on Melamine Uses and Toxicity

How melamine is used

Melamine is used to synthesize plastics mainly used for utensils, adhesives, fabrics and countertops. It is used in the production of foams and resins, products for cleaning, pesticides and fertilizers. It is not allowed as a food additive because it doe not occur naturally. Its metabolite known as cyromazine is used as an insecticide (Magdy, p. 96).

PEL, TLV, and STEL of melamine.

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The PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) of melamine is 0.75ppm as measured in a mean weighted time of 8 hours. It has 2ppm STEL (Short-Term Exposure Limit) its TLV is not established (Gupta, p. 372).

Research that has been done to determine melamine toxicity.

Melamine is harmful when swallowed or inhaled. It causes cancer and damage of reproductive system. It also irritates skin, eyes and respiratory system. When melamine and cyanuric acid enter the blood they interact with renal tubules and form yellow crystals which block the tubules leading to malfunction of the kidney (Gupta, p. 375). Cyanuric acid and melamine combination causes acute renal failure in rats as was found out in the study of toxicology conducted in 2008. A similar result was found in a 2010 study by Lanzhou University where human renal failure was attributed to accumulation of uric acid crystals after ingestion of melamine (Magdy, p. 97).

How melamine enters the body

Melamine contains three amine groups. The amine group of melamine makes food to appear that its protein content is very high because testing of proteins looks at the amine groups but not the rest of the protein structure. Melamine itself appears to cause illness at high levels. Therefore the interaction of melamine with cyanuric acid is the key factor of melamine caused illness as can be seen in food contamination incidents. Cyanuric acid is an impurity in melamine and is used as cattle feed additive (Gupta, p. 325).. Therefore, majority of animal food products contain cyanuric acid. When these food products are contaminated with melamine, melamine and cyanuric acid make a composition that causes illness when ingested. Once melamine enters the body, some portion of its structure is eliminated while the rest of its structural portion participates in chemical reactions where it is converted into its derivatives. These derivatives are ammeline, cyanuric acid, and ammelide which are not supposed to be found in human body. These chemicals get into human body in different ways. One can get these compounds through their ingestion along with melamine, or melamine can be converted into these compounds after ingestion (Marquardt, p.922). Therefore it can be introduced into the body intentionally or accidentally through foods.

Target organ of melamine.

The kidney is the primary target organ for toxicity of melamine. The time taken for the kidney to be damaged is uncertain.

The harmful effects of melamine

Melamine causes kidney stones that result into acute kidney failure mostly in small animals. It also destroys the reproductive system of animals (Gupta, p. 370).

Melamine regulation

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The United States environmental protection agency (EPA), the Michigan department of environmental quality (DEQ) and the occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) regulate melamine.

How melamine is used in industries

It is combined with methaldehyde to give a resin which is durable plastic used asFormica. The melamine products make countertops, glues, dinnerware, guitar saddles, fabrics and many others (Michael, p.291). It also makes a polymer with a sulfonate used to make concretes of high resistance to harsh environments. Because of its high nitrogen content, melamine is now used as a fertilizer for crops but it is more expensive than other fertilizers. Scientifically, melamine usage as fertilizer is not practical because of its process of nitrogen mineralization which is very slow. It is also used to make arsenical derivatives used to treat trypanosomiasis (Michael, p.294).

Occupations exposed to melamine

Those who are exposed to melamine are farmers when using fertilizers and pesticides for their crops, workers in the melamine industries including countertop industries and pharmaceutical industry workers where melamine is used to give its derivative therapeutics (Ash, p.39).

Melamine toxicology

Melamine itself is metabolically inert. But its analogues are metabolically active. Deaths related to melamine illness recorded to date have been animals and infants. This is through food contamination. Similarly, adults can be contaminated with melamine even if the dosage needed to make this happen is very high (Gupta, p.368). Melamine and cyanuric acid composition makes melamine cyanurate crystals which develop in kidneys of cats, pigs and mice. In mammals, melamine alone has low toxic effects. When melamine is administered orally, one experiences toxic effects such as reduced rate of food consumption, loss of body weight, development of bladder stones, appearance of crystals in urine, survival rate becomes low. Burning or melting of melamine leads to release of dangerous gases which may cause illness (Gupta, p.370).

Symptoms of toxicity by melamine

Appearance of blood in urine with little amount of urine production, signs of kidney infections (headaches, fever, vomiting, edema, general weakness, highly colored urine, pain and soreness in upper backside, chills and increased frequency of passing out urine) and high blood pressure ( Marquardt, p.927).

Sources: Melamine Uses and Toxicity Essay

Ash, Irene. Handbook of green chemicals. New York: synapse info resources, 2004. Print.

Gupta, Ramesh. Reproductive and developmental toxicology .United States: academic press, 2011. Print.

Magdy, Hefnawy. Advances in food protection: focus on food safety and defense. United States: Springer, 2011. Print.

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Marquardt, Hans. Toxicology. United States: academic press, 1999. Print.

Michael, Ash. Handbook of fillers, extenders and diluents. New York: synapse info resources, 2007. Print.