Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Mar

Are Microwave Ovens Safe?

MicrowaveTo Nuke or Not to Nuke?

The verb itself suggests the unleashing of atomic destruction, but we wondered, “Is there a grain of truth behind the slang?” What’s the real story behind these boxes of convenience sitting in so many of our kitchens? Are microwaves a benign bastion of modern handiness or, as some claim, a sinister contributor to our physiological (at least nutritional) undoing?

It’s likely that we find ourselves in a variety of camps on this issue. Some of us swear them off. Others unapologetically swear by them to get through the normal course of a busy day. And then there are those of us in the dithering middle who routinely stare at each plate of leftovers or bowl of frozen vegetables, sometimes reaching for the pots and pans and other times giving into convenience but always questioning whether we’re paying for it.

Should we be plagued by these pangs of conscience? Are we emitting dangerous radiation into our homes or killing off the nutritional value of our unsuspecting food? Are we making a mountain out of a molehill? What should we believe? Is there enough evidence to really tell either way?

We definitely know this much. Grok didn’t have a microwave. But, then again, he didn’t have a jet shower, Bose stereo system, or Hammacher Schlemmer thumper massager. (Trade-offs, you know…) As much as we love Grok and think his era has been unduly disparaged, we aren’t arguing that he had the best life possible or that anything he didn’t have isn’t worth having. Nonetheless, while it’s a naturalistic fallacy to assume that everything post-Paleo is an abomination, it’s both fair and reasonable to question the safety of today’s customary appliances.

Here’s what we found. First, to the question of transforming your home into a radiation zone… There is, not surprisingly, disagreement about this point. However, occasional home use of a fully functional microwave appliance is generally considered safe. Microwaves do, make no mistake, emit radiation, and the FDA has established what it considers “safe” levels for microwaves: over the machine’s “lifetime” the allowable level is “5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter…approximately 2 inches from the oven surface.” Guidelines from the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) suggest overall radiation limits of 1 milliwatt per square centimeter “averaged over 6 minutes (0.1 h) period.” Unless you’re using your microwave on a perpetual basis, there’s little reason to worry.) Because the radiation diminishes quickly over distance, standing further away from the microwave during operation cuts your exposure even more significantly. (That instinct to not press your face against the glass door while your lunch was cooking turns out to be right after all…) Additionally, the FDA requires two interlock systems that effectively offer backup security as well as a monitoring system that shuts the microwave down if one of the systems isn’t working or if the door is opened during operation. Common sense adds that you might want to make sure the microwave seal isn’t compromised by built up tomato sauce or other grime. (Hmmm…anyone?) And, of course, it’s a good idea to replace an old, dilapidated microwave even if it’s a great conversation piece. Safety versus vintage flare…

And now for the more common question. What about the nutrients? (We should mention quickly that microwaving of food isn’t the same as food irradiation, which involves a higher level of energy and is considered much more damaging in terms of “complex chemical changes … in food components.”) But how do nutrients fare behind the closed, latched, double interlock system door? Well, it varies. As we’ve reported in the past, cooking of any kind can sometimes reduce the nutritional value of food and occasionally enhance it. Slow and low are typically the way to go with cooking, as we’ve said. A pretty much universal concept for our friends, fruits and veggies: steaming or cooking/microwaving with small bits of water trumps boiling or deep frying. When it comes to microwaving itself, studies suggest some mixed reviews for individual vegetables or nutrients but indicate, overall, that microwaving generally preserves nutrient levels.  One study using Brassica vegetables found that microwaving resulted in comparable nutrient (glucosinolates, a possible cancer preventative compound) loss when compared to steaming or stir frying.  (Actually, shredding the vegetable ahead of time had more impact on nutritional value than the cooking method.) However, another study using broccoli suggests that antioxidants can be significantly depleted.  (Antioxidants, particularly water soluble vitamins, appear to be most at risk while minerals tend to be generally preserved in microwave preparation.) Yet another study review showed that microwaving with low power settings offered “equal or better retention of nutrients … as compared with conventional, reheated foods for thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, folacin, and ascorbic acid.” University of Illinois research also showed that microwave blanching (brief exposure to high heat used for pre-freezing preparation to lengthen storage ability of frozen produce) was as or more successful in retaining nutritional value than conventional blanching methods. (Nonetheless, blanching does diminish nutrient levels.)

But how could microwaving actually preserve more nutrients in many cases? Not only do we generally use less liquid when cooking in the microwave, cooking times are typically shorter than those for conventional cooking. (As a side note, new ceramic cookware designed for microwave use shows promise to cut cook times further still, which can mean even greater nutrient preservation.)

Our best advice: nuke wisely. If the convenience of a microwave keeps you committed to PB eating, use it as you need to. (We’re all for leftovers, freezing fresh produce to save money, etc.) Nonetheless, thinking outside the micro box is likely a good idea as well. Invest in some small pans for single servings or small cooking jobs. (If it takes up less space in the dishwasher/sink, it seems like less of a chore.) And, of course, avoid heating (and especially reheating) whenever you can to retain the most nutrition. Heat only the ingredients you must to make a dish palatable, and keep water use, time and temp (power level) as low as possible. (Bonus: it helps you avoid those nasty steam burns from handling overheated dishes.)

