Is Your Microwave Making You Sick?

The microwave has been a friendly kitchen assistant for decades...but should it come with a hazard sign?

Using microwave ovenKostenko Maxim/Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock / Kostenko Maxim

Let’s face it: It’s nice to have help in the kitchen. An extra pair of hands, a hand mixer for homemade whipped cream and, of course, a microwave. Sometimes we just need to speed things up.

But what if every time we use the microwave we’re generating harmful radiation? What if, by saving cook time to fuel our families quicker, we’re slowly making ourselves sick? Has the thought ever crossed your mind? It has mine. I even went so far as to throw my microwave away—and resorted to heating, cooking, and sometimes burning everything on the stove. But it wasn’t until I realized that I needed more pots and pans that I admitted I missed my old friend, even if only for the small stuff, like leftovers.

I wanted to know if there was any truth to the rumor, so I got real. I did my homework.

Safe or Sorry?

I discovered a lot of information about ionizing and non-ionizing radiation through sources like the American Cancer Society and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. Microwaves produce non-ionizing radiation, which is less harmful because the energy doesn’t change the cell structure of whatever it’s cooking. In other words, cooking food in a microwave (shortcut fudge, anyone?) doesn’t alter it any differently than do other cooking methods.

Before giving the microwave a green light, I wanted to know what happens if radiation leaks out. Can it get into our homes or pervade our children’s bodies? The answer is no. In the event that an old or faulty microwave does leak, the level of non-ionizing radiation it emits is too low to be harmful.

Microwave Myth: Busted

At last, microwaves can rid themselves of their bad reputation. Since doing the research, I’ve thrown away my fears and bought a new microwave—without worrying that it will damage the food I eat or the air I breathe. I use it with joy, speed and finesse. Yes, I said finesse!

I have more room on my stove now, and more uses for my microwave—the friendly helper it was always intended to be.

(We busted even more kitchen myths. See them for yourself.)

Cheryl Doherty
I have a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. I am a writing coach. Sometimes clients come to me to me because they want to write a book, develop content for their website and others discover they wanted to understand a personal situation better, and writing for them acts as a form of therapy. I worked in corporate marketing for ten years and have been a digital marketer developing websites and web content for a further ten. I love adventure. I love to travel. I love to cook with fresh ingredients. I love all things native. My family live in British Columbia. I live in Wales, UK with my two sons. This year we travelled for four months around BC, Canada. We broke out of our comfort zone and lived. It's something that I want to do again and again.