Is Your Microwave Safe?
No appliance inspires consumer angst like the , says physicist Louis Bloomfield, PhD, author ofHow Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life. He should know: Worried microwave owners regularly deluge the University of Virginia professor with e-mails and letters aboutmicrowave cooking safety.
Their number one fear? That microwave cooking can somehow make us sick, even give us cancer.
They can't, Bloomfield says. Although we associate microwaves with nuclear power (even the dictionary lists microwave as the second definition of nuke), they are generally safe--if you follow operating instructions, keep an eye on children around them, and always have an oven mitt handy.
Microwave Oven Safety: They Don't Cause Cancer
Like the broiler on conventional stoves, microwave ovens use a type of energy called electromagnetic (EM) radiation to warm your coffee and heat your pizza. Broilers use a form of EM radiation called infrared radiation; microwaves use microwave radiation (hence the name).x-rays
Microwave Oven Safety: Avoid the Real Problems
That said, microwave radiation can cause something akin to a burn--if you're exposed to it. But that's not likely to happen. FDA regulations adopted in 1971 so strictly limit the amount of radiation that can leak from microwave ovens that it's basically insignificant.
So despite what you've heard, pregnant women don't have to stand back from microwave ovens, says Zeman. Even if you open the microwave door before hearing those staccato beeps, you still won't get exposed. The device that generates microwave radiation inside your oven automatically shuts off as soon as the door latch starts to lift. One important caveat: If the door hinge, latch, or seal is badly damaged, or the door doesn't close tightly--because, say, hardened brownie batter is caked on the latch--significant microwave radiation could leak out of your oven and give you a burnlike injury. You'd know it was happening immediately because it would hurt--a lot. But these injuries are so uncommon that even Zeman hasn't heard of a single case. To keep it that way:
Repair or replace.even when the power is off and the oven is unplugged,
Fireproofing Your Microwave
Establish a metal-free zone.
Beware recycled paper products.
Clean the inside, too.
Unplug in case of fire.
Microwave Oven Safety: Secrets to Nuking Success
Taking a few additional but simple precautions can help you avoid other microwaving pitfalls:
Prevent "superheating".A container of liquid heated to boiling in the microwave can form vapor bubbles that don't have enough energy to break the surface tension. Pulling such a superheated container out of the microwave, or adding a tea bag or instant coffee to it, will break surface tension, which may make the liquid boil over abruptly. If you're holding or peering into the cup when this happens, you can end up with a nasty burn. Superheating is most likely to occur with water and other clear liquids. To save yourself from scalds:
- Follow the heating-time recommendations in your microwave's manual.
- Before heating clear liquids, add something: a wooden stirrer, instant coffee, or a tea bag.
- Heat clear liquids for no more than 2 minutes.
- Let liquids sit in the microwave for 30 seconds before removing; then use a long-handled spoon to stir.
Supervise young chefs.
Video: Is Your Microwave DANGEROUS?
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