Microwaves: Are They Safe?

I have always heard that you shouldn’t stand too close to the microwave, for fear that you will be exposing yourself to radiation.  I still find myself stepping away from the machine after hitting start, but never investigated this myth until a close girlfriend of mine suggested I look into it for a blog post (thanks, Rigs!).  Here is what I found.

  • According to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s webpage on microwave ovens, microwave ovens emit non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which is a different type of radiation than that emitted from x-ray machines.  Whew!  To ensure that microwave ovens emit the correct levels of non-ionizing radiation, the FDA has compiled “strict radiation safety standards” that manufacturers must certify they are in accordance with.  The Electronic Product Radiation Control provisions of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act mandated this electronic product radiation control program.  To learn more about this, check out the FDA’s webpage regarding microwave oven radiation.
  • Interestingly, the article notes that much research has been conducted on exposure to high levels of microwaves (such as those that cause burns), but not as much on low levels of microwaves.  It asserts that the studies on low levels have mostly been conducted on animals, so the findings may not translate to humans, but they do allow us to understand more about such levels.  This leaves me wondering what the findings found regarding animals, so be on the lookout for another post on the topic!
  • Also, keep in mind that the heat from microwave ovens can still heat body tissue the same way it nukes food, so take precaution to avoid burns and other injuries.
  • Another really interesting piece of information I picked up from the article is that microwave ovens may help your food retain more of its nutrients than conventional ovens.  Why?  Well, both methods reduce the nutritional value slightly as they are heating the foods, but microwaves allow the food to heat faster and without adding water, meaning more of the minerals and vitamins may be retained.  The article kept using “may,” so take this information with a grain of salt!
  • One tip included in the articles is to make sure you heat your foods in microwave safe products, as some plastics can get overheated and melt due to the increasingly high temperatures of the food it contains.  I think I’d rather be safe than sorry and will stick to glass to avoid BPA exposure.
  • Hopefully you already know this, but metal and aluminum should not be used in a microwave oven because it reflects the microwaves.  I learned this lesson the hard way as a child, when one of my older cousins tricked me into putting a frozen Capri Sun into the microwave during a family reunion.  Ohhhh, family!

I found this information very helpful, but, due to the inconclusive research reference, I think I’ll still walk away from the microwave as it is heating my food.  What do you think??

This information is based on the below webpages from the US Food and Drug Administration:

  1. Microwave Ovens
  2. Use Your Microwave Safely
  3. Microwave Oven Radiation
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2 thoughts on “Microwaves: Are They Safe?

    • Thanks, Emily! I’m glad you found it informative! Yes, I thought the fact about the possibility of more nutrients being retained in microwaved foods was especially interesting. I had no idea!

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