My husband and I got rid of our microwave oven well before we were aware of the radiation risks that it posed. In our early journey to figure out our health problems, I came across research that indicates that microwave ovens destroy nutrients and alter the molecular structure of food, which at the time was reason enough for us to stop using them.
After World War II, Russian researchers conducted experiments with microwave ovens and found that microwaving food created various cancer causing agents and free radicals, and the “ingestion of micro-waved foods caused a higher percentage of cancerous cells in blood.” The microwave caused chemical and elemental alterations in the food that could result in malfunctions in the “lymphatic system, causing degeneration of the immune system” and “leading to disorders in the digestive system… Those ingesting micro-waved foods showed a statistically higher incidence of stomach and intestinal cancers, plus a general degeneration of peripheral cellular tissues with a gradual breakdown of digestive and excretory system function.” Due to this research, microwave ovens were banned in Russia in 1976, although the ban was later lifted. 1
The fact that microwave radiation alters the structure of whatever it is heating is also known in the medical community. In 1991, a woman named Norma Levitt who underwent simple hip surgery was killed by a blood transfusion when a nurse “warmed the blood for the transfusion in a microwave oven,” resulting in a lawsuit against the hospital. 2 Although blood is routinely warmed for transfusions, the microwave oven had altered the blood in such a way that it killed the patient.
In a study on microwave radiation and naturally occurring anti-infective compounds in human breast milk, it was found that microwaving milk at high temperatures “caused a marked decrease in activity of all the tested antiinfective factors”. The study found that microwaved milk was much more susceptible to serious infection with E coli growth “18 times that of control human milk.” Even when microwaved at lower temperatures, the study still showed that microwaved milk was more prone to contamination and “E coli growth was five times that of control human milk.” 3 As such, women who are breast-feeding are advised not to use the microwave oven to heat their milk.
The irradiation of the contents inside the microwave is only part of the problem. Shortly after my husband and I became painfully aware of the dangers of EMF radiation in our lives, we set out to clean up the sources of radiation around our home. Although we were not using it, we discovered that the microwave oven is a source of considerable EMF exposure for anyone in it’s proximity. Although microwave ovens do not transmit data, they emit wireless frequencies “in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band,” and “acts as an unintentional interferer for IEEE 802.11 Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) communication signals.” 4
Microwave ovens, even new ones can leak. Various countries set limitations on the amount of recommended / allowable leakage from microwave ovens, but the question is: are those guidelines and limits adequate? The amount of radiation leaking from a microwave can vary considerably from oven to oven based on model and age. In a study of radiofrequency radiation leakage from microwave ovens in Palestine which includes data from 117 microwave ovens, “the amount of radiation leakage at a distance of 1 m was found to vary from 0.43 to 16.4 μW cm2 with an average value equalling 3.64 μW cm2.” In the study, none of the microwaves tested were free from radiation leaks. 5 The potential for radiation leakage is especially troubling when taking into account all of the negative effects microwave radiation has on the properties of food and other materials. How is the stray radiation leaking from our microwaves affecting us?
We decided not to risk further exposure, and permanently disconnected our over-the-range microwave. It was easy to do as we simply unplugged its power cord, which was hiding in the kitchen cabinet directly above the microwave. We also switched off the circuit breaker for the microwave as it had its own dedicated circuit that we were no longer using. One more circuit turned off meant a bit less live wiring in our walls and less radiation emanating through them.
So what are you to do when you are ready to chuck your microwave? Unplug that microwave to ensure that it’s truly off, and switch to alternate ways to heat and cook your food. Here are my top 5 quick and easy ways to cook without a microwave:
- Toaster oven: Get yourself a good quality toaster oven, and you can heat most lunch-size portions of food in 15 to 20 minutes. Food will heat quicker uncovered, although you may need to watch that it does not brown too much, and particularly wet food like soups may take a bit longer.
- Pot: Nothing beats a covered pot on the stovetop for boiling water and heating soups and stews. Although the microwave seems oh-so-convenient, you’ll be surprised just how quickly something can heat up or cook on the stove.
- Pressure cooker: This is one of my favorite cooking tools. A pressure cooker can cook vegetables in minutes. A stew that would normally take over 3 hours to cook only takes around 40 minutes in a pressure cooker. Since pressure cookers have a reputation for being dangerous, we invested in a quality model with lots of safety features.
- Panini grill: You can preheat the grill while doing other things, and most models will beep at you when they are ready to cook. Grilled sandwiches and steaks only take minutes and cleanup is easy using a bristled brush.
- Cast iron skillet: The longest part of cooking on a cast iron skillet is heating it up. Once preheated, the cast iron skillet turns out a large amount of pancakes, eggs, flatbread, and other goodies in under 15 minutes. If you have never had food cooked on cast iron, you’re in for a treat because food cooked on cast iron tastes especially good. Cleanup is a breeze once the cast iron has been properly seasoned.
It took a couple of weeks to adjust to living without the unnaturally fast cooking speed of our microwave oven. However, once we got used to it, we loved it. We just had to budget an extra 15 minutes or so to heat up our food, but our food tastes so much better. When we cooked it in the microwave, food always tasted a bit strange and unnatural. I even went so far as to bring a toaster oven to work and got some of my colleagues at work to switch, and they agreed that it made better tasting food.
Thinking back, both of our parents grew up without microwaves, and they survived and even thrived. So try living without your microwave for two weeks. You will eliminate another source of EMF, and in the process, rediscover how real food should truly taste.
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Sources and References
- THE HIDDEN HAZARDS OF MICROWAVE COOKING – DR. George J Georgiou, Ph.D., Online journal for the American Association of Integrative Medicine (JAAIM-Online) ↩
- J. Nat. Sci, 1998; 1:2-7) ↩
- Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk. – Pediatrics. 1992 Apr;89(4 Pt 1):667-9. ↩
- Microwave Oven Signal Interference and Mitigation for Wi-Fi Communication Systems – Tanim M. Taher, Matthew J. Misurac, Joseph L. LoCicero, Donald R. Ucci, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology ↩
- RADIOFREQUENCY RADIATION LEAKAGE FROM MICROWAVE OVENS – Adnan Lahham and Afifeh Sharabati, Radiat Prot Dosimetry (2013) 157 (4): 488-490. doi: 10.1093/rpd/nct173, Oxford University Press ↩