Health Effects of Microwave Radiation - Microwave Ovens
by Lita Lee, Ph. D.

Because the body is electrochemical in nature, any force which disrupts or changes human electrochemical phenomena will affect the physiology of the body. This is described in Robert O. Becker's book, The body Electric, and in Ellen Sugarman's book, Warning, the Electricity Around You May Be Hazardous to Your Health.

In my book and in two issues of Earthletter (March and September 1991), I have stated that ALL microwave ovens leak electro-magnetic radiation harms food and converts substances in it to dangerous organ-toxic and carcinogenic products. Further research summarized in this article reveals that microwave ovens are far more harmful than I previously imagined.

Microwave ovens were originally developed by the Nazis for use in their mobile support operations. After the war, the Allies discovered medical research done by the Germans on microwave ovens. These documents and the microwave ovens were transferred to the United States War Department and classified for reference and scientific investigation. the Soviet Union also retrieved some microwave ovens and has done the most thorough research on their biological effects. As a result, their use us outlawed. The Soviets have issued an international warning on the health hazards (both biological and environmental) of microwave ovens and similar frequency electronic devices.

Other Eastern European scientists reported the harmful effects of microwave radiation and have set strict environmental limits. For reasons not related to health (smile!), the United States has not accepted European reports of harmful effects, even though the EPA estimates that radio frequency and microwave radiation sources are increasing at 15% per year.

First let's discuss microwave ovens, because they have effects on the food they heat/cook and on the people who ingest it. Then we can broaden this to include other emitters of magnetic radiation (e.g., any device with an electric current running through it.)

Microwave ovens emit two types of radiation: the microwaves or high frequency radio waves, and the 60 hz magnetic fields common to other home appliances. This comes from the transformers in the back.

The oven door is the most dangerous place for microwave leakage, but magnetic field can occur all around the oven. this is not good news for children, who love to watch the foods bubbling inside.

In addition to oven leakage, microwaving causes adverse effects in food. They include: formation of cancer-causing substances, leakage of toxic chemicals from the packaging into the foods, and destruction of nutrients.

What happens to people who ingest microwaved foods or who are exposed to external sources of microwave radiation?


The following is a summary of the Russian investigations published by the Atlantis Raising Educational Center in Portland Oregon.

Carcinogens were formed in virtually all foods tested. No test food was subjected to more microwaving than necessary to accomplish the purpose, e.g., cooking or thawing or heating to insure sanitary ingestion. Here's a summary of some of the results:

To this list, I will add results reported in the December 9, 1989, Lancet which were discussed in the March, 1991, Earthletter. Microwaving baby formulas converted certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic cis-isomers. synthetic isomers, whether cis-amino acids or trans-fatty acids, are not biologically active. Further, one of the amino acids, L-proline, was converted to its d-isomer, which is known to be neurotoxic (nervous system) and nephrotoxic (kidneys). It's bad enough that many babies are not nursed, Now they are given faked milk (baby formula) made even more toxic via microwaving.


Russian researchers reported a marked acceleration of structural degradation leading to a decreased food value of 60 to 90% in all foods tested. Among the changes observed were:


The January/February, 1990, Nutrition Action Newsletter reported on the leakage of numerous toxic chemicals from the "heat-susceptor" packaging of common microwavable foods, including pizzas, french fries, popcorn, and anything requiring a "crispy" crust or a crunchy texture.

Microwave ovens cannot make foods brown and crisp or crunchy. No problem! Heat susceptors are visible thin, gray strips or disks of metallized plastic that absorb microwave energy and turn the surface of the package into a very hot little frying pan which does the trick!

There are many chemicals that can be used in heat-susceptor packages, all approved of by the FDA (whew, I was worried!). What was not recognized, however, was that susceptors can reach temperatures of 300 to 500 degrees F. in the microwave. When they do, the chemicals in the plastic migrate from the susceptors into your food. the FDA tested susceptors packages in 1988. Every package tested released chemicals into the food. Among these were PET (polyethylene terpthalate, a petroleum derived product), and other known or suspected carcinogens, such as benzene, toluene and xylene.

Industry says, no sweat. No health hazard. Nutrition Action Newsletter reports, "The FDA has asked packaging manufactures to identify the chemicals and to submit data on how much they migrate and the health hazards they pose." what a comfort!


Changes are observed in the blood chemistries and the rates of certain diseases among consumers of microwaved foods. The following is a sample of these changes.


The Russians did research on thousand of workers who had been exposed to microwaves during the development of radar in the 1950's. Their research showed health problems so serious that the Russians set strict limits of 10 microwatts for workers and one microwatt for lay people.

In Robert O. Becker's book, mentioned above, he described research of the Russians on the health effects of microwave radiation which they called microwave sickness. He said (page 314) "its first signs are low blood pressure and slow pulse. the later and most common manifestations are chronic excitation of the sympathetic nervous system (stress syndrome) and high blood pressure. This phase also often includes headache, dizziness, eyepain, sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, stomach pain, nervous tension, inability to concentrate, hair loss, plus an increased incidence of appendicitis, cataracts, reproductive problems, and cancer. The chronic symptoms are eventually succeeded by crisis of adrenal exhaustion and ischemic heart disease (blockage of coronary arteries and heart attach)."


