Are Microwaves Dangerous to Your Health?

As most of you probably did, I grew up with a microwave. I actually can’t remember life without one. And while we didn’t use it all the time, I do remember it getting quite a bit of use.

And when I started working full time, it was the only way I ever warmed up my lunch.

And when I got married we used it quite often for reheating dinners and frozen foods. I used it to defrost meats, heat water, melt butter, and cook vegetables.

When I got pregnant with my son it was the first time I heard there were any issues about microwaves. I read multiple times that pregnant women shouldn’t stand to close to them for fear the microwaves would escape. And so I always backed away while using it.

Just. In. Case.

The science behind that theory may not stand up to modern machines because of the way they’re designed, but that’s not exactly why I wonder about them anymore. (Though I never stand close to a microwave while it’s cooking. You know…just in case)

After I had my son and began pumping occasionally for when I wasn’t around, I kept coming across literature that told me to never heat breast milk (or formula for that matter) in the microwave. The reasoning was that it caused nutrient loss and damaged the properties that protect babies from infections.


So if it caused nutrient loss in milk for my little baby, what was it also doing to my own food?

It was then that I started making it a habit to use my microwave less, though I did keep using it. Now? I think after a bit more research I might just be ready to give it up all together.

How a Microwave Oven Works

In very simple laymens terms, and the way I understand it, microwave ovens use a form of radio waves (called microwaves) to heat food. These radio waves are absorbed by water, sugar, and fats in foods. When they are absorbed the food molecules get excited and start moving around and heating up. By exciting the atoms of the food is this way, it cooks the food. So there is no actual heat involved.

So Are There Issues?

Unfortunately it’s hard to find concrete evidence against a microwave! I’ve come across story after story after article here on the web, but it’s hard to know who to trust.

One story I kept coming across was a woman whose family alleges she was killed by a microwaved blood transfusion. Supposedly she was doing well after her hip surgery and then a nurse microwaved the blood and she died moments later. Yet another site claimed it was a hoax and that she died of a blood clot. The full case report includes more information about the case and some effects microwaves may have on blood. But the fact of the matter is also that hospitals do not warm up blood in a microwave, do they have a scientific reason not to? Just because a judge couldn’t find concrete evidence doesn’t mean there wasn’t some truth behind the allegations.

The other story I found that was often referred to, was a study done by Hans Hertel. He carried out a small, controlled study by feeding participants (including himself) and testing the blood shortly after consumption.

The food used:

  • raw milk from a biofarm
  • the same milk conventionally cooked
  • pasteurized milk from Intermilk Berne
  • the same raw milk cooked in a microwave oven
  • raw vegetables from an organic farm
  • the same vegetables cooked conventionally
  • the same vegetables frozen and defrosted in the microwave oven
  • and the same vegetables cooked in the microwave oven

He found that the microwaved foods actually changed properties in the subjects blood. The same changes that were associated with bodily deterioration. But supposedly there was a gag order placed on the whole thing. Again – hmmmm.

It also seems that the Russians have done quite a bit of research on microwave ovens and actually outlawed them at one time. They also seem to have found that microwave cooking decreases bioavailability of vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential minerals and lipotropic factors in all foods tested. (source)

Yet another source posted this quote from FDA science policy analyst Catherine Bailey says “When you microwave, it’s a good idea not to have the plastic touch the food.” The reasoning behind that is the fact the chemicals from the plastics can leach into our foods!

What I Do Know

  1. Most quick foods made in the microwave aren’t good for you anyways. Those pizza rolls and frozen burritos do nothing good for your health!
  2. Quick foods are not nourishing foods.
  3. There may be possible nutrient loss cooking foods in the microwave.
  4. I am not willing to risk the detrimental effects microwaves may have on my health.

I wish I knew all the science behind microwave cooking and I wish more studies were done. But I do know that I will be making every effort to cut the microwave completely out of my life. And I will be trying to figure out how to keep my husband from microwaving his lunches everyday!

What about you? Do you use one? Know of any other “true” research I can look into?

Ideas on how my husband can still have a hot lunch for work without the microwave oven?

