Canstar Blue teams up with mythbusters across the world to debunk the best microwave conspiracy theories.
“Microwave radiation is bad for your health”
Canstar Blue’s survey in 2014 found 28% of Australians were worried about the health risks associated with microwave use. Many claims have been made about microwaves harming your health, from standing too close to the microwave while it’s in use causing cancer, to microwaves “interfering” with pacemakers.
Let’s look at 40 years’ worth of evidence.
Although microwaves are a form of radiation, they do not stay in the food and make it “radioactive”.
When a microwave door is opened, the magnetron that creates the radiation waves is switched off. Food Science Australia told the ABC that this energy is of a lower frequency than that required even for lighting. Perhaps you should be more scared of your electric lightbulb than of your microwave.
Is it dangerous to microwave plastic?
What if there’s a crack in your microwave cover or door somewhere? Could radiation leak out? Australia’s radiation and nuclear safety agency ARPANSA says a small amount could leak out, but how much? Not enough to produce heat. And ARPANSA told the Sydney Morning Heraldthat microwave energy has never been shown, at any level, to produce cancer.
You could create carcinogens in food if you were regularly microwaving plastic containers containing BPA, PET or other toxins – none of which should be available for sale these days anyway. Play it safe, use “microwave safe” or “food-safe” labelled containers.
What NOT to microwave
You could burn yourself if your hand was stuck inside the microwave on High for a while, but CSIRO told the Sydney Morning Heraldthis is because the water gets dried out of your skin too quickly, not from any radiation poisoning. Besides, how would you get your hand stuck inside the microwave? You could burn yourself on the stove much more easily.
We’re happy to say that microwaving your food is generally considered fine for your health, as long as you’re using the machine correctly.
“Microwaves kill the nutrients in food”
Microwaves may change some of the nutrient values in food, so do all other forms of cooking. Interestingly, there are studies that prove the opposite is true – that microwave cooking, because it is faster, preserves many more of the nutrients in food. One of these studies was performed by Harvard Medical School. The advocates of this myth usually cite studies where food was boiled in water in a microwave rather than just straight microwaving it.
“Microwaves can be used for mind control”
Some conspiracy theorists say that microwave energy can be used for mind control. We’re not sure what to say about that, except: They’re wrong… Trust us… You feel very sleepy…
“Boeing plans to weaponise microwave force fields”
Boeing is reported to have patented a force field that combines microwave energy with lasers and an electrical current. The US patent, filed in March 2015, is viewable online. The method creates a plasma shield to reflect physical waves of energy and is said to be similar to the type of force field seen in Star Wars.