Have your own reasons for yea or nay on nuking? Let us know what you think and any tricks you’ve found useful to avoid or minimize microwaving.

limonada Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Should I Stop Eating Flax Seed?

8 Ways to Reduce Your Chemical Load

What’s Wrong with Juicing?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. A few months ago, of my buddies suddenly got rid of her microwave, and I asked her why. She said she had learned microwaves “destroy enzymes in our food”. I thought she had fallen for the usual myths & baloney out there, so I decided to do some research to show her they were safe. Well, I gotta tell you, I am pretty shocked by what I found.

    For instance, in 1992, a Swiss Dr. by the name of Hertel conducted a study that proved eating foods that have been microwaved *chemically alters the blood of a person to a near-cancerous state*. Dr. Hertel and his team published the results in 1992, but a Swiss trade organization, the “Swiss Association of Dealers for Electro-apparatuses for Households and Industry” had a gag order issued, which prohibited Dr. Hertel from declaring that microwaves were dangerous to health.

    In March 1993, Dr. Hertel was convicted for “interfering with commerce” and prohibited from further publishing his results. However, several years later, this decision was reversed in a judgment delivered in Strasbourg, Austria, on August 25, 1998. The European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Hertel’s rights in the 1993 decision. They also ruled that the “gag order” issued by the Swiss court in 1992 against Dr. Hertel, prohibiting him from declaring that microwave ovens are dangerous to human health, was contrary to the right to freedom of expression. In addition, Switzerland was ordered to pay Dr. Hertel compensation. Since then both Dr. Hertel and the Dr. that assisted him have gone underground, his assistant has been quoted telling others that he was afraid for his life.

    Yikes! How come we have never heard of this??? So needless to say, I have not microwaved a single item of my food ever since.

    Ailu wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • I’m not saying that this Dr Hertel does not exist, nor do I personally nuke anything but cold coffee or sometimes water…. however Strasbourg is not in Austria, and to my knowledge in 1998 Switzerland was not a member of the European Union!

      Emery wrote on September 7th, 2009
      • “however Strasbourg is not in Austria”

        Emery, a recheck of your map or Google search, will indeed show that – Strasbourg is in Austria.

        Joe Deven wrote on March 1st, 2010
        • Joe, sorry, Strassburg Austria has a population of 2,200, Strassburg Germany has a population of 5,500, Strasbourg France has nearly half a million and is the seat of the European Court of Human Rights – the court that heard Hertel’s case. So many anti MW sites state Strassburg (or Strasburg or Strasbourg, it depends on whether you speak German)which is easily verified as being WRONG that one has to consider doubting the more difficult stuff.

          Kiwi-Ian wrote on February 1st, 2011
    • Hold on before you get scared! You have to note that Dr. Hertel’s research still has not been published nor peer-reviewed. If no other researcher can even bother replicating or verifying his evidence, how can one assume that he was correct?

      Heck, there is evidence that even opposes Dr. Hertel’s findings. Potential carcinogens found in Jim Felton’s study of microwaving meats were actually eliminated, as opposed to grilled or fried meats.

      For all we know, Dr. Hertel might have even used plastic containers to contain the foods that he tested.

      This is only one experiment. How the heck are we sure that this verifies the danger in microwaves?

      I do enjoy the old-fashioned grill, broiler, and skillet much more to the microwave, but I can’t assume based on this one piece (unreliable, not to mention) that microwaves are in fact dangerous.

      Funbun wrote on January 27th, 2011
  2. I grew up without a microwave. My mom (a self-proclaimed hippie, and one of my biggest idols) always thought that since they were so new to the earth we didn’t know their affect on humans and would eventually find out that they were detrimental to our health (mostly due to radiation). Although it would appear there’s no real evidence of this, she was on to something- she knew it wasn’t natural to be zapping our food.

    I love this article and will show it to everyone I can, but I also think it should’ve included something about taste. Most people think the microwave is the better choice because of convenience, but really it doesn’t take that much longer to reheat something in the oven or in a pan or to cook something in general. Plus- it makes your food TASTE so much better. Nutrients aside, my taste buds say ‘no thank you’ to microwaved food.


    BEE wrote on March 18th, 2009
  3. Great point, BEE. There are other reasons to not use a microwave. How much longer does it take to heat up something on the range? In many cases the difference is only a minute or two, and the taste factor certainly can play a deciding role.

    Mark Sisson wrote on March 18th, 2009
  4. We put ours in the basement so that it is a real pain in the butt if we want to use it. I figure that is one of those “better safe than sorry” items. About the only thing we ever use it for – on rare occasions at that – is for microwave popcorn.


    Adam Steer - Better Is Better wrote on March 18th, 2009
  5. I never really used a microwave….
    why you ask? I like warming left overs in a pan with butter 😉


    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on March 18th, 2009
  6. Woah, it’s like you can read my mind, Mark. Yesterday I was thinking about how to cut some costs and voilà! your depression diet article turns up. Because I bought some brussels-sprouts yesterday (for the very first time in my life!) and I decided to cook quite a big amount of them this evening, I wondered if I should keep some of them for the next day and whether it would be smarter to reheat it in a pan or the microwave (even though I barely use the microwave at all). And now this article is showing up.