Further Reading:

Stephanie’s post (from Keeper of the Home): Living Without a Microwave

Phoebe’s living without a microwave post (from Getting Freedom)

Microwaves Ovens: A Danger to Your Health?

The Dangers of Microwave Ovens Everyone Needs to Know

***and tomorrow I’ll have a guest post here by JodiMichelle on how they live without a microwave

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. I found this site that says the gag order was removed.
    But, like you said, it’s hard to figure out what info is true and real…
    My kids like warmed milk in the morning…and we’ve always used a microwave. This stops today.
    Thank you for opening my eyes to this. I know not everything we do is completely healthy, but I cannot knowingly do this to my children. My father, who has also had a couple of strokes and blood issues, uses a microwave to heat his lunch and dinner every day. I’m going to make every effort to convince him not to.

  2. I have been wanting to get rid of the microwave for some time now, but I have been nervous about “how to do things” that I have always done in it! I am excited for the posting about how to live without it…then maybe, just maybe ;), I will have the courage to finally yank the cord once and for all!!!

    melissa Reply:

    @Heather, I got rid of my microwave and bought an electric grill and a toaster oven. I haven’t had any problem figuring out how to cook my food with those two appliances instead of a microwave. Good luck!

  3. Back in the fall my sister went to a mini conference and there they talked a little about microwaves and why you shouldn’t use them. She took her kids and after the conference she asked her son(14) what he learned, his reply: “I’m not using a microwave anymore because I wanna have kids someday and they said eating microwaved foods can kill my sperm.” Among other things, one thing she told me that really stuck out was that the looked at tap water under microscope and it was clear after microwaving it under the microscope it was black. And that microwaving can changes your foods molecular composition to be very close to the molecular composition of plastic. I wish I could remember the name of the people who did this conference.

    So after my sister told me that we took our microwave out of our house. We keep it in our shop building behind our house because we use it to heat up corn bags (homemade heating pads). And rarely, very very rarely,we may heat up some food. We have friends that got rid of theirs completely after learning this, and my sister has a sign on theirs that says “Use At Your Own Risk” (it’s a built in, so they can’t take it out very well)

  4. This is something I think about from time to time. I really don’t use it much, but it sure is handy for potatoes, squash, melting butter when the stove is being used for other parts of the meal.

  5. [email protected] says:

    We haven’t had a microwave in our home for several years. We either warm food on the stove, or in my trusty toaster oven that I purchased from the thrift store. My husband does however, use one a work, and I will occasionally when I’m at my parents’ home. I did hear of an experiment where someone watered a plant with microwaved water and another with tap water. The one that got the microwave water died. Something to consider.

  6. We put our microwave away several weeks ago. In Sept. ’08, my husband got a sunburn on his head while at an airshow all day. But weeks later it hadn’t healed, and the hair had thinned. MONTHS later — same. Finally, in early Jan. ’10 we saw a new doctor. He said “You are using microwaves to warm your food in plastic at lunch and it is causing the hair loss and lack of healing.” My husband made 2 weeks of soup at once and put it the freezer, then microwaved it for 10 minutes. Everyday. He stopped doing it and within a couple weeks, his head healed and the hair is growing back. How crazy is that?

  7. Back around ’99 my mother forbid us from microwaving in plastic and since then I have been very wary of microwaves. I still used them to some extent, but never with plastic. I now very rarely ever use it. After reading this article I got to thinking about the last time that I used the microwave and can’t remember! Now I always use the oven or stove and for things like re-heating pizza I have a toaster oven that I love. The toaster oven doesn’t really take any longer than the microwave and the pizza crust doesn’t get all hard before you’re done eating the piece.

  8. When we built our house 4 years ago we opted to have a vent to the outside instead of an above range microwave. Then I replaced all our plastic containers with glass before I got pregnant with my son because we not only stored food in the fridge in them, but also microwaved it. During pregnancy I started to limit my microwave use. This past Christmas I used the holiday as an excuse to get a toaster/convection oven instead that we use almost daily. I didn’t have any real reason to do this, I just wasn’t feeling easy about using the microwave any longer.

