My Mother and Microwaves

The content below is from Season 2 Episode 22 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast.

Just as a side note, I tallied up all 63 episodes and their run times. There are now over 16 hours of Who’d a Thunk It audio content available across about a dozen platforms. People from all over the globe, 54 countries, have tuned in and I couldn’t be happier about it!


  • Right now on Netflix (in the US) you can watch season 1 and 2 of Dirty John
    • My sister Cas is the one who showed me this series and I’d like to say Thanks Cas!
    • The show is a true-crime series based on the concept of “love gone wrong.”
    • I’ve only seen a few episodes of season 1 so far, but the show is full of deception and manipulation.
    • To go over the plot would spoil too much for you. Let’s just say it is a fascinating watch with a great cast.
    • Season 1 is based on a podcast about a true story and I highly recommend you check it out.


  • I recently spent some quality time with my family back in York County Pennsylvania
    • While at my mom’s I wanted to warm up a bowl full of rice, vegetables, and venison meat. I was quickly reminded of the fact that my mom no longer owns a microwave and isn’t planning on getting one anytime soon.
    • I know as a kid she told me she wasn’t sure about the science behind microwaves. She wasn’t convinced that enough research was conducted in regards to the potential harm microwaves pose to humans.
      • Nowadays she simply says she isn’t a fan of the technology and prefers the conventional oven and stove anyway.
    • Although my mom simply prefers life without microwaves (and I can respect that) I know there are people who genuinely believe microwave ovens are harmful.
      • So I decided to do some digging
  • So let’s talk about Electromagnetic radiation and their direct affect on the body
    • When you pop a bowl of frozen broccoli in the microwave you’ve probably chosen your method of cooking out of convenience.
      • Because using a microwave takes a fraction of the time and effort of a conventional oven or stove.
    • The reason cooking by microwave is so fast and easy is due to electromagnetic radiation.
    • Electromagnetic Radiation (ER) is a kind of radiation including visible light, radio waves, gamma rays, and X-rays, in which electric and magnetic fields vary simultaneously.
      • Depending on the wavelength, the ER has different levels of intensity. Radio waves are some of the lowest while gamma rays (used in medicine to kill cancer cells) are some of the highest level of intensity.
      • Let me offer a comparison: Microwaves use the same size of wave (or frequency) as wifi.
        • The International Telecommunication Union designated 2.4 GHz specifically for Microwave ovens. The decades since that designation, other devices started using that unlicensed spectrum and now microwaves share a very similar frequency with your WiFi.
        • But don’t worry, your WiFi isn’t going to cook you like a hot pocket.
        • HowToGeek.come explains: ” A Wi-Fi router sends its signal out omnidirectionally. That is, it sends it in every direction in a rough circle as far as it can. Your microwave, on the other hand, sends its signal in a single direction, roughly towards the center of the oven. That signal continues until it hits a wall, bounces and comes back (at a slightly different angle). It isn’t a perfect system, due to the nature of radio waves, and so every microwave has hot and cold spots. That’s why microwaves have spinning plates.”
      • But those microwave signals don’t leave your microwave oven due to a marvelous invention called a Faraday Cage
        • Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure used to block electromagnetic fields. A Faraday shield may be formed by a continuous covering of conductive material, or in the case of a Faraday cage, by a mesh of such materials. Faraday cages are named after scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.
        • You can actually see the Faraday cage on your microwave. When you look in to see how your food is cooking, you will see checkered lines partially blocking your vision. Those lines are the conductive material keeping he microwave signals from leaking out of your microwave oven.
          • So don’t ever try to get rid of that cage to get a better look at your food. that cage is keeping you safe and without it, the microwaves could do serious damage to your most sensitive tissue: your eyes.
        • Without the Faraday cage there are potential health hazards: In the early days of microwave ovens, specifically those used in commercial establishments, there was a worker or who deliberately defeated the door interlock system so that the door could be opened and closed without restarting the oven each time, thereby saving time. Leaving the door open on a microwave means the Faraday Cage is not enclosing the Electromagnetic Radiation. Reports were that the person found that they gradually lost the use of the arm they used to place and retrieve food from the oven, due to cumulative thermal damage over time.
    • So my mom’s fears aren’t entirely unfounded. Direct contact with ER can be harmful to humans overtime.
      • But these hazards are well known and well tested safety measures have been put in place to prevent them from happening.
    • Also I wanted to note, specifically with my dad in mind, Pacemakers used to be negatively affected by microwaves. The signals from microwaves used to interfere with Pacemaker signals, but modern pacemakers have security checks against that now.
      • So Pacemaker people don’t worry. Your ticker is perfectly safe while you are warming up noodles in the nuker.
This video is has the simplest possible explanation of how a microwave works.
Found on r/shittyFoodPorn, this is microwaved rye bread with American cheese topped with Slim Jims. #HowNotToMicrowave
  • But what do microwave ovens do to our food?
    • well simply put, the microwaves cause the water molecules in food to vibrate which creates heat. That heat is what cooks the food.
    • The claim is that this heating process damages the proteins in foods and therefore destroys nutrients that would otherwise be beneficial for our health.
      • … that’s true actually. Microwaving food does damage proteins and does destroy some nutrients in food…
