In the 1940s, the microwave was accidentally invented, and decades later, many controversies surfaced. The risks are high, from destroying nutritional content to radiation exposure, yet about 90 percent of Americans have one.
In 1945, the microwave was accidentally invented. Percy Spencer, a self-taught engineer and one of the world's leading experts in radar tube design, noticed his chocolate bar was melting in his pocket while working on a powered radar set. The theory was that a high-frequency electric field with a multi-cavity magnetron that produced small electromagnetic waves (microwaves) could be used for heating. Although he was not the first to notice this reaction, he became intrigued and experimented further; soon after, he had the microwave cooking oven patented (1).
What is Microwave Sickness?
What is Microwave Sickness
Microwave sickness, sometimes referred to as electro-hypersensitivity, is a form of radiation sickness that first started during World War II, shortly after the invention of the microwave. Microwave sickness is caused by prolonged exposure to low-intensity microwave radiation resulting in the following symptoms:
Loss of appetite
Labile cardiovascular function
Established stringent exposure standards (2)
Although microwave sickness (MWS) was disputed as a condition in 2001 (3), something seemed off, so I kept digging and found something interesting. In 2018, a researcher publicly reported symptoms and experiences of a 'mystery illness' affecting American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba and China, strongly matching known effects of pulsed radiofrequency/microwave electromagnetic (RF/MW) radiation (4). Additionally, recent studies have found increasing evidence that "microwave syndrome" or "electro-hypersensitivity" (EHS) are real diseases that are caused by exposure to EMFs, especially those in the microwave range (5).
Dangers of Microwave Usage
Microwave sickness aside, there are many other concerns regarding microwave usage that we should take into consideration.
Never Thoroughly Researched Before Adoption
Microwaves were never thoroughly researched before they were adopted here in the United States. German soldiers were given microwaves during World War II to warm their fast and convenient meal preparations. The Germans conducted several studies regarding the biological effect of microwave usage and were transferred to the United States for further investigational studies that didn’t happen until recently.
"The FDA even states today that there have been no long term studies on the effects of microwaved foods on humans; however, the studies that the Germans produced are actually some of the same ones Russia used in issuing their temporary ban of microwave ovens in 1976 (it was lifted after a change in political power). The studies produced indicated that several of the German soldiers developed cancers of the blood and that microwaves voided nutritional content of the food (6)."
Destroys Nutrient Value of Food
Microwaves destroy the nutrient value of your food. It's said that the widespread nutritional deficiencies in the Western world correlate perfectly with the introduction of the microwave here in the United States.
"Microwave ovens heat food through a process of creating molecular friction, but this same molecular friction quickly destroys the delicate molecules of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant medicines) naturally found in foods (7)."
One study found that microwaving certain vegetables can destroy up to 97 percent of the nutritional contents compared to eating them raw (8).
Creates Carcinogenic Compounds in Certain Foods
Microwaves create carcinogenic compounds in certain foods. There are other health concerns, such as causing stomach and intestinal cancerous growths. Some believe microwaves are a primary contributor to the rapidly increasing rate of colon cancer in the United States.
"In 1991, he and a Lausanne University professor published a research paper indicating that food cooked in microwave ovens could pose a greater risk to health than food cooked by conventional means. An article also appeared in issue 19 of the Journal Franz Weber in which it was stated that the consumption of food cooked in microwave ovens had cancerous effects on the blood. The research paper itself followed the article. On the cover of the magazine there was a picture of the Grim Reaper holding a microwave oven in one of his hands (9)."
Adds Toxins into Food
If you’re using a plate made with BPA or other toxic ingredients, a quick microwave zap could also be heating toxins. As those toxins heat, your food absorbs them. If you’re using plates with hidden hormone-disrupting compounds such as bisphenol-A (BPA), they may end up in your food. I’m sure you don’t want to consume something linked to obesity, cancer, and thyroid disorders (10,11).
Unnecessary Exposure to Radiation
According to the FDA, microwave radiation can heat body tissue like it heats food. Also, heightened exposure to microwaves can cause a painful burn, especially in the eyes and testes. The FDA also states:
“Through its Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the FDA sets and enforces standards of performance for electronic products to assure that radiation emissions do not pose a hazard to public health.
A Federal standard (21 CFR 1030.10) limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts (mW) of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the oven surface. This limit is far below the level known to harm people.”
They then go on to say:
“Most injuries related to microwave ovens are the result of heat-related burns from hot containers, overheated foods, or exploding liquids. Most injuries are not radiation-related. That said, there have been very rare instances of radiation injury due to unusual circumstances or improper servicing (12).”
To no one’s surprise, the FDA has conflicting information. So which is it? Is it a low enough level to cause no harm, or is it not? Rare or not, it's happening.
Causes Severe Health Issues
Several sources demonstrate microwaves can create severe health issues. I stumbled upon a study on the National Library of Medicine database. This study found microwave radiation had damaging effects on the brain, including brain dysfunction, structural brain damage, and more. They noted an epidemiological survey found that microwave radiation caused human fatigue, headache, excitement, dreams, memory loss, and other symptoms of neurasthenia (14). Other sources speak far beyond the damaging brain effects. According to Health Science Research:
Continually eating food processed from a microwave oven causes long-term, permanent brain damage by “shorting out” electrical impulses in the brain [de-polarizing or de-magnetizing brain tissue].
Male and female hormone production is shut down and/or altered by continually eating micro-waved foods.
The effects of micro-waved food by-products are residual [long-term, permanent] within the human body.
Continually ingesting microwaved food causes immune system deficiencies through lymph gland and blood serum alterations.
Microwaved food causes memory loss, concentration, emotional instability, and decreased intelligence (15).
Aside from the ongoing controversy surrounding microwaves, I have not used a microwave since 2020 and do not miss it. Instead, I use the traditional oven, stovetop, toaster, or one of the following microwave alternatives:
7-in-1 Instant Pot Duo pressure cooks delicious one-pot meals up to 70% faster than traditional cooking methods or slow cooks your favorite traditional recipes. This countertop appliance has 7 functionalities: pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan, and food warmer.
Gourmia Toaster Oven Air Fryer is a countertop convection oven that targets food with fast, super-heated air from every direction to take your food from frozen to golden in minutes with little to no oil! This countertop oven boasts 17 COOKING PRESETS: air fryer toaster oven combo, roaster oven dehydrator rotisserie oven, and more with this kitchen appliance's multi-use capability. Mine has French doors but is no longer available to purchase as it is a few years old; this is the newer model.
Orville Redenbacher's Hot Air Popper pops popcorn without oil for only 30 calories per two-cup serving and 0 calories from fat! That's 89 percent fewer calories than corn popped in oil. Plus, the butter melter doubles as a measuring cup.