    Still being new to the real food way of life and having a difficult 7 month old baby I still use the microwave every once in a while, maybe once a week or two. My husband uses it any time he cooks at home and a couple times a week at work. When we eat at my in-laws the vegetables and at least one side dish is microwaved to death. This post and the recommended articles have given me plenty to think about and I will likely stop using it completely. Unfortunately my husband won’t let me rid our home of it until it dies (any suggestions for hurrying that along other than putting metal in it? j/k). I can take 10 minutes before he leaves for work and heat his lunches in the toaster oven or on the stove and put them in a thermal container. This would solve his lunch issues. However my problem comes when we eat at his parent’s home. Do we chalk that up to the occassional meal beyond our control and hope that our healthy lifestyle will minimize whatever damage it may do? Do I send a meal that doesn’t need to be heated with my son when they watch him when he is older?

  9. We stopped using the microwave about 8 month before we moved into our new house. I was thrilled that the new house does not have a microwave! I found a very small cast iron sauce pan made by lodge. It is great for melting butter or heating small amounts of things. Then I got a kettle for heating water. I don’t miss it at all.

  10. My husband and I never bought a microwave after we got married. It works just fine to do without one. We make most traditional microwave items (popcorn, hot beverages, leftovers) on the stove or in the oven. He does use the microwave at work to reheat his lunches some days, but at home we are sans microwave. I never really liked what microwaves did to the texture of food and I am wary of what the radiation does to the nutritional integrity of food.
    Great post! :)

  11. **Sigh** I’m always so conflicted on this. We have a microwave, but don’t use it very often. I mainly use it for reheating my coffee because I can never fully finish it when I’m chasing crazy kids! (Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t be drinking coffee in the first place!!) And occasionally I’ll melt butter when I’m too lazy to get out a pan. :)

    We have a family friend who worked with appliance repair for a while. In his training classes, they did all kinds of (ahem…dumb and risky IMO) experiments testing microwave safety. Everything concluded that as far as leakage/emitting any kind of waves, modern microwaves are fairly safe. So, while I do stand back from the microwave (usually because I’m doing other things), I’m never too concerned about the leakage issue.

    Food losing nutrients wouldn’t shock me. Microwaved foods have a different, not-so-great texture compared to their stove/oven counterparts. And like you said, the fact that it kills nutrients in breastmilk points to the fact that there may be more going on too. I really try to avoid microwaving food, but sometimes the convenience of it gets the best of me! Another good reminder I should try to weed it out though! :)

  12. I started to worry about the microwave when I discovered that if the microwave is on, it causes the portable phone to buzz and you actually have to move the phone into another room to make it stop. That’s kind of creepy. My husband uses a microwave every day at work, in plastic, I am sad to say. I also use one at work to heat up food (on glass). I have tried various thermoses and haven’t yet found one that will keep my food hot until lunchtime. Like many others who comment I use my toaster/convection oven as much as possible when I am at home.

  13. This reminds me of a post a friend of mine wrote. She’s a vegan (almost completely raw), and her blog is pretty informative. A couple years ago she wrote this post about microwaves. She grew up in the former USSR. :)

    She also wrote a post recently that made me think of you…. it was about raw fermented vegetables (complete with a how-to video).

  14. I have never had a microwave since I was married, and the only time I ever miss it is when I need to melt butter, quick! :) But the stove works fine, just more dishes. :) For warming up foods we have a small (about the size of a standard microwave) toaster oven that is convection. It takes longer than a microwave to reheat foods, but to me it’s worth the extra time by keeping the nutrition in the food.

    Thanks for the info.

  15. Wow, that is really interesting! Sounds like between the plastic and microwaving it was your DH’s immune system to slow way down….

  16. When we moved in August 2009, our new-to-us, but actually quite old, house did not have room for our microwave. I saw this as a blessing and asked my husband if we could just see how we do without it for awhile before we went and purchased a smaller one. Well, it’s now February 2010 and we still don’t have one! The pot and pans pile up quicker, but I feel better about the food that I’m preparing… even if it is something terrible like the occasional hot dog! LOL!