    Well I actually ate all of the brussels-sprouts I made today anyways. It was quite a lot, but I think it was the right decision^^.

    I’ll still keep this article in mind though, since I definetly should make more food than I can eat at once more often to have some leftovers. Just to save some time. But I still think I’ll keep on using the microwave very occasionally.

    madMUHHH wrote on March 18th, 2009
  7. Tonight for dinner, I microwaved some left-over chicken and veggies, and steamed some broccoli. The microwaved food was delicious, and so was the broccoli. But, the scary thing that my wife and I have found is that 1/2 the time we use our microwave there is a car on our street whose alarm goes off. And this has happened enough that we’re sure our microwave is putting out something that is causing the car alarm to go off.

    Still, I microwave, but never stand too close!

    Russell wrote on March 18th, 2009
  8. I heat almost everything on defrost because it gets hard around the edges, otherwise. I had to get new one at Walmart last summer. I figure it has to be safer than the old one because that one was cobbled together from parts of three broken ones. It is the handiest thing for boiling water but some things do taste better heated in the oven. Being without one for several days was very inconvenient.

    nonegiven wrote on March 18th, 2009
  9. Great topic! I have always wondered about microwaves, especially after a rep from a coconut oil company was shocked when I told her I put my oil in the microwave whenever I needed it in liquid form. She gave no evidence as back-up but suggested I use a very low energy if I felt the need to continue. On a related note, I just purchased a convection toaster oven after reading about them via one of your weekend links. It is a real time and energy saver over my old oven. Does anyone know if re-heating makes sense in a convection oven, or is it still way too slow??? I still use the microwave, but only to re-heat leftovers, and I would love to find a fairly quick alternative.

    Rodnay wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • See the response by microwaveguru at

      The high heat level is likely why this could be a bad approach. Still, for leftovers, I think it is hard to argue with the microwave sometimes.

      I’ll copy his response below:
      Before I answer let me tell you that I am a microwave scientist and have worked microwaves and microwave ovens for nearly 50 years – I also teach this stuff.
      1. microwaves heating oil: while a much poorer microwave absorber than water, oils still do absorb microwave energy and heat, especially if the quantity of oil is large – say 4 ounces or more. Also, oils have a specific heat capacity of about 0.5, which is half that of water (1.0) and that means that for a given amount of microwave energy absorbed oil will heat twice as much as water. But be extraordinarily careful heating oil inside a microwave oven because oils can easily reach temperatures of over 400 F! This can cause serious burns. So, it is best not to heat them inside a microwave oven.

      2. metals in the microwave oven – they will not destroy the oven or cause it to blow up. I routinely heat my coffee with a spoon in the cup. I also did the definitive early research on this in the late 70’s and early 80’s. But it is possible for metals to arc (spark) under certain conditions. This can be dangerous especially with things like metal twist ties and steel wool. Also, things like the metal trim (silver or gold) around the rims of fine china is dangerous in that the dish or cup can easily beak or shatter – but this due to the trim not being perfectly continuous like a wire that would carry current, Instead the trim has microscopic gaps and that can cause micro-arcs and temperatures exceeding 1000 F locally.

      Brandon Barker wrote on January 13th, 2013
    • It’s super easy to melt coconut oil by putting the container into some hot or boiling water. It only takes a few minutes.

      Leah wrote on June 30th, 2013
  10. We do not have a microwave. I do not trust microwaves.

    On the rare occasion that I eat out, I can taste it when they nuke a cup of coffee. It is NOT the same.

    I respect that there is scientific data that suggests that microwaves preserve the nutritional content of food, but in my humble opinion, there is too much that we don’t know about radiation and what it does to our bodies.

    Ruth wrote on March 18th, 2009
  11. Why not just use a toaster oven? That’s what I do in my house and what my parents do. No worry about radiation and the food doesn’t turn to muck.

    If my fiance is hankering for popcorn, I make it in a pot on the stove (it has a glass lid) and I put real butter on it instead of the junk oils that are packaged with microwave meals.

    So, when do we start trusting what the FDA says anyway? I was reading an article on talking about how a lady had a blood transfusion and the blood was heated up with a microwave and the lady died from it. If microwaves simply heat and kill off a cell or two, she obviously wouldn’t have died.

    Here’s a little piece of an 8 week controlled study on microwaved foods that Mercola cites, “Then blood samples were taken at defined intervals after eating from the above-numbered milk or vegetable preparations. Significant changes were discovered in the blood of the volunteers who consumed foods cooked in the microwave oven. These changes included a decrease in all hemoglobin values and cholesterol values, especially the HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) values and ratio.

