Reader Paul asks:
I was zapping some pasta in the micro wave and one of the kids said you can’t put melamine in the microwave, it’s dangerous. I’ve never heard that before and wanted to check if that was actually the case. And if so, why?
There is a simple test you can do, but first let’s look at how microwaves work.
Essentially, they heat water. Water is a polar molecule, which means it has an uneven separation of charge. That is, the molecule has a positively and negatively charged end.
Microwaves, like other electromagnetic waves, introduce an oscillating electric field. This electric field switches the molecule backwards and forwards rapidly, and this generates mechanical heat, just as you can start a fire by spinning a tick rapidly against another one.
The heated water then disperses its heat through the rest of the material and so it heats up.
But you don’t want the microwaves heating the vessel itself, particularly if it’s a plastic, as it could potentially release carcinogenic chemicals into the food.
So the test is simple – heat the vessel by itself with nothing in it. If it gets hot, it’s not microwave safe.
And melamine is definately not microwave safe.