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Do microwave ovens cause cancer?

Do microwave ovens cause cancer

 

At a Glance:

1. What is Microwave radiation?

2. Is using microwave oven harmful?

3. Is the food cooked in the microwave safe?

4. Do microwave ovens cause cancer?

5. Myths about the microwave

Time and over there have been many debates on whether microwaves cause cancer or not. 

In several Indian households, it is common to not use microwaves for the fear of developing cancer as well.

Let us break it down on a simple physics level for you.

Any device that electrically heats substances releases electromagnetic frequency. For example, hairdryers, hair straighteners, microwaves, cell phones, Bluetooth, 5G towers, etc. These devices emit unnatural electromagnetic waves which can cause heating. This electromagnetic energy is scientifically proven to be harmful. 

Does this mean that a microwave can cause damage to your DNA and lead to visible medical symptoms? Read to find out.

 

What is Microwave radiation?

Microwaves are nothing but high-frequency radio waves and just like other visible radiation (light) it is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Particles like food, fluids or tissues easily absorb microwave energy which further helps to convert it into heat and finally cook food.

Is using microwave oven harmful?

No, using a microwave oven to heat food is not harmful. When used according to manufacturers’ instructions, microwave ovens are safe and convenient for heating and cooking a variety of foods. The food heated in a microwave does not become radioactive and is therefore safe. Microwave ovens operate at a frequency that is not harmful unlike other higher radiating radiofrequency. When the microwave oven is switched off, neither does it emit any energy nor does any energy remain in the cavity.

Although some people have been injured from microwave ovens, most often these injuries are burns caused due to direct contact with steamed or hot food.

Is the food cooked in the microwave safe?

Food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value as food cooked in a conventional oven. Microwave-heated food does not become radioactive and is, therefore, safe. However, the microwave heats the food unevenly. Thus, it is advisable to let the food rest inside the microwave for a couple of minutes after heating so that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the food.

Heating liquids in a microwave oven might be dangerous and cause burns as well. This occurs when the liquid is heated too much and removed from the oven immediately. Doing so releases the heat is trapped inside the liquid and causes sudden bubbling, which may make the liquid splash on the person. When heating a liquid in the microwave, it is recommended to keep the container half-full and to allow it to cool down before taking it out.

Do microwave ovens cause cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, microwaves do not use x-rays or gamma rays. Microwaves do not make the food radioactive. Microwaves can cook food, however, the chemical nature of food is unaltered and remains free from the effects that can lead to cancer. 

“Though, there is still no scientific evidence that microwave oven can cause cancer yet a word of caution always says anything in excess is harmful.” – Dr. Sachin Subash Marda, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Yashoda Hospital, Somajiguda.

Myths about the microwave

Myth: The microwave oven makes the food radioactive and can cause cancer.
Reality: Microwave heats the food through radiation, which is absorbed by the water particles in the food and that helps to cook food. Microwaves do not make the food radioactive.

Myth: The microwave kills the nutrients of the food and changes the food completely.
Reality: No, microwaves just heat the food. It does not kill the nutrients.

Myth: Microwave-cooked food makes the bones weak.
Reality: No, microwaved-food does not make the bones weak. However, exposure to any harmful dose of radiation is dangerous.

Myth: DNA is severely damaged by eating microwave-heated food.
Reality: No, there are no significant effects of the DNA.

Myth: The walls of the microwave release radioactive waves even when it is not in use.
Reality: No. The microwave oven is not radioactive when it is switched off.

References:
  • Electromagnetic fields & public health: Microwave ovens Available at https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts/info_microwaves/en/. Accessed on December 10, 2019.
  • Microwave Oven Radiation https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/resources-you-radiation-emitting-products/microwave-oven-radiation. Accessed on December 10, 2019.
  • Microwaves, Radio Waves, and Other Types of Radiofrequency Radiation https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html Accessed on December 11, 2019

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