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Melamine scare has mom wondering about protein powders, plates

The Baltimore Sun

The recent melamine scare from China has me wondering. Due to the fact that supplements have little regulatory control, is there a risk that protein powders sold for dieters and muscle builders could contain melamine to increase the amount of protein when tested? Also, should I worry about my children's melamine dining plates?

You raise a fascinating question. Chinese producers have apparently added melamine to milk to cover up the fact that it was diluted. The same chemical was also added to the pet-food ingredient gluten to make it appear higher in protein so it would be worth more.

No one has suggested that protein powder has been contaminated with melamine, though we don't know how carefully the Food and Drug Administration has tested such products. If the raw ingredients in such powders came from China, there might be cause for concern.

Melamine is high in nitrogen and is used to make countertops, dry-erase boards and unbreakable dishes. We doubt that the dishes pose any risk to your children, since such plastic plates have been used for decades and are unlikely to release melamine into the food.

As a forensic crime-scene detective, I have used Vicks VapoRub in my nose to block the smell of noxious odors for many years. No adverse effects have been apparent. However, I am aware that adverse effects may still present a serious concern over the long term.

We can well imagine that a forensic crime-scene investigator would have to deal with some pretty stinky situations. The strong aroma of Vicks can mask other smells.

We have heard from readers that horse trainers sometimes utilize this unique property of Vicks: "My friend raises and shows palominos. When she shows the stallions, she puts a little bit of Vicks inside their nostrils so they won't get a sniff of a mare in heat and act like a typical male and show off. If they can not smell the mare, they behave properly."

A zoo in England has used Vicks to mask the scent of newcomers in a group of meerkats. Without some such intervention, they are likely to fight.

The manufacturer warns that Vicks VapoRub is "for external use only" and should not be put in nostrils.

Regular use of petroleum jelly in the nose may increase the risk for lung irritation.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site.

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