AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

The Microwave. Cancer Causer? Or Convenient Cooking Appliance?

What is the Microwave?

So I’ll assume you all know what a microwave generally is. That black white or silver box on your kitchen counter that heats up your pasta at 1am. Letting you know its done with an alarm that’s far too loud. But what is it actually? How does it work? As stated in the first paragraph of this article, the discovery of the microwave was just an accident. The Microwaves emitted by various pieces of equipment were enough to heat foods and in the case of the story from the article, melt the scientist’s snack. The production of the microwave blew the minds of many. Providing a quick and easy way to near-instantly heat your food.


How Could It Be Bad for You?

Throughout my life, my father has always told me not to stand directly in front of the microwave while it was on. No matter how much I liked watching my snack spin and spin and spin in the magical machine, the thoughts of the horrifying radiation hurting me overtime was enough to deter me. But it is, in fact, untrue that microwaves cause cancer or any type of injury/illness due to its radiation. The device would need to be putting out much higher frequency wavelengths, not the microwaves that your microwave lets leak out through the door.




(Wave Structure) 

Is Your Microwave Killing You?

No, the answer is most likely no. More of the issue is what you are putting into the microwave. Putting metal in the microwave can be a terrible idea. Speaking from experience I’ve seen silverware spark in the microwave. Depending on the type of silverware and variety of utensil it may not go as poorly but never the less is a bad idea to try. Also, many sources suggest against putting plastic into the microwave just because of the interaction high heat and soft plastic can have together. As well as possibly melting, there is some interesting research to see if the heat will cause chemicals to leach into your food. Something that only sounds like a bad thing for human health. So is your microwave killing you? Most likely not, just use some common sense when reheating your leftovers in the middle of the night.

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  1. saadoplasm

    I came home one time and asked my mom if it was dangerous to stand in front of the microwave while it was on (because I heard it at school), and she said no. However, you mentioned how chemicals in the plastic can melt into your food. I have always been scared about putting plastic in the microwave because of this. I found this “Do’s and Dont’s” article about using a microwave which is kind of funny because we think microwaves are so simple, but also useful because I still ask my mom if I can put certain things in the microwave or not.

  2. dannimal

    Like most other people commenting on this article, I am glad you have confirmed my belief that microwaves are harmless Liambilicalcord. I too have had many discussions with my parents about the hazard – or lack thereof – we should have around our food reheating kitchen boxes. Furthermore, I was surprised to read an article from Harvard Health Publishing that microwave cooking “keeps in more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method and shows microwave food can indeed be healthy. Who knew microwaves could actually be so useful! Now I will not only use my microwave without fear but feeling good knowing I am actually doing something that is genuinely healthy. To read more from the Harvard article, here is the link:

  3. trnayon

    This is a very interesting blog post, Liambilicalcord, and I relate to it very much. As a child, I was always told not to stand in front of the microwave because it would cause cancer and now I know that the rumors are not true. Furthering my research on this topic, I came to that our phones emit more radiation in comparison to our microwaves. This article I found explains safe microwave use and compares the microwave radiation to mobile phones, TV broadcasting, and radar systems.

  4. YusRNA

    @Liambilicalcord This is an intriguing article! I have always been very skeptical of the microwave’s effect on the food that I eat. It always concerned me to see family members put hard plastic in the microwave and brush it off like it was nothing. It is good to know that it is valid to warn them against that. However, this leads me to wonder what the microwave’s effect on paper is, as many times including in restaurants I have seen them microwave food in paper plates. Also, what about Styrofoam? Unfortunately, through this article ( I have found that it is better to err on the safer side, and not use paper cups. This is because of the glue, which can sometimes have an unfavorable reaction with the heat of the microwave. Also, paper bags are unsanitary and highly flammable as proved in this article ( So to conclude, beware and do your research before risking a fire in your microwave!

  5. largeintestein

    I really enjoyed reading this article because it was very relatable to my everyday life! I always use a microwave and am commonly swamped with the thought of whether I am affecting my body as I watch my food spin in circles through the window. I found this article, and it described how microwaves don’t make any changes to food that any other cooking method doesn’t do.