    Lymphocytes (white blood cells) showed a more distinct short-term decrease following the intake of microwaved food than after the intake of all the other variants. Each of these indicators point in a direction away from robust health and toward degeneration. Additionally, there was a highly significant association between the amount of microwave energy in the test foods and the luminous power of luminescent bacteria exposed to serum from test persons who ate that food.” – The Proven Dangers of Microwaves
    Extracted from NEXUS Magazine, Volume 2, #25 (April-May ’95). Originally printed from the April 1994 edition of Acres, USA. (

    Rachel wrote on March 18th, 2009
  12. I have often wondered about this myself. I cook in the oven and on the stove but reheat almost exclusively in the microwave. Its just so fast, easy and convenient…. which wait a second… that should tell me something is wrong right there! lol

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on March 18th, 2009
  13. I think it can be debatable as to whether or not a microwave is safe for the home, but I finally stopped using mine over a month ago and really don’t miss it that much. I have a toaster/convection oven that has really replaced my microwave in a lot of ways. And with my stove and regular oven, and pressure cooker, there’s just no need for the microwave. Sure, it’s convenient and it does take me a bit more time sometimes to re-heat things, but to me the extra time is worth it. I just have a bad feeling about food being microwaved ever since I’ve become more health conscious, it just doesn’t seem like a healthy way to cook or re-heat food.

    Jerry wrote on March 18th, 2009
  14. A little remedial science lesson seems to be in order here. Microwaves are electromagnetic radiation/photons, the same as radio waves, infrared, visible light, x-rays, etc. Microwave is just the name we give to photons in a certain range of (very low) energies. Photons in the visible spectrum have far more energy per photon — enough in some cases to effect chemical bonds. This is why we package some foods in dark brown bottles.

    Microwaves have a very small quanta of energy and a single microwave is completely harmless. When you have a very high flux of microwaves they cause significant heating, just like how the sun heats the planet. Your broiler works in the same way, but using stronger (infra-red) light (which can burn/char food in a fashion microwaves do not). Now, microwaves don’t penetrate very deeply, so they mostly heat the surface and then the heat has to diffuse into the food. The broiler works the same way — leave it on too long and you burn the surface and leave the interior uncooked.

    If there are negative consequences associated with microwaving food, it is the heating/cooking that’s causing the problem and not the microwave per say.

    The solution to using a microwave for cooking is to not run it on high power all the time and give that hot surface layer an opportunity to diffuse the heat it absorbs into the interior of the food. A standard microwave on high is putting 1500 Watts into your food, which is a lot of heating power. A standard stove-top element is 1200 Watts but most of that power is lost to the air and surfaces around it. If you took a hunk of frozen steak and put it into a red-hot cast iron frying pan for 30-60 seconds a side would you expect the result to be tasty? Like magic, microwaves produce more palatable food if you run them at 30-40 % power for a longer cooking time.

    Robert M. wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • Robert says “A little remedial science lesson seems to be in order here. Microwaves are electromagnetic radiation/photons, the same as radio waves, infrared, visible light, x-rays, etc. Microwave is just the name we give to photons in a certain range of (very low) energies.”

      I see, thank you Robert for your expert science lesson. Since Robert has informed us of this science, this now justifies any microwave energy – even if we leave our microwave doors open and purposely stand right near the microwave.

      After all, companies have done extensive research and stated that microwaves do emit dangerous waves when people stand by them. They may do more research in the future to find that some of the radiation stays inside the food wiggling around. But, well those research studies just can’t be correct because Robert here has used SCIENCE to inform us that microwaves are just.. more energy and photons and a buncha stuff! Kinda like the atomic bomb – just a bit of mass converted to energy – harmless! Science proves the atomic bomb works, so it must be harmless then.

      I suggest to Robert use his science knowledge to convince people that Atomic bombs are safe, and you should take Robert’s word for it especially since Robert here has used SCIENCE.

      Atomic bombs are not dangerous because they are just using the theory of E equals MC squared. Einstein offered us this equation in math – and Einstein was not trying to kill us or anything. E equals MC squared is mathematical and scientific, therefore making Atomic bombs 100 percent safe (due purely to science and math, and einstein endorsement).

      Thanks for the useless advice Robert.

      anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
      • Well, I guess its pretty old, but I think I need to say something about it.

        The problem with microwave is the intensity of the light. Its not with the light per say. So when you lower the power, you should ideally lower the intensity. But most microwaves actually just cook for smaller time.

        I am not sure how to debunk this because while Robert was talking about science, this message only talks about perception. Well Perceptions can be misleading. It is perceptions that get you Low Fat high carb diets. Its not the science.

        Science simply says that lower the frequency lesser the energy. Also lower frequency light is more easily absorbed.

        Microwaves are the ideal way to transfer energy because they are absorbed more easily. The only problem with current microwave ovens is that it delivers a whole lot of power in a very short time. And there is no way to lower the intensity.

        anand srivastava wrote on March 9th, 2010
      • Robert was making a perfectly valid point, that the often hysterical use of the label “radiation” can be misleading. He’s perfectly correct in everything he describes. Your post, on the other hand, not only shows your own ignorance on the subject of basic 8th grade science, it’s needlessly snippy.

        heatseeker wrote on January 19th, 2011
      • There is no need be rude and sarcastic to Robert. He is correct about microwaves. Are microwaves dangerous? Sure. If you were to run them, as you suggest with the door open and stand right in front. Or if you over heat your food and eat it right away, you might burned.

        Traditional, stoves, ovens and even open fires like Grok used are also very dangerous when not used correctly.

        Jake wrote on January 30th, 2011
        • Absolutely. Many of the “dangers” of microwave ovens apply to all types of heating.

