Melamine

1,3,5-Triazine-2,4,6-triamine
CAS Registry Number 108-78-1

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Overview

  • The Government of Canada conducted a science-based evaluation, called a screening assessment, to address the potential for harm to Canadians and to the environment from melamine.
  • Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), the risk posed by a substance is determined by considering both its hazardous properties (its potential to cause adverse human health or ecological effects) and the amount of exposure there is to people and the environment. A substance may have hazardous properties; however, the risk to human health or to the environment may be low depending upon the level of exposure.
  • In October 2016, the Government published a Draft Screening Assessment for Melamine, proposing that the substance was not harmful to human health or to the environment. Since then, significant new information became available regarding human exposure to products available to consumers, specifically foam products containing flame retardants, such as melamine. As a result, the draft screening assessment was updated.
  • As a result of the new information and the Updated Draft Screening Assessment of Melamine, the Government is proposing that melamine is harmful to human health but not to the environment at levels of exposure considered in the assessment.

About this substance

  • The screening assessment focuses on the substance 1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine, also referred to as melamine.
  • Melamine is included in the Certain Organic Flame Retardants Grouping under the second phase of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), which includes 10 organic substances having a similar function: application to materials to slow the ignition and spread of fire.
  • Melamine does not occur naturally in the environment. According to information gathered by the Government, melamine has numerous industrial applications in Canada. It is primarily used in the manufacture of polyurethane foams and melamine-based resins, for use in laminates, as well as in paints and coatings. It is also a plasticizer in concrete and other applications.

Human and ecological exposures

  • Canadians may be exposed to melamine from environmental sources (for example, water and soil), food, and from the use of certain products available to consumers, such as foam-containing furniture and mattresses.
  • This assessment took into consideration the results of human biomonitoring studies, where substances are measured in blood, urine or breast milk. The information on measured levels in humans is important in estimating exposure to Canadians.
  • Melamine may be released to the Canadian environment from effluents of industrial processing activities. Discharges to the environment can occur from on-site or off-site wastewater treatment systems.
  • Although melamine can be found in products available for consumer or commercial use, release to the environment from this source is minimal.

Key health and ecological effects (hazard)

  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified melamine as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Carcinogenicity (potential to cause cancer) as well as effects on the urinary system were considered to be the important or critical effects identified for characterizing the risk to human health in the assessment.
  • Melamine has demonstrated low toxicity to aquatic and soil-dwelling organisms.

Risk assessment outcomes

  • Based upon a comparison of levels at which infants, toddlers and young individuals (up to 18 years old) may be exposed to melamine from the use of foam-containing furniture and mattresses, and levels associated with critical health effects, it was determined that this source of exposure to melamine may pose a risk to human health, especially where prolonged skin contact may be expected.
  • The risk to human health for melamine from environmental sources, food and use of other products available to consumers, was not identified to be of concern. 
  • Considering all information presented, it was determined that there is low risk of harm to the environment from melamine.
  • The Government of Canada published the Updated Draft Screening Assessment for Melamine on October 17, 2020. The public is invited to comment on this assessment during the 60-day public comment period ending on December 16, 2020.

Proposed screening assessment conclusions

  • As a result of the updated draft screening assessment, the Government is proposing that melamine may be harmful to human health at levels of exposure considered in the assessment.
  • The Government is also proposing that melamine is not entering the environment at concentrations that may be harmful to the environment.
  • Melamine is proposed to meet the persistence criteria, but not the bioaccumulation criteria, as set out in the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations of CEPA 1999.

Preventive actions and reducing risk

  • The Government of Canada published the Risk Management Scope for Melamine on October 17, 2020. The public is invited to comment on the scope during the 60-day public comment period ending on December 16, 2020.
  • The Government will consider adding 1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine (melamine) to Schedule 1 of CEPA 1999, also called the List of Toxic Substances.
  • If the proposed conclusion is confirmed in the final screening assessment, the Government is considering taking regulatory or non-regulatory actions to help reduce dermal exposure of infants, toddlers and young individuals (up to 18 years old) to melamine in products made with polymeric foams, such as polyurethane foam. These products may include upholstered furniture, mattresses, mattress toppers, and other foam-based products to which prolonged skin contact may be expected.
  • Information is being sought by the Government to further inform risk management decision-making. Details can be found in the risk management scope, including where to send information during the public comment period.
  • Risk management actions may evolve, based upon the conclusions of the final screening assessment, or as a result of risk management actions published for other substances. This is to ensure effective, coordinated, and consistent risk management decision-making.
  • Further information and updates on risk management actions for substances managed under the CMP can be found in the risk management actions table and the two year rolling risk management activities and consultations schedule.

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