Microwave is a natural phenomenon that occurs when electric current flows through a conductor. These electromagnetic radiations are somewhat similar to the radiations of the sun and radio waves. Before understanding the dangers of microwaves, let us take a sneak peek into their past.
History of Microwaves
Why was the microwave invented? Microwaves were not deliberately invented to make cooking faster and easier. Instead, microwaves were stumbled upon by scientists trying to invent magnetron, a tube that produces microwaves. Dr. Percy Spencer, an engineer with Raytheon Company was testing the magnetron in 1946. He had a chocolate bar in his pocket that suddenly melted out of the blue. This got Dr. Spencer excited and he placed popcorn kernels near the magnetron tube. To his amazement, the kernels began to pop!
This built up confidence in Dr. Spencer, who bought an egg the next day. He placed the egg next to the magnetron. The egg began to tremble due to the temperature rising inside it. The egg exploded and the contents were showered all over his colleague. Another explosion took place in the mind of Dr. Spencer, who realized that he had stumbled upon a revolutionizing method of microwave cooking.
The early microwave ovens looked nothing like the sophisticated microwave ovens today. They were almost 6 feet high and weighed 750 pounds, approximately. The patent was filed by Raytheon Company in 1946 and the commercial microwave ovens were sold at around $5000 a piece! These microwave oven had a plumbing unit installed as the magnetron needed to be cooled by water.
Eventually, improvements were made and smaller units were manufactured. The plumbing units were done away with as magnetron in the smaller ovens could be cooled by air. In 1947, Raytheon introduced refrigerator sized Radarange, that could be used by commercial establishment not only for cooking food, but also for drying cork, paper and leather. These units were sold at $2000 to $3000. Tappan, another company, introduced the first home microwave ovens priced at $1295. Soon, microwaves became a necessity more than a luxury. In today's time, it is difficult to find someone who does not own a microwave oven. But not many realize the dangers that they face with each push of a button on a microwave.
Risks of Using a Microwave
Microwaves are electromagnetic energy that travel at the speed of light. The magnetron in the microwave oven produces wave energy. This wave energy converts polarity of molecules from positive to negative. This polarity changes millions of times every second in the microwave oven. These microwaves bombard the food molecules and makes the polarized molecules to radiate at the same frequency millions of times every second. This friction heats up the food and also causes 'structural isomerism', that is, structural damage of the food molecules.
Microwaves significantly decrease the nutritional value of the foods up to 60 to 90% of the normal level. There is reduction in vitamin B 12, that is necessary for red blood cell formation and building up nervous system. The flavonoid content of the food decreases by 97% when cooked in microwave oven. Flavonoids contain anti cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. There is significant decrease in vitamin C, vitamin E, essential mineral and lipotropic factors in food. Glucosides, nitrilosides, alkaloids present in the vegetables are damaged significantly.
Heating expressed breast milk in microwave oven destroys the enzymes that help digest food, absorb nutrients and protect babies from pathogens. Infant milk formulas also lose some of their vitamins when heated in microwaves. The amino acids in baby formulas are converted to synthetic isomers that are not active biologically. Amino acids like L-proline was converted to its d-isomer, that is found to be harmful for the nervous system and the kidneys.
The 19th issue of the Journal Franz Weber has an article which stated that microwave cooked food had cancerous effects on the blood. The violent deformations that can occur in human body when exposed to microwaves, are also seen in the food molecules cooked in microwaves. Studies have been conducted on food that have been thawed, cooked and heated in microwaves. The results showed that many food molecules were converted into carcinogens. The glucoside and galactoside present in frozen foods gets converted into carcinogenic substance. Plant alkaloids in vegetables were converted into carcinogens. Milk and cereals heated in microwaves also had some of their amino acids converted into carcinogens.
The Russians detected microwave sickness that had affected thousands of workers exposed to microwaves in the 1950s. The German, Swiss and Russian scientific studies have proven the dangers of microwave ovens.
The dangers of heating plastics in the microwave cannot be ignored. The cancer causing compounds in the plastic containers and plastic wraps percolate into the food cooked in microwave oven. Bisphenol A is a chemical toxin present in plastic bottles that can percolate into foods and cause cancer, early puberty, obesity and diabetes.
The radiations decrease the immune system of humans and regular eating of microwave cooked foods causes memory loss, emotional problems and decrease in IQ. Microwave cooked food also can lead to decrease in hormone production.
The use of microwave ovens had been banned in Soviet Russia in 1976. You have to carefully weigh the pros and cons of dangers of microwave ovens and apply your decision practically. You can always use conventional ovens to heat and cook food. The traditional methods, that is, cooking on gas stoves will always have an upper hand over all the other ways of cooking. You are the best judge regarding what is good and bad for yourself and your family.