Microwave cooking technology was originally developed in Nazi Germany in the early 1940s. The motivation for the development related to logistics of the war effort. If food for troops being deployed to distant locations could be easily cooked and quickly with microwave energy, it would eliminate the need to transport fuels needed for conventional ovens.
At the conclusion of the war, both the Russians and the Americans obtained microwave cooking equipment along with data from tests that had been conducted by the Germans. In Russia, extensive testing related to microwave cooking began about 1957. As the tests ensued, the mounting volumes of data related to the negative impact on human health were so disturbing that in 1974 Russia built the use of microwaves for cooking in that country, and issued an international warning about its dangers. The April 1992 Journal of Pediatrics reported that researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center discovered significant changes in human breast milk that was microwaved just enough to warm it. The changes included the destruction of 98% of its immunogloban-A antibodies and 96% of its liposome activity, which inhibits bacterial infections.
Dr. Lita Lee, of Hawaii, reported in the December 9, 1989 issue of Lancet : “Microwaving baby formulas converted certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic cis-isomers. Further, one of the amino acids, L-proline, was converted to its d-isomer, which is known to be neurotoxic (poisonous to the nervous system) and nephrotoxic (poisonous to the kidneys). babies are not nursed, but now they are given fake milk (baby formula) made even more toxic via microwaving. ”
In 1991 there was a lawsuit in Oklahoma relating a woman who had undergone a routine hip surgery. After the surgery, a blood transfusion was administered to her. Blood for transfusions is routinely warmed, but not in microwave ovens. In this particular case however, the nurse, unaware of the risks, did warm the blood in a microwave oven. The patient died 90 minutes after the transfusion. It looks obvious from this case that microwave ovens are doing something to substances other than warming them.
The concerns related to microwave cooking fall into 4 categories:
- The effects of microwave radiation on people who are in the vicinity of the microwave oven while it is being used
- The potential negative impact on the nutritional value of food that has been cooked in a microwave oven
- The potential of carcinogens and other health-endangering agents being created within the food as a result of being bombarded by microwave energy
- The effects on human health as a result of eating food that has been cooked in a microwave oven
The dangers of microwave radiation are well known. The hazards first became identical in conjuction with the development and use of radar, which utilizes bursts of microwave radiation at very high power levels. Until the effects were better understood, and appropriate precautions taken for workers in the vicinity of radar systems, microwave radiation ruled in numerous cases of severe illness and even death.
Although radiation standards have been established for the manufacture of microwave ovens, nobody really knows for certain what levels of radiation can be considered 'safe'. One thing that is known about the harmful effects of microwave radiation is that they are cumulative. So radiation levels that may be reliably 'safe' based on infrequent or occasional use, may not be at all safe for someone who uses a microwave oven on a daily basis. There are special dangers for pregnant women. A US government agency has acknowledged that the human fetus is “probably the most sensitive segment of the population potentially exposed to radiation”. Children represent another sensitive segment of the population.
The intensity of microwave radiation varies exponentially according to the distance from the source. The standard established in the US in 1971 for maximum radiation 'leakage' from a microwave oven is 1 milliwatt per square centimeter at a distance of 2 inches from the oven surface for new microwave ovens (prior to sale), and 5 milliwatts per square centimeter thereafter. At the 5 milliwatt level, the radiation would be down to 0.05 milliwatts at a distance of 20 inches, and only 0.005 millawatts at a distance of 5 feet. The message here is simple: NEVER stand close to a microwave oven when it is in operation. This is especially important for children.
Unfortunately, microwave ovens tend to be located in kitchens based on convenience, rather than safety. Oftentimes this means that they are located at eye level, resulting in the greatest radiation exposure to the head. This is particularly disconcerting in view of the fact that one of the common effects of excessive microwave radiation reported by the Russians is a degeneration of brain circuitry and increased levels of disturbance in alpha-, delta-, and theta-wave signal patterns.
Obviously, the safest alternative is to not even have a microwave oven in your house!