Microwave ovens remain in debate regarding biosafety concerns in the community. The electromagnetic waves from these ovens not only can affect the quality of food but also have the potential to cause infectious diseases or accidents. Ideally, we should study the operational manual before starting any gadget. Here, we discuss the possible risks and biosafety considerations for the safe use of microwave ovens. They successfully found space in almost every home due to the speedy processing and less floor space covered. The advent of new technologies improved energy efficiency, product quality, and desirable physical and chemical effects .
What are microwaves?
Microwaves are non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation used for communication, radar systems, and cooking. Some scientists claim that non-ionizing radiations are detrimental to human health. They can cause several issues related to female fertility, for example, hormone levels, the number and quality of germ cells, and their niche . According to FDA, these radiations are safe, and the designs of ovens are leakproof .
Design of Microwave ovens
All countries have public health enforcement agencies to regulate standards of products with a potential encounter with humans. Microwaves cross through plastic, glass, and ceramics and enter the food resulting in heat . Manufacturers certify compliance with safety non-leachable ovens with sealed gaps. Don’t use them if you see damage in seals, door hinges, latches, or bent doors.
Health Risks Associated with microwave ovens
- Infectious Diseases: In large farms, unnecessary antibiotics used to prevent diseases in closely kept animals result in Multi-drug resistance . An alarming study reported that chicken nuggets cooked in a microwave oven had MDR Staphylococcus spp. They potentially release heat-resistant enterotoxin in the intestines to cause gastroenteritis in humans . Another source of food-borne infections is an unclean oven. Food particles are captured in the interior of microwave ovens and provide ideal conditions for bacteria to thrive. When you process food in a contaminated environment, bacteria enter the food to infect humans.
- Nutrient Alterations: Thermal runaway and non-uniform distribution of heat in microwave ovens result in the development of hot spots. These non-uniform heat distributions are harmful to the quality of food. It is a dire need to research the nutritional quality of food after microwaving . Food components like proteins, lipids, and vitamins react differently in microwaves. Although heat generation in microwaves is due to the movement of water molecules, other nutrients may also alter. Food components are combined differently in various food types for a specific taste. Scientists should research in detail on transfer coefficients of mass and surface heat, efficient models for temperature distribution, shrinkage and deformation of food items, microbial activities, and dielectric properties.
Researchers also show some positive effects of microwaves. Sesame seed roasted in a microwave oven yielded better quantity and quality. This oil has better antioxidant constancy and activity and improved polyphenols, tocopherols, and phytosterols . There is a dire need to research Pakistani food recipes  for microwave ovens. NAFSORB facilitates researchers and industrialists in conceptualization, grant writing, and research article writing for goal-oriented research.
The biological safety of microwave ovens is ensured by following some simple, and safe operating procedures.
- Dedicated Circuits: Never connect multiple appliances on the same circuit because differences in power intake and overloading may trip the breaker .
- Electricity Hazards: Metal cookware, foil, or decorative coating on cups and other containers can cause arcing. When microwaves strike metals, electricity conductance produces sparks or fire. It may also damage your oven due to short-circuiting .
What to Use in Microwave Ovens?
You can use glass, ceramics, and microwave-safe plastics in microwave ovens. Polyethylene, disposable plastic, or thermoplastic release phthalates in food. Phthalates may affect endocrine, neurological, and reproductive systems and the development and growth of a child . Another frequently used material is melamine. The uneven heat distribution causes cracks in utensils providing a home to infectious agents. The most alarming toxicity source is the baby feeding bottles. If you can’t avoid microwave heating, remain cautious about microwave-safe bottles. Keep your child’s health a priority [Fig. 3].
Never overheat your food, especially water. In microwave ovens, it gets super-heated without any sign. When you disturb the overheated water in a coffee cup by a slight movement or disturbance, it explodes. This explosion of water from the cup may cause scald injuries on the face and hands. Add ingredients to the water before heating it in a microwave.
Keep children away from microwave ovens! They may harm themselves!