          How many people here would put a plastic container onto a stove to heat up? How many would keep the oven door open while they roast something, or stick their head in to see how things are going? How many would touch a hotplate to see what that does? How many put a naked flame up to their ear? Has anyone tried using a blow torch to heat up blood and if not why not?

          A bit of common sense please. Microwaves are not totally harmless, but they are no more dangerous than other “traditional” heat sources.

          Kiwi-Ian wrote on January 31st, 2011
      • I’ve got to chip in here Robert with some facts.

        Microwave refers to a band of frequency not the size or amount of energy.

        Also the microwave does not heat things like the sun, a microwave oven typically uses 2 equal strength ‘microwaves’ projected at each other, since energy can not be created nor destroyed and the 2 waves cancel each other out the energy transfers into heat in the food instead, to the water to be precise, Which is usually on the inside of the food not the outside, Its convection heating that cooks from the outside.

        Also a broiler works via convection heating so once again nothing like a microwave.

        I’m amazed how you have just made up a bunch of nonsense suggesting that microwaves are awesome yet you did not even notice yourself that it cooks from the inside, it seems apparent that you either don’t use a microwave very much at all or just paid no attention in your remedial science class or your microwave then made up false observations for the sake of having something to say.

        I’m guessing because your mother is still cooking your meals.

        For the record I don’t know if microwaves are safe for cooking or not so I’m not going to profess either way they are safe or unsafe using terms like magic and ‘flux’ in a context possibly less plausible than ‘the Doc’ in ‘back to the future’

        Seb wrote on March 12th, 2012
  15. I don’t have a microwave at home but I do use one at work to reheat leftovers for lunch.

    I have a question about xylitol. Usually I avoid artificial sweeteners and I’m not much of a gum-chewer but recently I’ve heard from a few sources that xylitol is anti-bacterial and chewing gum with xylitol after meals is good for your teeth when brushing is not an option. I know Grok didn’t have come, but what are your thoughts on consuming small amounts of artificial sweeteners for the sake of dental hygiene?

    Sally wrote on March 18th, 2009
  16. It is true that much money is spent for health information, but it is also quite true that so far no will find the cure for terrible diseases and quickly became generalized in our body, it calls on the authorities to better distribution of this money because it is spending so far in vain, I have friends who suffer from cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and so far we can not find any solution to the disease, only the medicines in oxycontin to control their pain, but until you take the same? actually there will be some day, the cure? Please have to be sensible and remember that nobody is free from disease and therefore it is important for everyone.

    wayne wrote on March 18th, 2009
  17. I’m definetly a fence sitter on this issue. But there comes a point where I would question the debate on radiation. After all, most people use mobile phones right? And that involves putting a device that emits radiation up to your HEAD.

    Mobiles are as convenient as microwaves, should we stop using them also?

    Spring Girl wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • “I’m definetly a fence sitter on this issue. But there comes a point where I would question the debate on radiation. After all, most people use mobile phones right?”

      Hello – I am also a fence sitter on the microwave issue. Just because people use cell phones, does not magically make microwaves and cell phones safe. Smoking was considered safe and only Adolf Hitler started the stop smoking trend. Yes that is right, people thought smoking was healthy and even good for you at one time – what is the problem with some energy added flames entering the lungs? it is just hot air going in your lungs – and our bodies are designed to filter out smoke anyway.

      Please, sit on the fence, research Hertel and let us get to the bottom of this. I have been sitting on the fence for too many years now and want answers. The research on microwaves is extremely contradictory. Hertel and other qualified doctors say they are dangerous, while other studies say they are not. As for Mr. Mercola – he is a quack and not to be trusted, ever. His website is a sales page trying to sell you the Turbo Oven.

      anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
  18. Spring Girl, this is just my opinion but I don’t necessarily feel cell phones are completely safe either. I do use a cell phone, but I try to limit my use on it and I do have some concerns about the radiation that is so close to your head, even if it’s only a small amount. So should we stop using cell phones? You know, over time we might find out that yes we should, or we might find out that they are completely safe. I don’t think anyone has the absolute correct answer yet no matter what they claim.

    Jerry wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • “Spring Girl, this is just my opinion but I don’t necessarily feel cell phones are completely safe either. I do use a cell phone, but I try to limit my use on”

      Same here. You would be amazed at how often you will find a pay phone when you have an emergency. I live in a Rural town and even on my way to other far away towns I rarely ever use a cell phone UNLESS it is for emergency. I keep some prepaid minutes in my phone (about 10 dollars worth) but hate refilling it because I rarely ever use the phone (once every 5 years).

      Business people use cell phones – but for socialization? use a regular phone. No calling girlfriend from the grocery store to tell her how much you like her – humans are becoming stupider with more technology.

      anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
  19. I agree. If there was a simple, safer option to a radiation-emitting cell phone, I would switch. But there is a simple, safer option to a microwave almost always readily available – the stove. I always try to go the safer route, when I can.

    Ailu wrote on March 18th, 2009
  20. So the only person close on this is Robert M. above. A microwave uses 2.4 GHz electromagnetic waves to heat food. Sound familiar? It should because that’s exactly the same frequency as the WiFi you’re probably using to read this right now, or the bluetooth headset that you use to talk on your phone. There’s a good reason for that as well. It’s one of the few radio frequency bands that is free to use without a license from the FCC.