  17. Interesting post! My mom was always very wary of microwaves, so we didn’t have one (she actually cooked on a wood stove for the first 10 years of my life) until I was in my late teens. I used it quite a bit, but then I moved out at 19 and never had one again. It just never seemed like a necessity . . . you can do everything just as well and with better results, albeit more time, on the stove.

  18. I must admit I’m surprised to read of people using the microwave to melt butter, as it never occurred to me to do that. I’ve always melted it on the stove in a little saucepan–it doesn’t take that long. I am 51 so I grew up in an era before the microwave oven existed and learned to cook on the stove and with the regular oven. And having food allergies, I don’t eat processed foods so I cook a lot from scratch, which also means using the stovetop and oven. My use of the microwave in the past has mainly been to heat up leftovers for dinner or to heat my lunch at work. I always used glass or Corningware, never plastic, in the microwave, being aware that the plastic can get into the food.

    Since the Weston Price Foundation advises against using the microwave, I decided in the past year to see if I could stop using it totally. I was using it daily to heat my lunch at work–I bring leftovers for lunch in mini Corningware containers since am allergic to wheat so can’t eat sandwiches. And I don’t eat salads in the winter as I try to eat seasonally. So my lunch must be heated up. There is also a toaster oven at work, that someone bought to bake cookies. So, I tried putting my Corningwares in the toaster oven and that is working out well. It does take longer (10 minutes vs. 2) but is worth it to have healthier food. I am having a problem with my food getting dried out sometimes so will have to see if glass lids exist for these tiny Corningwares (I got them with plastic lids).

    At home, I found the quickest way to reheat food is put it in a non-stick frying pan with some water (quicker than the toaster oven). My non-stick pans are teflon-free: Cuisinart Green Gourmet which is totally non-toxic. Now, I am only using the microwave for non-food items, such as sterilizing sponges or heating up hot packs. Also, since it is above the stove (built-in), it’s a handy place to stick a pan of meat (after the meat is cooked in the regular oven), to keep the cat from getting up on the stove and eating it while we are in the other room having dinner :). The only trick is remembering to take it out of the microwave and put it in the refrigerator after we’re done with dinner (if we didn’t eat it all).

    My husband doesn’t like change but he has been following my lead and stopped using the microwave as well (he works from home so doesn’t have the issue of heating a lunch at work that I do). We do have more dishes to wash, with heating stuff on the stove instead of microwave, but at least the non-stick pans clean up fast.

    Kasey Reply:

    @Margaret, Just wanted to mention that I use the toaster oven all the time to heat uup my food. to prevent it from drying out I lay a piece of parchment paper on top of the container. This acts as a lid and keeps it moist.

  19. Hi;

    My husband and I haven’t owned a microwave ever in our marriage – we started to get into NT etc while we were engaged. We used a toaster oven at home for a long time, but I didn’t see anybody post the idea of getting a Thermos food jar – Thermos makes them vacuum sealed double walled out of stainless steel these days, and they make the a shorter wider mouth opening (some even come with a spoon that folds!) You can heat leftovers up in the morning, and they’ll still be hot or basically whatever temperature you heated it up to in the morning (they hardly lose any heat between breakfast and lunchtime if the thermos is at room temp in the morning) for lunchtime. Just thought I’d add that in – the containers can be pricey $25 – 30 to get a decent sized container but if you use it frequently, not a bad investment… This is a smaller one (I think) than the one we have, but you get the idea…

  20. We stopped using our microwave over a year ago and replaced it with a small inexpensive toaster oven to reheat leftovers, cook hot dogs, etc. I have NEVER missed my microwave.

    Try sending hot foods in a good-quality thermos for your husband’s lunch. The only thing I think this might be tricky with is pizza, but if he didn’t mind it squished up… :-)

    donielle Reply:

    @Erica, I should really go get him a thermos, huh? Maybe I’ll check them out this weekend when I head to the store in town.

    and hey – I could just call them pizza rolls!

