Presentation on theme: "CHEMISTRY 1000 Topics of Interest #4: Melamine, The Molecule That Wont Go Away."— Presentation transcript:
CHEMISTRY 1000 Topics of Interest #4: Melamine, The Molecule That Wont Go Away
Melamine has the molecular formula C 6 H 6 N 6 It is used as a building block in plastics known as melamine resins. These plastics are made by reacting melamine with formaldehyde. They are very hard and are used in products like white boards, kitchen cabinets, ready-to-assemble furniture and laminate flooring. What is Melamine? or
Recently, melamine has been turning up where it doesnt belong! On March 15, 2007, the US FDA learned that some brands of pet food were making animals very ill – even killing some! This was traced to vegetable proteins imported from China which were found to contain melamine. There was a large-scale recall of pet food and the responsible individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury. More recently, some brands of Chinese powdered milk made over 50,000 children ill, killing at least four. On Monday, Chinese officials reported that 22 individuals had been detained by police for their involvement. Some products containing milk powder have turned up contaminated as well – the most recent example being cookies in the Netherlands. Why on Earth would anyone put plastic precursors in food???!!!! Why is Melamine in the News?
Sadly, the answer (as it so often is) is money. Melamine looks a lot like protein. It has a lot of nitrogen atoms and undergoes many of the same reactions as proteins. When officials test food for protein content, melamine makes it look like the food contains more protein than it really does. A company can therefore process lower quality plant matter and add melamine to make it look higher quality. And kill pets. Or they can water down milk, making it stretch farther, then add melamine to make it look like it has a normal amount of protein. And kill babies. After all, melamines dirt cheap and therefore great for the companys bottom line. Except for the part where it can kill. Why is Melamine in the News? vs. (chain too short to be a protein but gives you the idea)
The good news (such as it is) is that adding melamine to foods is not profitable in the long term. Nobody will want to buy food from a company that has been shown to do this. Hopefully, the potential fines and prison terms will also serve as deterrents. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Surely, if companies learned that melamine would beat the tests, testing organizations should have known that too. We need diligent scientists who keep up with all the advances in their fields. Education is also key. If the companies had understood how toxic melamine would prove to be (and that it could potentially put them out of business), they might have chosen safer ways to cut costs. We need science-literate people making business decisions. (Itd be nice to have them making political decisions too…) What Can We Do?