These effects have been widely studied by the Russians and other European scientists and over 300 U.S. scientists.

In addition to microwave ovens, other commonly used devices may be dangerous because people use them (within field range) or work near them. The most common of these are electric stoves, TV's, VDT's (the display monitors of computers), cellular telephones, portable radio telephones, clock radios (usually placed close to the head of the bed), electric hair dryers, radar gun speed detectors, and ham radios. The list also includes residential magnetic fields from power transmission lines, distributions in the home, The effect has to do with the source of magnetic radiation as well as the part of the body it strikes. For example, the cellular telephone and the portable radio phones both emit high magnetic fields. When in use, they are held next to the head where the radiation strikes the pineal gland, inhibiting its production of melatonine. Melatonine is a hormone that inhibits breast cancer, among other functions.

By Kashish Gupta - Ecologist

MICROWAVE OVENS * Eighty per cent of the UK'S Population use them and yet two comprehensive studies have shown that they damage our health. Isn't it time more research was done into the effects they have on us and the food we put into them?


From 1957 up until very recently Russian research into microwaves was mainly carried out at the Institute of Radio Technology at Klinsk in Byelorussia. According to US researcher William Kopp, Russian forensic teams observed the following key effects:

The use of microwave ovens was banned in Russia in 1976.

Dr Hans Ulrich Hertel

Food scientist Dr Hans Ulrich Hertel fought for 10 years to have his findings, concerning the dangers of microwave ovens acknowledged. His statement that inspired the microwave manufacturers to use the Swiss courts to silence him was: "Food cooked or defrosted in a microwave oven causes changes in the blood indicative of a developing pathological process as is also found in a carcinoma." Put simply, microwaved food causes cancer.

In 1989 Hertel teamed up with professor Bernard Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. They proposed to the University of Lausanne a research programme to look into the effects of microwaved food on humans. Their application for funding was turned down on the grounds that there was no need for research in this area. Undeterred,  the two scientists decided to fund a smaller research programme themselves.

They selected eight individuals and fed them on a range of raw, conventionally cooked and microwaved foods. Blood samples were taken from each volunteer before and after eating. Serious irregularities were found both in the structure of the food microwaved and in the blood of those eating the microwaved samples.

The microwave industry reacted to the research by taking Hertel to court. He was convicted under Swiss unfair competition laws. And such was the pressure put on Blanc (he told Hertel that he feared for the safety of his family) that he publicly dissociated himself from the research.

As soon as Doctors Hertel and Blanc published their results, the authorities reacted. A powerful trade organization, the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electro-apparatuses for Households and Industry, known as FEA, struck swiftly in 1992. They forced the President of the Court of Seftigen, Canton of Bern, to issue a "gag order" against Drs. Hertel and Blanc. In March 1993, Dr. Hertel was convicted for 'nterfering with commerce' and prohibited from further publishing his results. However, Dr. Hertel stood his ground and fought this decision over the years.

"Not long ago, this decision was reversed in a judgment delivered in Strasbourg, Austria, on August 25, 1998. The European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Hertel's rights in the 1993 decision. The European Court of Human Rights also ruled that the "gag order" issued by the Swiss court in 1992 against Dr. Hertel, prohibiting him from declaring that microwave ovens are dangerous to human health, was contrary to the right to freedom of expression. In addition, Switzerland was ordered to pay Dr. Hertel compensation."

Effects of Microwave Heating on the Loss of Vitamin B(12) in Foods/Watanabe F, Abe K, Fujita T, Goto M, Hiemori M, Nakano Y./Department of Food and Nutrition, Kochi Women's University, Kochi 780, Japan, and Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, Osaka Prefecture University, Sakai 593, Japan.

To clarify the effects of microwave heating on the loss of vitamin B12 in foods, raw beef, pork, and milk were treated by microwave heating and then their vitamin B12 contents were determined according to a chemiluminescent vitamin B12 assay with hog intrinsic factor. Appreciable loss (approximately 30-40%) of vitamin B12 occurred in the foods during microwave heating due to the degradation of vitamin B12 molecule by microwave heating. When hydroxo vitamin B12, which predominates in foods, was treated by microwave heating and then analyzed by silica gel 60 thin layer chromatography, two vitamin B12 degradation products were found.

One of the compounds with a R(f)() of 0.16 was purified and partially characterized. The vitamin B12 degradation product did not show any biological activity in the growth of a vitamin B12 requiring microorganism, Euglena gracilis Z, and was not bound to hog intrinsic factor, a mammalian vitamin B12 binding protein. Intravenous administration of the compound (1 microg/day) for 7 days to rats showed that the compound neither has toxicity nor acts as a vitamin B12 antagonist in mammals. These results indicate that the conversion of vitamin B12 to the inactive vitamin B12 degradation products occurs in foods during microwave heating.

PMID: 10554220 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]