  21. I only use a microwave at work once a week. I need to just start packing a cold lunch instead. I use a toaster oven at home to heat up leftovers, and since my microwave is built in, I use it to store my cast iron skillets.

    donielle Reply:

    @Ann, What a fabulous way to store those skillets! I only wish my husband was ready to get rid of ours….

  22. Jason Sooter says:

    Just get rid of it. Believe me you can live without it. Whether or not the side effects are true or if there are any at all. Use a toaster oven. It makes the food so much better anyway.

  23. Yay to Donielle for helping to spread the word. Good job!!

  24. The Internet is full of information, and dis-information. I like that most of you are thinking about the things you’ve read about microwave ovens and not just accepting them as true because someone said them, nor even accepting them because LOTS of people said them.

    I’d like to remind you all of something you learned in science class, but may have forgotten. That phenomenon we call heat is at the molecular level, excited atoms. Compare the action of molecules/atoms in boiling water with those in ice. Remember learning about absolute zero? Nothing is moving at that temperature. They even have a special scale to measure things that cold, called Kelvin. Brrrr.

    There are no microwaves floating around in food that’s been heated in a microwave oven. Microwaves are just energy moving in a very small wave pattern. Some other wave patterns of energy are light, color, heat, X-rays, gamma rays, electricity, and sunshine. Whether the energy comes from a gas burner on a stove top, an electric coil in a slow cooker, a grill in the backyard or a microwave oven, food heats up when energy is applied to it,. So does everything else in the universe – ice, land, water, house siding, wood, coal, driveways, the inside of a car in summer. A microwave oven is a source of energy, nothing more and nothing less. It is a more efficient source of energy than many other devices. It is not something to fear.

    Go here for more information on microwaves:

    donielle Reply:

    @Mary Barranti, Interesting thoughts and I thank you for your comment. I guess for me the biggest thing with a microwave is that the food put into it normally isn’t healthy in the first place. :-) When I stop using mine, I have to actually prepare food – most of the time much fresher. A lot of times even raw….like a salad.

    I also have to say it tastes much better too. :-)

    Mary Barranti Reply:

    @donielle, I have to agree, about the healthier and tastier food, Donielle. I still like to steam my veggies in the microwave sometimes (NOT those horrible, tasteless,steamer bag things in the freezer section!) If I watch them carefully, they turn out pretty good, especially the spinach or broccoli. Green beans are hard to get right.. Butter and Mrs. Dash covers a multitude of errors though. :-).

    Ben Reply:

    @Mary Barranti, Also, this radiation is non-ionizing so it’s not going to give you cancer or anything of the sort. The worst thing that would happen to you would be to get burned (since it’s heating water and we are made mostly of water). There is plenty of information on the safety of microwaves and how to properly use them, i.e., obviously don’t cook in plastic that is not “microwave safe”. One could easily make an argument that oven or toasters prevent a greater danger, e.g., fires, burns, carcinogens, gas leaks, etc. With respect to leeching of nutrients, boiling water is actually worse than microwaving.

    Mary Barranti Reply:

    @Ben, Ben, Yours is a voice of reason.

  25. How to kill a “good” microwave? Allow teenagers unsupervised access to it. Also works sometimes with husbands. One such incident was reported in our house relating to reheating a Wendy’s (EWW–Hey, I did say it was unsupervised) hamburger; of course, much like the unidentified spot on the carpet, confessions were not forthcoming. For those of you that don’t “do” Wendy’s, their burger wrappers are paper-backed foil. Yep, *POP! ZING! BANG! ZZZZZZZZZZAP!” and what was once our space-saver microwave is now built-in underlighted and ventilated cabinetry over the stove. 😀 We also store our cast iron pans in there (we have several in graduating sizes), and my favorite part about THAT is not having to haul heavy pans clear across the kitchen (okay, so it’s a small kitchen, but I enjoy having the extra cabinet space where the pans would go being used for other things). I also keep a jar of coconut oil in there–when the stove light is on, it’s just warm enough to keep the oil from solidifying–perfect temp for baking, because it’s not TOO hot but still melted enough to measure and pour.

