Is It Safe to Microwave?

The convenience of microwave ovens is undeniable, particularly with newer under-counter and over-range configurations that leave plenty of counter space available. These microwave ovens may be the most handy, but also the least safe. They expose sensitive body parts to radiation, albeit in very small amounts. The Food and Drug Administration and many experts agree the radiation emitted from microwave ovens is safe. However, the FDA also admits there are few conclusive long-term studies on the matter.

On the other hand, there are other proven health threats and risks associated with microwave ovens.

Minimize radiation exposure

As long as your microwave carries an FDA safety label, it is guaranteed to emit less than five milliwatts of radiation per square centimeter at two inches from the oven. This is far below the level that is proven to be harmful to human health, and the radiation levels drop off quickly with distance. Still, it is worth taking precautions.

Avoid spending time cooking directly in front of a combination range hood and microwave. High levels of microwave radiation can cause cataracts and damage the lens of the eye. Likewise, working on the counter standing in front of under-counter microwaves is a bad idea. High levels of microwave energy can damage testicles and produce temporary sterility.

Also make sure your microwave is in reliable working condition. Follow all directions in the instruction manual, and don’t use a microwave if the door or casing are bent or damaged. Also stop using a microwave immediately if it continues operating with an open door. The FDA requires locks and monitors that ensure the unit stops immediately if the door is opened.

Avoid metal, plastic in microwaves

Keep metal utensils, foil and containers out of the microwave. They may reflect microwaves, cook food unevenly and damage the oven. The microwaves reflected off these materials can cause the food to cook unevenly and can possibly damage the oven. Thin metal also can create sparks and fires.

Plastic also should be avoided. Many plastic containers are labeled as “microwave-safe,” but there is no official definition of the term. Many plastics are liable to melt or release dangerous amounts or Bisphenol A, a chemical better known as BPA that is known to cause developmental and neurological problems.

Glass and ceramics are safe for microwave use.

Additional warnings

Microwave ovens can heat water past the boiling point. This could pose a burn risk for older adults with limited mobility. This generally does not happen if coffee, stock cubes or other ingredients are added before heating the water.

Also keep in mind that microwave radiation cooks food unevenly, which may be a concern when cooking raw meat. Make sure meat is hot enough to kill bacteria.

Finally, do not use microwaves for home canning. The temperatures are not high enough to kill all potentially harmful bacteria.

When used properly, microwave ovens are generally regarded to be safe. However, follow directions and take proper precautions.


Jo S.
Jo S2 years ago

Thank you.

Alexandra Bruno
Alexandra Bruno3 years ago


H J Dezotell
H J Dezotell4 years ago

There are many reasons to avoid microwave. Two children in my area had cancer at age four. Their milk or formula was warmed in a microwave. Prior to microwave and milk formula substitutes, cancer was rare in children.
Water soluble vitamins B and C are destroyed by microwave and other nutrients altered. Many grains and nuts are now microwaved to kill insects and lessens or kills the grains ability to germinate and also changes the gluten. Maybe why so many people are now intolerant to gluten. …dez...

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

living isn't safe

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton5 years ago


natalie n.
natalie n5 years ago

thanks for the reminder. my microwave is turned off when not in use. its a few feet away from my stove.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams5 years ago


John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

My microwave also has a built in ovens/grill that is used more than the microwave - it's a decent size "oven." But if we are going to tell people to make certain that the seal is not broken, we might as well remind them not to sit too close to the TV.

Dale Overall

Have been using the microwave less and less to the point that it just has become an ornament on the kitchen counter, it has been decorated with cups, colourful dried flowers and a few ceramic kittens.

Use it rarely and it does make a good "baked" potato if these are put in a cloth "potato bag" for this purpose. Other than that it has fallen out of use since I prefer just cooking from scratch as the food usually tastes far better.

Have no idea of whether or not Dr. Mercola is correct, used to subscribe to his newsletter but gave up as he tends to sell so much stuff supposedly relating to health and he tends to be controversial in the medical field.

As far as the plant that died because it was watered with microwaved water others have conducted their own experiments in more scientific blind studies and the result was that there was no difference as the plants survived except a few that were not watered on the weekend. The first dead plant experiment had only two plants and can't be considered scientific.

Just have not bothered with the beastie very often, as the food just tastes better in traditional methods. Don't know if nutrients are actually leached out of the food but these days I just prefer the stove, oven or toaster oven (a good one that lasts for ten years or more).

Joe R.
Joe R5 years ago

I use mine mainly as a kitchen timer.