    So why 2.4 GHz? Well, 2.4 GHz happens to be the resonant frequency of water. So the reason a microwave can heat stuff up so quickly is that the microwaves (the 2.4 GHz electromagnetic waves) cause the water molecules to start vibrating, which creates friction and thus heat. So literally the water in the food is getting boiled from the inside out. It’s a very different process than the infrared radiation in an oven that heats the food from the outside in.

    The 2.4 GHz microwaves that are in a microwave oven are quite a bit more energetic than the waves put out by a WiFi access point – but they are contained inside the oven. The only danger that is posed by microwaves (which is why the FCC regulates how much can leak out) is burning – because we are mostly water, and a microwave will happily boil us from the inside out if we give it the chance. That’s why the microwave window has what looks like a wire mesh with little holes covering it. If you pick the hole size correctly, the microwaves can’t escape out the holes, and they bounce around on the inside cooking your food.

    Eric wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • “So the only person close on this is Robert M. above. A microwave uses 2.4 GHz electromagnetic waves to heat food. Sound familiar? It should because that’s exactly the same frequency as the WiFi you’re probably using to read this right now”

      No, actually a lot of people use wires. Using WiFi in a house is completely useless since a comfy computer is at an office desk with a proper chair. Using a laptop on your bed, just because you can – is naive. Using one out in the garden is also naive, since you should be gardening – not laptoping.

      Your argument that radiation just heats up water is about as useful as telling us that Atomic bombs just heat up the earth when they are dropped. Because Atomic bombs just have energy from mass, it must mean that Atomic bombs are safe and that all the Japanese deformed babies and miscarriages as a result of Hiroshima… well… again those darn Japanese Nazis are spreading propaganda! Atomic bombs are pure and safe! Because science, and Einstein – justify them.

      Thanks for the useless advice Eric and Robert – your posts prove nothing and are based purely on speculation and assumption – NOT ACTUAL THOROUGH SCIENCE but rather un-thorough science.

      anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
      • Do you really hate science? You are against the people who are talking about science here. The others just have opinions.

        Opinions are nice to have, but they must be backed by the science.

        And these two people did not even give their opinions. Just the science.

        anand srivastava wrote on March 9th, 2010
        • errr…. sorry to point out the obvious, but the whole existence of this website, advice and posts is because of the internet, and the internet and computers evolved using SCIENCE. In Grok’s time, when fire was first used to cook food, others around the “inventor” may have perceived him/her as some sort of “witch doctor/scientist”, and would have been hesitant to use this new “fire” for cooking. The real threat at the moment is the proliferation of mobile phones and stronger and stronger Wi-Fi. I avoid talking on mobile phones as much as possible, and keep conversations brief as possible – I tell people not to call me on the mobile unless its an emergency, and I use “hands free” mode when possible. I also have all my home computers wired in using LAN cable where possible.

          Barbarian wrote on December 28th, 2015
  21. What Eric and Robert said are dead on. I was talking to my Chemistry professor (who is, incidentally, a microwave chemist!) about this. The water molecules are simply moving around more in order to heat food from the inside out, as Eric put it. Even if you stand close to your microwave, the radiation shouldn’t be able to escape since it is so targeted. I use my microwave for making hot “chocolate,” and cooking soaked grains on low power. It’s a lifesaver!

    My Chem professor did say to get a Bluetooth, though. These cell phones could pose a real threat to our health down the line!

    Lauren B wrote on March 18th, 2009
    • “My Chem professor did say to get a Bluetooth, though. These cell phones could pose a real threat to our health down the line!”

      The same Chem professor in a few years may be saying that “well, the microwave ovens actually are unsafe because now they have proven it leaves the water molecule in an unstable ionic state temporarily when it goes through the blood, similar to electrolysis”. And this may not be the case – but it may be the case too. Better safe than sorry.

      Research Hertel’s work and let us get to the bottom of this. Did Hertel have an ulterior motive? I do not know – I want to find out – and you should too.

      Many “chem professors” and doctors, along with scientists will have one opinion 5 years ago that becomes outdated later “until proven otherwise”. Buyer beware!

      anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
      • Do you think Water is as complex as blood? Do you think food that you are going to heat in microwave, you are going to put directly in your veins.

        Please have some logic, can you?

        It is one think to be cautious, another to be panicky.

        Don’t Panic. Our digestive system is designed to handle molecules that have been altered. Heck we have lived so far with so many poisons in our diet.

        anand srivastava wrote on March 9th, 2010
  22. One thing I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is to avoid microwaving plastic. The list of problems associated with plastics (BPA, phthalates, VOCs, etc…) is long, and growing longer all the time. There is evidence that heating plastics causes chemicals to leach out of them into whatever is nearby – in this case your food. If you’re going to nuke, at least use an inert container.

    Abe wrote on March 19th, 2009
  23. Microwaving is gross. I hate what it does to food. It destroys the texture.

    I suppose if you are warming up a dry chicken breast or frozen pot pie, it doesn’t matter because the food you’re eating doesn’t taste so great to begin with.

    But for most home-cooked food, microwaving ruins it in my opinion. I only use the oven, the toaster oven, or the stove to warm food.

