When any new technology is first introduced to the public, it is often accompanied by fears of their possible harmful effects. Why else would you have heard warnings about the use of blenders, toasters, light bulbs, computers, cellular phones, headphones or in this case, microwaves? Sometimes these can grow from just plain tactics parents use so that we don’t damage our eyes by sitting too close in front of the television or to keep us away from computer games where we spend hours on and doing nothing else. Sometimes there are stories about these devices that begin to sound so convincing that we start doubting whether using them is indeed safe.
Some horror stories luckily die down after a few years, probably as the technologies improve, as the appliance become more widely available or after evidence comes out that these negative effects we fear so much are actually myths. Unfortunately up to now, 65 years after it was first sold in 1947 and even though more and more food items and kitchen utensils have already been designed specifically for this appliance, there are still rumors that continuously linger about the safety of microwaves oven usage. Are these stories true? Is this appliance, said to be present in almost each and every home in America or Japan, really banned in Soviet Russia and other parts of Europe for the risks it poses on our health? Let’s nuke the myth.
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What Microwave Ovens Can Do
Undeniably, there are many people today who consider the microwave oven one of the most brilliant inventions of our time – it changed the way people cook food. It can perform many great deals of kitchen needs from heating, thawing, cooking, boiling liquids, even baking. Unlike other appliances that are a product of long research, the microwave was just discovered by accident when Dr. Percy Spencer noticed how chocolates melted in his pocket while working on magnetrons. It was a by-product of another technology – in this case, the radar. He tested it with popcorn and egg and that started the progression of microwaves that now comes in many different features, colors and sizes.
Its main feature being able to quickly cook food, the oven utilizes a relatively ingenious process by dielectric heating of polarized molecules using microwaves – which is a form of electromagnetic radiation. It is produced within a microwave oven by passing high-voltage electricity through a device known as the cavity magnetron. The magnetron creates microwaves which are then directed into the oven’s interior to produce heat in the direction of the waveguide. These shortest radio waves are found in the non-ionizing portion of the energy spectrum between the visible light and the radio waves. They are also energy-efficient because it directly heats the food. The 2,500 MHz microwaves are absorbed by the fats, sugars and water in food. This generates heat and cooks the food.
Microwave technology has also led to queer beliefs and a lot of negative stories about that contributes to the reasons why people do not want microwaves in their kitchen – ranging from experiments of plants dying down with microwaved water, water explosions, baby getting burned in the mouth and throat, infertility, cancer – to other much more ridiculous stories such as a dog who died after the owner dried the poor pet inside the microwave and a patient in Oklahoma getting killed when the nurse warmed the blood for her transfusion in the microwave oven. We also bump into all these from friends who refuse to eat microwaved foods and reading articles about it online. Are these stories just meant to keep you away from jumping into the bandwagon of acquiring a microwave, or are they really meant to save you from the horrors it could bring to your health? Let’s look at the issues one by one and gather facts on why this author suspects it’s just a microwave propaganda.
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Issues That Microwave Ovens Cause Cancer and Eating Food Cooked in the Microwave Exposes You to Radiation
The thing is, once the oven is turned off, it doesn’t produce any microwaves. Thus, the answer is “No”. Eating food cooked from the microwave does not expose you to radiation – unless the door mechanism (door hinges, latch seals or oven screen) are faulty. Even in the event that there are leaks in your microwave, there would be no radiation and the microwave intensity immediately decreases.
The non-ionizing radiation that the microwave emits cannot remove electrons from atoms, unlike ionizing radiation which causes bodily harm such as DNA and cellular molecules damage. Examples of ionizing radiation are the radioactive radon gas, uranium, thorium, x-rays, and the radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons. Thus, microwaves ovens can produce heat safely without rendering the food radioactive and the term microwave “radiation” simply refers to how thermal energy or heat is created. There is absolutely nothing in medical literature that can ever link microwave cooking to cancer. On the contrary, one of the options available to avoid heterocyclic amines (HCAs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are present when grilling or barbecuing and suspected to cause cancer, is to pre-cook the meat in the microwave.
Jim Felton, an associate director for cancer control at the Cancer Center at the University of California explained that there has been a lot of research conducted to find the link between microwave and cancer and has found nothing solid.
I can honestly tell you that I have never seen a valid scientific study – and I pay attention to most of the cooking research out there – that has given us reason to test whether microwaving food could cause cancer. In fact, my research suggest just the opposite, says Felton.
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- Sorting Out Fact From Fiction
If you have fears against the use of microwave, you have to know Hans Hertel. He was a food researcher who, along with seven other participants, locked themselves up in a hotel for a couple of months and consumed microwaved foods in order to see if there would be changes in their blood chemistry that would indicate the initial stages of cancer. When they emerged, they announced that microwave ovens causes cancer and degenerative diseases. However, none of the participants had cancer as a result of the experiment and his research and findings was not peer-reviewed nor published in any journal to warrant any scientific validity. Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University in Pullman said,
Without knowing more about how he conducted his study, what he measured, how he measured it, and what he found, it’s impossible to even begin to evaluate his findings.
Microwave Ovens are banned in Soviet Russia or other parts of Europe
It’s funny because you can never find any document or law that proves Russians have indeed outlawed the use of microwave ovens. And yet there are so many articles online claiming that the dangers of microwave oven use are what made them “ban” it without any source reference. A certain Williman Kopp, known only as a U.S. researcher, wrote an article in 1996 that says the Soviet Union had proven the dangers of microwave ovens, thus, the ban was implemented. Just like Hans Hertel, Kopp vanished and could not be found anymore claiming that microwave oven manufacturers were persecuting him. It’s a fact that reputable and ethical scientists who find something with enough scientific evidence fight over their work?
Microwave Ovens Distort or Deform the Molecular Structure of Food and You are Zapping Away Nutrients and risking your health when you eat microwaved foods
Microwaves do not affect the molecular structure of the food, except through the thermal effects that are no different nor more harmful than heating food any other way – this means whether you use electric stove, firewood or charcoal or not.
Quite the contrary, microwave ovens have the ability to retain more nutrients than other forms of cooking. Frying or grilling of poultry and meat can create heterocyclic amines or potential carcinogens that are known to cause cancer and thus Cyndi Thomson of the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, in fact, recommends that people microwave their meats first before grilling.
Other issues involving the “risks” of using the microwave oven are simply the result of not, reading the manual, not understanding what the appliances can and cannot do. Not educating oneself about food and nutrition in general. Some people simply just believe everything that they receive or read an email on about the weather without finding out whether it comes from reputable sources.
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