Friday, February 28, 2014

Fun Friday Facts #92: No, Your Microwave Isn’t Trying to Kill You

Would you believe that all this time I’ve just been going about my business, using my microwave, and not getting sick or dying from it? It turns out that something like half the Internet believes that microwaves are absolute deathtraps. I bet you have no idea where I’m going with this.

Seriously, though, you wouldn’t believe the crap some people have come up with.

Let’s start with the food itself. I’m sure at some point in my many travels I’ve heard that microwaved food is bad for me. IT’S ACTUAL POISON, YOU GUYS. Apparently, when you eat microwaved food regularly over a long period of time, it – say it with me now, kids – “shorts out” your brain. From what I hear, it either depolarizes or de-magnetizes your brain tissue, because brains work like that I guess? Also, which one is it?

Psych! It’s neither, you dumbass. There is absolutely no evidence of this. I mean, secret “research” that you can’t look up because They won’t it see the light of day doesn’t really count as evidence, sorry to burst your bubble.

I'll wait while you get your headgear.
Image credit: Wes Washington

Speaking of secret studies that you can’t look up, the belief that microwave ovens fill your dinner up with carcinogens and toxins goes back to the so-called “research” of one Hans Hertel, a Swiss “researcher” who claims to have performed his own study on the effects of eating nothing but microwaved food. The so-called study consisted of Hertel, his friend Bernard Blanc, and six other people who locked themselves in a hotel room in the name of non-scientific, non-controlled experimentation. The thing about research, is that in general, you need to have some proof that you’ve done it. Also, it’s usually considered preferable if other researchers can duplicate your methods and get the same results. Neither of these things applies to Hertel’s “research.”

The “research” in question didn’t get funding, so the “researchers” paid for it out of their own pockets. Following the experiment, a Swiss industry association took them to court, where they received gag order. Though the gag order was later lifted by a European court, for freedom of speech reasons, the “researchers” nevertheless found themselves unemployed. It’s worth noting that Blanc later recanted his role in the “research” and distanced himself from the findings.

No, microwaves don’t give you cancer. I guess it does kind of makes sense to assume that something that cooks with “radiation” would be, you know, radioactive. It’s not.

Microwaves cook using non-ionizing radiation, which is not powerful enough to render other things radioactive. Intense doses of microwave radiation agitate polarized molecules in food (water, I’m talking about water), causing them to rotate, which creates the friction that heats the food. You’re not going to suffer radiation poisoning or get cancer from your microwave, even if it is leaking. If your microwave is leaking, it might burn you, but it’s not going to give you cancer.

You know what does give you cancer? Eating lots of meat – specifically grilled or fried meat. Exposing meats to the high temperatures required for cooking stimulates the formation of hydrocyclic amines, or HCAs, which have been proven by actual, no-need-for-quotes research to cause multiple kinds of cancer in lab animals.

Cooking your food in the microwave eliminates most precursors for HCA formation, and lowers these compounds’ mutagenic activity by as much as 95 percent. That’s right – cooking your food in the microwave will give you less cancer.

Don't worry, the fossil fuels industry has a plan in place to make up for that.

But doesn’t microwaving your food destroy its nutritional value? Wrong again! While it’s true that heating your food degrades its nutritional value to some extent, there’s not much difference nutritionally between food prepared in a microwave and food prepared by other methods.

In case you’re getting disappointed that your microwave isn’t dangerous enough, it is possible to “superheat” tap water and other liquids in the microwave, causing it to erupt and burn the shit out of you when you try to take it out. So, you know, watch out for that.