  6. Johnomer

    I liked reading about this article because I got to disprove my parents. My whole life my parents have taught me that microwaves are harmful for my health and that they are to be avoided. However, this post confirmed my suspicions that microwaves don’t cause any real damage. I was reading about the wavelengths of radiation that do harm humans at and learned that the most harmful wavelengths are ultraviolet radiation wavelengths shorter than 300 nm as they can damage the corneal epithelium. You can experience these wavelengths as the result of exposure to the sun at high altitude.

  7. ionizingjadeation

    Great blog post, liambilicalcord! It’s very comforting to know that the radiation from microwaves doesn’t actually cause cancer or any type of injury/illness. I had always been told from a young age to not stand too close to microwaves while they were heating food because it could cause cancer, so I’m happy to know that this is just a myth. I found an article that dove deeper into the point you brought up regarding how it’s actually the non-food items put into microwaves that could potentially cause harm (e.g. plastic and metal). The material around the food item could possibly produce dangerous substances when heated by the microwave, but the same goes for if it was heated by an oven. The microwave wouldn’t be the culprit, the packaging would be.

  8. Anamino Maronomer

    Now that I know my microwave won’t kill me, I can still enjoy my leftovers and watching them spin. On another note, it is a further concern that what I am actually putting into the microwave, like plastic or metal, might actually be what is concerning. Although I never do put my utensils in with the food I am heating up because I was always taught not to, I usually use plastic plates to heat up the food. The plastic could potentially be melting into my food, and nobody should be eating melted plastic on top of their pasta. The scary thing is that you might not even see the melted plastic, because it could be hidden by your food. When researching this on other websites, ,You will see that although radiation is involved in the process of heating up food, it isn’t the kind that will cause harm, which is known as Ionizing radiation, and you will only come into contact with when you have an X-Ray or in nuclear power plants. Non ionizing radiation, which is what a microwave produces, contrary to popular belief does not change your DNA, but both articles state that it m may cause leakage or melting, and that is what you need to be careful of.

  9. cellillymembrane

    My parents also always told me not to stand in front of a mcirowaves so I naturally assumed that the waves emitted by a microwave oven were very harmful to my brain. I’m glad to know that my microwave oven won’t harm me. I did a little further research of how microwave ovens actually heat up food. I found this article that explains that a flow of electrons is created by a magnetron (a device in the microwave oven). This flow of electrons then transmits microwaves that come into contact with the food and heat the food by exciting molecules in the food.

  10. nucleahtide

    Doing further research on microwaves, microwave light is non-ionizing radiation, meaning it does not have the power to remove an electron from an atom. The ionizing radiation that occurs due to light sources such as gamma rays can cause cancer, but this does not occur in microwaves, further proving your article!

  11. jessophagus

    I’ve definitely had a similar experience to Liambilicalcord and many, with an underlying fear that my microwave was secretly detrimental to my health. I am elated to hear that this is a myth and have confirmed with FDA guidelines that all microwaves are approved and safe for human use. I also came across a page with even more tips for ultimate harmlessness. As you mentioned, metal and plastic items should not be placed in the microwave. The FDA suggests opting for glass or ceramic containers meant for microwave use. Another potential danger is super-heated water, or water that is heated past its boiling point, that erupts and burns skin. One way to drastically avoid this is by adding other ingredients to water like coffee or instant sugar before heating. Finally, the biggest risk of microwave ovens is leakage, so do not use any microwave that operates with an open door or appears to have damaged door seals/hinges.


  12. alleele

    Glad to hear microwaves are safe, so I can keep enjoying my pizza rolls. Speaking of potentially harmful waves, I found an article that details studies that determine if increased exposure to RF waves from phones have negative effects on health ( Studies show mixed results, but too much phone use is probably not best for our health. It’s really important to look at how everyday items effect us.

  13. jouleia

    I have also been told growing up that the microwave is bad, in fact I no longer have a microwave because my mom is so against it. I thought something interesting was how these myths against microwaves began. In this article , it is described how microwaves were actually banned in the USSR for a short time and microwaving baby milk was banned in the U.S. I think it’s interesting to ponder how misinformation is so easily spread as these bans were for the most part misunderstood to be showing that microwaves are bad for us.

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