        • but so does any form of cooking.
      • That is the nature of thermochemistry. Whether you are cooking your food by boiling, roasting, or microwaving, you are going to be altering the state of that food.
      • If you boil broccoli, a lot of nutrients are going to leak out in to the water you are using to boil. Then that water just ends up in the drain.
        • If you microwave that broccoli, the vegetable spends less time being cooked/exposed to heat and there is less water used.
        • Microwaving that broccoli actually leaves your vegetable less nutrient deficient than boiling it. That is, unless you drink the left over boiled water afterwards like an absolute mad man.
          • That is the claim of the BBC’s Earth Lab, but a 2003 study by Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture claims broccoli retains much more nutrients when lightly steamed compared to being microwaved… contradicting information is frustrating, but I’m afraid it is the reality of science sometimes.
            • If you want ALL the nutrients, just eat your broccoli raw like a real man!!! lol
    • Here is a list of a couple foods and beverages that don’t go well in the microwave
      • As Foods You Should Never Put In The Microwave ( states these foods are bad in the microwave:
        • A mug of water
          • The water super heats without boiling then when it comes in to contact with something (tea bag for example) the water boils all at once and can explode
        • Breast Milk
          • Breast milk heats unevenly and could create hot spots that will scald your baby.
        • Chili Peppers
          • Peppers give off fumes of steam that you don’t want to come in contact with.
        • Eggs
          • Eggs steam up until they explode
        • bread
          • Bread gets all rubbery and gross after microwaving
        • leafy greens
          • Kale and other leafy greens can spark if microwaved
        • leftover takeout
          • Most takeout containers are not microwave safe and some have metal handles… metal doesn’t do well in microwaves.
        • Frozen meat
          • If the heat doesn’t distribute evenly, you can end up with hot spots and still-frozen spots, and the growth of dangerous bacteria.
  • Now let me shine a light on a few Actual health risks of using a Microwave
    • Well microwaves do worsen the negative affects of a poisonous material that has invaded nearly every facet of our lives: plastics.
    • Plastic hasn’t just polluted our oceans and landscapes, scientists have found traces of plastic in nearly every animal on the planet. That especially includes us human beings.
      • Instead of putting this in my own words, I felt it best to read from FoodNetwork’s article Is It Really That Bad to Use Plastic in the Microwave? :
      • “The evidence is mounting that plastic food containers are bad for our health. The two key culprits are the man-made chemicals Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA), which are often added to plastic to help it keep its shape and pliability. Known as “endocrine disruptors,” these substances have been found to affect hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, which can cause reproductive and other medical problems. They may be especially dangerous to children, potentially impeding normal growth and development, according to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units.”
      • “Basically, heat can cause the BPA and Phthalates in plastics to leach into your food. That means – yeah, sorry – you should avoid microwaving food and beverages in plastic. Instead, transfer them into microwave-safe glass or ceramic containers. And those “microwave safe” plastic dome covers? The FDA says they’re OK, but, if you need to cover your food, it’s probably safest to use wax paper, parchment paper, a white paper towel or even a ceramic plate.”
      • “In general, steer clear of plastic with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene) and 7 (bisphenols) except for those that are marked as “biobased” or “greenware,” the AAP cautions. The Environmental Working Group stresses that, when storing food, if you have to use plastic, you should avoid anything marked with recycling 7 and use 4 instead. “#1 and #2 are BPA-free, but some researchers do not recommend their reuse,” EWG notes. Meanwhile, Harvard Health advises that plastic takeout containers and grocery-food tubs (the kind used for margarine or yogurt) are generally not microwave-safe; prepackaged microwave food trays should not be reused; old, scratched or cracked containers may be especially apt to leach chemicals and should be tossed; and microwaving food in plastic bags is a big no-no.”
  • In conclusion
    • Microwaves can be a great tool for cooking, but be sure to follow the instructions for safety reasons.
      • NEVER tamper with a microwave. That includes the Faraday Cage.
    • After looking in to the technology of the microwave I understand why my mom doesn’t have one.
      • When using a microwave you add a new level of risk when cooking.
      • With conventional ovens and stoves you just have to worry about heat, but with microwaves you have to worry about Electromagnetic Radiation.
      • For people like my mom who are fine with cooking without a microwave and the conveniences it brings, it makes sense to just eliminate that specific risk from their kitchen.
      • I personally love cooking by microwave and I’m fine with the risks.

Thanks for listening/reading Who’d a Thunk It?

Until next week Who’d a Thunkers!


BELOW are a bunch of videos I found about the supposed dangers of microwaves. I picked these videos specifically with my mom in mind.

First video is long but sums up how microwaves were invented and how they actually brought frozen hamsters back to life.

Comedy Central’s Your Worst Fears Confirmed hosted by Natasha Vaynblat made a video that reminded me of my mom’s weird microwave fears.

Quite possibly the greatest podcast in the world: The Joe Rogan Experience hosted Neil deGrasse Tyson many times. During one of the episodes with Neil (a world famous Astrophysicist), he and Joe discuss the fears surrounding Microwaves and the science that says those fears are unwarranted.

Leave it to the BBC to deliver the most clear, concise, and reasonable video on the subject.