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Hidden dangers of microwave ovens

Published:Tuesday | May 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Are you among the millions of people who endanger their health for the convenience of the microwave oven? When it comes to convenience, few devices can compare to them. It is estimated that over 90 per cent of homes in North America have them, but before you use your microwave one more time, you might want to consider some facts.

The Germans invented the microwave and first used them for preparing meals during war - thus eliminating the problem of cooking fuels. After the war, the Russians conducted thorough research on their biological effects and, alarmed by what they learned, actually banned microwave ovens in 1976.

What microwaves do

Microwaves heat your food by causing it's moleculea to resonate at very high frequencies. This effectively heats your food, but it also causes changes in the chemical structure of the food that can devitalise your food and lead to health problems.

In 1991, there was a lawsuit involving a woman who had hip surgery and died because she was transfused with blood that was warmed up in a microwave oven. The microwave altered the blood and it killed the woman.

The most compelling evidence supporting the dangers of microwaves comes from research done by Dr Hans Hertel, a Swiss food scientist. His findings showed that microwave cooking resulted in significant and disturbing changes in the blood of individuals who consumed microwaved milk and vegetables. Volunteers ate foods cooked in different ways. All foods cooked with microwave ovens caused changes in the blood of the volunteers who ate it. Haemoglobin levels decreased and, over all, white-blood-cell levels and cholesterol levels increased.

Effects on food

Microwave oven manufacturers claim that microwaved foods do not have more abnormal compounds than other conventionally cooked foods. The scientific clinical evidence shows that this is not true.

Few people realise that many of the vitamins in food are rapidly destroyed by cooking. Even fewer know that microwaving destroys vitamins five times more quickly than does regular cooking. Microwave heating inactivates vitamin B-12. After just six minutes of microwaving, nearly half of the vitamin B-12 in food is destroyed. Vitamin B-12 was singled out as it is of vital importance in helping to prevent several major disorders.

A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli 'zapped' in the microwave lost up to 97 per cent of its antioxidant chemicals. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost less than 11 per cent of its antioxidants.

Cooking risks

Microwaves do not cook food evenly. For example, frozen hamburgers, fish, and warmed-up dishes left over in the fridge, when heated with a microwave oven, all may end up having cool areas in their centre. This could cause food poisoning from the growth of disease-causing germs that were not destroyed.

Do not heat fatty foods in plastic containers with microwaves because the combination of fat, high temperatures and plastics releases dioxins and other toxins into the food. Dioxins cause cancer and are highly toxic. With microwaving, these toxins can leach from plastic and paper plates or covers and mix with your food.

Exposure risks

No one really knows what are safe levels of exposure to microwaves. Researchers have found that low-level exposure to microwaves can cause damage to the eyes, resulting in cataracts. Experts also report a reduction in personnel efficiency, and even a possible link to cancer.

Although the significance of repeated exposure to low levels of microwave radiation is still unclear, there is enough evidence to warrant certain common-sense precautions:

Stay at least an arm's length away from an operating microwave oven. Do not operate an oven when it is empty or if the door is not closed properly or damaged in any way. Never tamper with the safety interlock switches or the fuse.