    I’ve found that EVERYTHING tastes better not microwaved–what a shocker, huh? There are very few things that make me wish I could pop them into the oven to reheat, but among them is leftover oatmeal. I don’t have time to make breakfast before sprinting out the door to work in the mornings, so warm breakfasts are often out of the question for me. However, I have found almost everything reheats wonderfully either on the stove or in our nifty countertop convection oven. (sorry, I don’t know how else to do a link? feel free to edit as you see fit, Donielle!). I love using that, especially in the summertime, because I don’t have to heat the whole oven (and house!) up to warm some leftover casserole–or even “grill” a steak in the wintertime)–and yep, it works on oatmeal too (when time permits!).

    BTW, I saw a post about someone’s food needing a cover for the smaller corningware crocks, esp in the toaster oven.. I have those same small containers, and although I haven’t found “real” heat-safe lids made specially for those smaller crocks, I have found that one of those Corningware (I think the name is actually “Corelle”) plates make great lids for the smaller glass containers and help keep moisture in.

    As far as the “microwaves are or aren’t dangerous” debate, I appreciate not reading everything we see on the internet and taking it at face value. I have read where scientists in Sweden or New Zealand or somewhere were actually brought up on charges by the industry for publishing findings that were “detrimental to business;” but again, I didn’t dig too deeply to see if it was true or not. However, for me, the other forms of heating food seem natural–God-given–even. Microwaving is something that occurs only minutely in nature (not nearly enough to heat food to food-safe temperatures), but cooking over an open flame (or in a pan that captures the usefulness of the heat, or in an oven that concentrates it, etc.) has been done for millennia. We really started screwing up our entire food system during the industrial revolution, and for that reason and many others, I have an old-fashioned hot plate and stainless steel pan at work for those lunches that must be reheated (I’m fortunate to be able to do this, although I realize that’s unrealistic for some; this is what works for me–where we do NOT have a toaster oven *wink*). And we do NOT intend to replace our burnt-out microwave.

    Turns out, we don’t miss our microwave at all!

  26. When I was living overseas for two years, we didn’t have a microwave. At first, it was difficult adjusting without one, but after a few months, we were over it. We comfortably heated our food on the stove. Whether it was milk or other liquids we used a small saucepan, and for leftovers, we just heated it up in a pan. Now if you’re talking about like a frozen sandwich or a frozen chicken, you just have to remember to get it out a couple of hours ahead of time. Or for frozen meat/poultry you can just put it in a bowl of hot/or really cold water and in about 30 minutes, our chickens were defrosted. (and about heating up baby milk, I had a friend who near-boiled water with the glass bottle inside of the sauce pan and that heated it up perfectly and safely.)

  27. As I was reading this post, my husband walked by and asked if I was going anti-microwave. I just kept reading and a minute later said, ” Hey, microwaves were once outlawed in Russia.” His response, “So were books.”

    donielle Reply:

    @Rachel, Ha! Sounds like something my husband would say! Thanks for that – I needed a laugh tonight. :-)

    It’s always so hard to figure out things like this – studies are always one sided, who *really* knows why Russia outlawed them, etc, etc. One of the comments here was also fairly interesting on how it’s not much different than normal cooking.

    I guess my one beef with the microwave, besides any health issues, would be that most foods that come out of it aren’t considered “healthy” anyways; frozen meals, popcorn, etc.

    I do still use ours occasionally, but choose to use the stove or oven most of the time. :-)

  28. Just thought you’d like to know that there is a great microwaved lunch alternative! I recently purchased a mini crockpot for my husband. It is only big enough to hold one serving of food & it doesn’t really cook much. (although T has managed to whip up some quinoa & veggies at his desk!) The mini crock is mostly designed to be plugged in when you get to work & by lunch time you have tasty toasty food. Unfortunately, this genius of a crock is sold exclusively at the dreaded Walmart, however, I felt like saving my hubs from microwaves was worth having to go to Walmart. And did I mention it was seriously cheap? Like $15-20 (can’t remember) cheap. And came in three colors! Score. Score. Score, again.


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