    I agree with Marc — warm up the leftovers in a pan with butter!

    cheeseslave wrote on March 19th, 2009
    • I totally agree. When I started eating Real Food, I had to learn how to Really Cook. Dangerous or not, microwaves have no place in anything I cook. Even if they did, I wouldn’t use them. I enjoy the process of cooking, having things in the oven or bubbling on the stove. If I need to warm up my salmon, I just stick it on a plate with some butter and give it a few minutes. I’m not in a hurry. Even baked sweet potatoes cook fast in the toaster oven when you stick a potato nail in them.

      Dave, RN wrote on January 20th, 2011
  24. For whatever it’s worth, here’s an article on microwaving from The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients:

    I have a cheap microwave that I use for disinfecting sponges, but I don’t use it beyond that, and never really feel the need anyway.

    David wrote on March 19th, 2009
  25. Three years ago we moved our microwave oven into the garage. We never use it now ourselves.

    Sometimes when the whole family is here, they will reheat leftovers in the microwave.

    I have more counter space now for my juicer!


    Helen wrote on March 19th, 2009
  26. There is no such thing as “altering the blood to a near cancerous state”. That line is pure altie hogwash, so at this point I become highly skeptical of anything else this mercola-like quack may have to say.

    For all of you worried about radiation… you should realize radiation also comes from your computer monitors, televisions, it’s pretty much unavoidable.

    THe fear of microwaves is almost identical to the fear of artificial sweeteners. It seems “too good to be true” and it has scary words in it (microwave – sounds like a nuclear power plant! aspartame, sucralose, chlorine – poison!)

    If microwaves were called “soup warmers” no one would think twice.

    ItsTheWooo wrote on March 19th, 2009
    • “THe fear of microwaves is almost identical to the fear of artificial sweeteners. It seems “too good to be true” and it has scary words in it (microwave – sounds like a nuclear power plant! aspartame, sucralose, chlorine – poison!)”

      Actually it has been proven that many artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic when taken in large amounts (such as a 2L bottle of Diet Pepsi or Coke). In small amounts they are not so harmful and therefore humans are not affected as much – similar to how if I swallow a bit of gasoline each day it will not kill me but a lot will start to add up.

      And yes, chlorine is poisonous – going to a swimming pool will not kill you, but if you work there every single day you will have more toxins to deal with in your little lungs than someone who goes for a Sunday swim.

      Think before you post – and thanks for the useless advice.

      anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
      • I’m not saying that it’s great for health to eat large quantities, or any quantities really, of Diet Pepsi or Coke.

        But do you really have scientific evidence that eating a 2L bottle of Diet Pepsi or Coke is carcinogenic, as you state in your post? Because that’s alarming considering the vast majority of people who consume the stuff.

        Jake wrote on January 30th, 2011
        • Is diet coke healthy? No.

          Is it completely neutral? No.

          What is left?

          What do you intuitively know is the answer?

          Trav wrote on January 2nd, 2014
  27. Hey, I’m no scientist, that’s just the best explanation for what I understood from the results of the Hertel study. Flaming or ridiculing me doesn’t benefit anyone or anything but your own ego. Everyone needs to make up their own mind, based on their own research – rather than be ridiculed into conformity by strong willed people. Information regarding the Hertel study, as well as his case before the ECHR, are readily available online for all who wish to investigate it. That’s where I will leave it.

    Ailu wrote on March 19th, 2009
  28. artificial sweeteners can indeed be poisonous(read Excitotoxins by neurosurgeon R Blaylock) and microwaved food tastes nasty

    Chris wrote on March 20th, 2009
  29. My ex got to keep the microwave. I’m not sure which I miss less.

    I only used it for reheating, didn’t like the flavour it seemed to impart when using it for proper cooking.

    Trinkwasser wrote on March 20th, 2009
  30. My paternal grandmother, who died at age 96, always hated the idea of microwaves; she wouldn’t allow one in her house. She thought it was odd and unnatural to be able to heat food that fast… she also didn’t know anything about enzymes or molecular changes, but she knew microwaves made food taste terrible.

    I’ve come to agree with her entirely. There have been numerous studies showing that eating microwaved food has a deleterious effect on animal (including human) health. The food just tastes bad, too… that’s important.

    Sam wrote on April 10th, 2009
  31. Dr. Hertel should be studied and I wonder if he had any ulterior motives? I am currently sitting on the fence on the microwave issue. I stopped using one for 20 years until I could find more evidence that this Hertel person was just a lying scumbag. Hertel, does not seem to be that type though. Now I am currently using a microwave during this time of life after 20 years of not having one – I wonder what I should do?

    Did Hertel have any ulterior motives? Was he trying to gain publicity? Or was he truly finding evidence of the radiation affecting molecules and leaving traces of dangerous molecular charges in our food?

    Please, all the idiots who come on this blog and post EXTREME views and personal emotional based opinions – stop your garbage. Either sit on the fence and do more research, or shut up. There are far too many emotional “BUT I USE MY MICROWAVE AND I DO NOT WANT TO GIVE IT UP SO SCREW YOU!” and irrational replies here. Sit on the fence, do research – or shut up.

    anon wrote on May 21st, 2009
    • It’s very sickening to read comments like anon’s. There are ways to disagree without the attacks and disrespect. I would like to read the thoughts and comments without the vitriol.

      trevor wrote on December 29th, 2009
  32. lmao, at the anon poster who doesn’t understand science and keeps comparing a microwave to an atomic bomb.

