Are Microwave Ovens safe?

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Microwaves are high frequency radio waves and microwave ovens are used in kitchens for cooking food.

When the waves pass through food that contains water or fluids, the microwave energy gets absorbed and generates heat, which makes the food hot. Metal and metallic materials reflect microwaves while non-metallic materials such as glass and some plastics are mostly transparent to microwaves.

We should use microwave ovens according to the instructions given by the manufacturer. When used according to manufacturers’ instructions, microwave ovens are safe and convenient for heating and cooking a variety of foods. However, several precautions need to be taken, specifically with regards to potential exposure to microwaves, thermal burns and food handling.

The design of microwaves is such that the oven does not start till the door is completely closed. This prevents the microwaves from coming out and effecting humans. Take care to ensure that your Microwave is not damaged, dirty or modified. Check if the door closes properly and that the door seals are kept clean so that the microwaves do not leak out.

Make sure that an authorised service engineer does any repair

Burn injuries – be careful while taking out heated food and drinks from the microwave. We may not realize it but the food or water or mil could be very hot. You may not see bubbles when the water boils and this may make you feel as if it is not very hot. When you put some external item say like coffee powder or a tea bag into water that has been heated in the microwave it may suddenly erupt and come onto your hand or face

Items like sausages, eggs, chicken may burst while in the microwave, It is better to cover them with a Microwave heating protector (cover) which usually may come with the microwave

Food safety- while we feel that food is heated, it may not necessarily kill the bacteria. Especially if one is re-heating old food. Or cooking raw non-vegetarian food in the microwave oven

Baby Milk – only some microwaves are designed to sterilize items like baby milk bottles. It is better to boil them in water on a regular stove.

Microwaves do not heat the containers, which are designed for microwave cooking. These materials may get warm because of the food that becomes hot. It is not recommended to operate an empty microwave oven. It may damage the appliance

According to WHO – food cooked in a microwave does not become ‘radioactive’ . This is just a common misconception

INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

According to the World Health Organisation, several countries, as well as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), have set a product emission limit of 50 watts per square metre (W/m2) at any point 5 cm away from the external surfaces of the oven.

Manufacturers are supposed to follow the guidelines set up by various bodies

In Summary

Buy a Microwave oven that is made by a good reliable manufacturer. It is important that the body of the microwave is solid and does not leak out microwaves.

When using a Microwave Oven it is best to stay atleast 2 feet away from the oven while it is in use

Microwave ovens, while safe to use, can create safety issues depending on how they are used

I would personally use Microwave Ovens only for short heating and only where required. It does save time. And since you can reheat on the same plate as you may eat from, it saves the effort of reheating food in a cooking vessel that needs to be cleaned later on.

Microwaves Do’s and Don’ts

Microwave Safe Containers

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