90% of American households regularly use a microwave oven to cook or reheat food, so it is quite possible that you have never been made aware of the controversy surrounding it. In certain circles, microwaves are thought to be very detrimental to your health for a variety of reasons that their supporters vehemently refute.
The controversy stems from the methodology of the device, which emits microwave radiation to essentially boil water molecules within food to the point that the consequent steam heats the food from the inside-out; for contrast, when you put your food into the traditional oven or cook on the grill, what heats the food is the internal environment within the space. Microwave ovens raise two primary questions, the first about their effect on the food and the second regarding the potential hazards of the microwave emissions themselves.
It may well be the case, frankly, that the microwave debate is similar to that of insecticides on crops or fluoride in the water supply, in that its detractors see what they believe to be very logical concerns that are swiftly contended by scientific studies which are intended to put to rest any angst; the defense rests, so to speak, and supporters point to the research as proof of safety, but the other side tends to zero in on the minute details such as, according to the FDA, “Less is known about what happens to people exposed to low levels of microwaves. Controlled, long-term studies involving large numbers of people have not been conducted to assess the impact of low level microwave energy [like from the microwave oven] on humans.”
There is a very “ready-FIRE!-aim” mentality when it comes to how we utilize the results of research in the United States. Seen very commonly with the pharmaceutical industry and extending to many other fields, as well, something like the microwave oven will be evaluated with the scrutiny to ensure that it can meet current regulations, and then it will hit the market. The fact that many scientific questions about the long-term effects of low-level microwave exposure are not yet answered – questions that extend to cellphones and other wireless technology that use microwaves by the way – makes it difficult to ignore when safety issues are brought to the forefront. Is it just the mere appearance of impropriety when consistent exposure to microwaves becomes linked to, among many other things, insomnia, night sweats, and various sleep disturbances; headaches and dizziness; swollen lymph nodes and a weakened immune system; impaired cognition, depression and irritability; nausea and appetite loss; vision and eye problems; frequent urination and extreme thirst? Or is it a case of fire being where smoke is located?
When it comes to microwaving food, plenty of immediately detrimental effects have been scientifically documented in reliable sources by reputable researchers. To name a few, The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture revealed that microwaved broccoli loses 97% of its anti-oxidant (cellular damage-preventing) qualities, The Journal of Nutrition published that microwaving garlic inactivates its cancer cell-destroying properties, and The Journal of Pediatrics reported that microwaving breast milk eliminated most of its disease-fighting agents that infants rely on while their immune systems are developing.
Just as alarming, if not more so, is what we are beginning to learn about the mere exposure to microwaves. Martin Pall, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University, has helped the lead the way to our understanding of what microwaves do to the human body on a cellular level. He posits that it takes considerably less than the current safety standard of microwave radiation to activate within our cells, of the nervous system (brain, brainstem, spinal cord, and nerves) especially, a process of gradual breakdown; in other words, just as it has been suggested that microwaving food basically destroys nutrients from the inside-out, consistent exposure to microwave radiation kills our cells from the inside-out. Pall has compiled over 100 studies that reinforce his conclusions.
Professor Magda Havas, PhD, of Trent University in Ontario, Canada, has added further perspective to Pall's research, confirming that microwave radiation directly affects the heart. She stated about her findings, “This is the first study that documents immediate and dramatic changes in both heart rate and heart rate variability caused by an approved device that generates microwaves at levels well below federal guidelines in both Canada and the United States.” Havas has raised another red flag in stating that microwaves leak radiation. “They aren't meant to,” she has stated. “They have a metal mesh that's supposed to protect the waves from leaking, but I've tested over a dozen of the most popular brands, and every single one that I've tested has leaked.”
A simple internet search will demonstrate scientific counter-arguments to each of the above but, contrary to popular belief, when it comes to health and the potential deleterious effects that devices like microwave ovens have been shown to cause, the burden of proof is on the proponents to establish microwave safety beyond a shadow of a doubt, instead of the burden falling on what could be referred to as the “anti-microwave movement” to substantiate a lack thereof. Meanwhile, as further data is gathered by the scientific community, would logic not dictate the use of other, more traditional cooking methods that do not raise the same volume of concerns?