    An atomic bomb is dangerous because 1. it is an incredibly powerful explosion capable of destruction of the immediate area, and 2. the radiation it emits is gamma rays, the most harmful form of ionizing radiation.

    Microwave radiation is not ionizing, as correctly pointed out, it is less energetic than even visible light.

    Comparing microwaves to the radiation emitted by an atomic bomb is ignorant and is an example of the popular misconception of the term “radiation”.

    jack wrote on May 31st, 2009
  33. Who has the last laugh? He/she who lives the longest!

    Therefore the logic is simple, let those that feel the need to preach the safety of microwaved food eat this bastardisation of nature until their hearts are content! (Or stop working due to arterio and atherosclerosis amongst a myriad of other complications).


    Sally wrote on July 19th, 2009
  34. It is interesting that “who lives the longest” is brought into the discussion. Dr. Percy Lebaron Spencer is the man widely accredited for developing the modern microwave and he lived to the age of 76 and the bulk of his work was done before safety precautions were inhibited for microwave use. Which means he received large amount of microwave exposure. I’m just saying if using a microwave allows me to live into my 70’s I’ll be just fine.

    Will wrote on August 17th, 2009
  35. This is an interesting subject and I enjoyed reading the different comments. My views on microwaves are the same as my views on unfermented soy. My doctor swears unfermented soy is a perfect protein and good for you. I think it is indigestible at best or downright harmful at worst. He is a chemist and is sure that he is right. I just look at this way: He may be right. It MAY do him no harm to drink soy milk. BUT, I GUARANTEE that it will do me no harm to avoid it.

    kristy wrote on September 15th, 2009
  36. that is an extrememly good point to end this long and indecisive string of comments that I have read while trying to decide whether or not to keep the microwave my dad bought me.

    k wrote on November 12th, 2009
    • If the MW is used on low and on an occasional basis and if you consider all of the precautions listed in the comments here you should be fine to use it.

      Louise wrote on May 11th, 2010

    One single meal heated in a microwave oven does not kill us, but after a prolonged intake such micro waved food will cause so many blockages in the body that it will start to rebel. One day the world will wake up to the fact that microwaves do cause cancer, and are even worse than cigarettes. Microwaved food causes a slow death. In the beginning, superficially, we save a little time in heating up our morning coffee in the microwave oven – but the time we `save´ we are cutting off our own lives. There is no cure in the world to prevent or heal it as long as the cause remains in our homes, and we continue to use these devices.

    Early in the 1990s a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, distributed pamphlets warning people against using microwave ovens to heat infant formulas because they altered the food. In 1991 a patient in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, died of anaphylaxis after receiving a blood transfusion for which the blood had been warmed in a micro wave oven. Apparently the microwave irradiation had altered the blood causing the patient´s death. In that very same year the New England Medical Center in Boston stated that the structural and functional integrity of erythrocytes (red blood cells) remained unaltered by microwaving. But then what killed the patient?

    In 1973 two American scientists, P. Czerski and W.M. Leach [9] proved that microwaves cause cancer in animals. The American National Council for Radiation Protection NCRP announced at the end of the 80s that children of mothers exposed to using microwave ovens were found to have an increased rate of malformations.

    Their study on the effects of microwaved food on human beings in comparison to conventionally prepared food proved that food which had been cooked in a microwave oven caused significant changes in the blood immediately after incorporation by the test persons [4, 5].
    The authors noted that these changes, some of which could be called highly significant, indicated the beginning of a pathological process, e.g. the beginning of cancer.

    Examples of microwave application in the food industry:
    Thawing: meat, fish, butter, fruit, berries
    Cooking: bacon, potatoes, pies, fish, meat, poultry
    Drying: pasta, onions, rice cakes, seaweed (kelp)
    Vacuum-drying: citric juices, grain, seeds

    Jack wrote on December 26th, 2009
    • ” In 1991 a patient in a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, died of anaphylaxis after receiving a blood transfusion for which the blood had been warmed in a micro wave oven. Apparently the microwave irradiation had altered the blood causing the patient´s death. In that very same year the New England Medical Center in Boston stated that the structural and functional integrity of erythrocytes (red blood cells) remained unaltered by microwaving. But then what killed the patient?”

      I’m wondering if this patient go the wrong blood type. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction.

      Dave, RN wrote on January 20th, 2011
    • Baby formula or breastmilk should not be warmed up in the microwave because you can get a hot spot in the middle that can burn the baby’s mouth/throat

      Sharisa wrote on May 2nd, 2013
    • The blood transfusion patient died as a result of all the red blood cells being “killed” in the frozen blood. The microwaving is hazardous to “live” cells and will cause them to explode at a cellular level as it boils them from the inside out. Not a problem if your eating them – a big problem if your injecting them into your blood stream though. The large quantity of sudden “dead cells” in the blood triggers an overdrive of the immune system, generally leading to an anaphylaxis type reaction.

      You could inject yogurt in your blood stream and get a similar reaction.

      Barbarian wrote on December 28th, 2015

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