Ten-year-old evidence, suppressed by the Swiss courts, shows that food from a microwave can cause worrying changes in your blood. More recent studies add to the mounting evidence that microwave ovens pose a hazard to your health.
In 1989, a Swiss food scientist called Dr. Hans-Urich Hertel made some worrying discoveries about microwave ovens. Nevertheless, for more than a decade he has been fighting for the right to let the world know what he has found. The point that he has been desperately trying to make public is vital to consumer interests: Any food eaten that has been cooked or defrosted in a microwave oven can cause changes in the blood indicative of a developing pathological process that is also found in cancer. Nevertheless, for all this time, Hertel has been effectively gagged by the manufacturers of micro-wave ovens who have effectively used trade laws and the Swiss court to muzzle him – even to threaten him with personal ruin. In March 1993, the Canton of Bern Commercial Court, following a complaint filed by the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electro-apparatuses for Households and Industry, prohibited Dr. Hertel from publicly declaring or writing that microwave ovens were dangerous to health. Flouting the order could incur a fine up to SF5000 or even land him up to a year in prison. The Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne confirmed the verdict in 1994. The court based its verdict on the Swiss Law Against Unfair Competition, which prohibits “discriminating, untrue, misleading and unnecessarily harming statements against a supplier or his products” (Journal of Natural Sciences, 1998; 1:2-7) – a law that solely considers the inhibition of trade per se and not malicious intent. That law effectively muzzles the Swiss press as well, as any statements which could be viewed as critical of microwave ovens could easily lead to litigation. The view of the Swiss on Dr. Hertel’s findings are not shared by the rest of Europe. In August 1998, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the gag order issued by the Swiss courts against Dr. Hertel was contrary to the right of freedom of expression. The European Court also ordered Switzerland to pay a compensation of SF40,000. Despite his victory, which is two years old, Dr. Hertel is still waiting for the Swiss courts to reverse their earlier decision and lift a SF8000 fine against him. In the meantime, his explosive discoveries are being corroborated by evidence cropping up here and there all over the world.
Where did it start?
Some believe that microwave ovens were developed during Word War II by the Germans to enable easy food production in their submarines; others say that the same scientists developed them to support mobile operations during the invasion of the Soviet Union. Whatever the case, their invention dates from World War II. After the War, the technology was taken back to the States, where it was developed, resulting in the first domestic oven being launched onto the market there in 1952 by the Raytheon company. Since then, the technology has been promoted all over the world with virtually no research by the relevant authorities in any country into possible harmful effects. It was not until the 1970’s that the first reports started appearing casting doubt on the safety of food cooked in a microwave. Histological studies with microwaved broccoli and carrots revealed that the molecular structures of nutrients were deformed to the point of destroying cell walls whereas, in conventional cooking, the cell structures remain intact (Journal of Food Science, 1975; 40:1025-9).
How a microwave oven works
A microwave oven uses a device called a magnetron tube, which causes an electron beam to oscillate at very high frequencies, producing microwave (MW) radiation. Domestic and commercial units use a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz (GHz) at an output of 400-1000 watts for a typical domestic oven, whose power supply is designed to deliver 4000 volt pulses to the magnetron. The 2.45 GHz frequency is used because water absorbs electro-magnetic energy quickest and maximally at this frequency, thus allowing food containing water to be heated quickly. The molecules within the food are forced to align themselves with the very rapidly alternating field and to oscillate around their axis. Heat is produced from the considerable intermolecular friction. Microwaves are beamed from the magnetron into the oven compartment, where they heat the food from the inside out, unlike conventional ovens, which do the reverse. Heating from the inside first can give rise to cold spots – hence the need to rotate the dish constantly. The maximum leakage level allowed under the current standards is a power density of 5 milliwatts per square centimetre at a distance of 5 centimetres from the over door. This limit is based on standards for MW radiation that are disputed by those who argue that non-thermal effects of MW radiation should be taken into account in tallying radiation levels (as, for example, with mobile phones). The door itself should be checked periodically to ensure that is not leaking excessively.
Eleven years ago, Dr. Hertel, a food scientist who had worked for several years for one of the international Swiss food companies, joined forces with Professor Bernard Blanc of the Federal Institute of Technology to conduct an extensive research programme on the effects of microwaved food on humans. Although the programme was turned down by the Swiss National Fund, the two scientists decided to fund a smaller research programme themselves. They selected eight people from the Macrobiotic Institute at Kientel in Switzerland all of whom, including Hertel himself, adherents to strict macrobiotic diets to minimise the presence of confounding elements affecting blood measures. Except for Hertel who was 64 at the time, all were aged between 20 and 40. As Hertel told “What Doctors don’t tell you”: We all lived in the same hotel for eight weeks and there was no smoking, no alcohol and no sex. At intervals of two to five days, the volunteers received one of eight possible food sources on an empty stomach: raw milk from a biofarm; the same milk conventionally cooked; the same raw milk cooked in a microwave oven; pasteurised milk from conventional sources; raw vegetables from organic farm; the same vegetables cooked conventionally; the same vegetables frozen and defrosted in a microwave; and the same vegetables cooked in a microwave. Blood samples were taken from each volunteer immediately before eating, then at specified intervals after eating the above preparations. Significant changes were observed in the blood of those who had consumed microwave food, which included a reduction in all haemoglobin and cholesterol values, both the high-density lipoproteins (‘good’ cholesterol) and low density lipoproteins (‘bad’ cholesterol) (Nexus, 1995; April-May: 25-7). Lymphocytes (white blood cells) showed a more noticeable short-term decrease after the ingestion of microwaved food than after the intake of the other foods. In addition, Hertel discovered a strongly significant association between the amount of microwave energy in the test foods and the brightness of those bacteria which light up (when looked at under a special light) on exposure to blood from those who’d eaten the food. Hertel concluded that such energy may be passed to those eating microwaved food. Besides these effects of microwave-heating of food, Hertel also noted non-thermal effects which, he claims, alter the cell membrane’s permeability by changing the electric potentials between the outer and inner sides of the cell. The damaged cells then become an easy prey to viruses, fungi and other microorganisms. The natural repair mechanisms of cells are also disturbed, which eventually forces cells to respond to a ‘state-of-emergency’ energy supply by switching from aerobic (oxygen-based) to anaerobic (no oxygen) respiration. Instead of producing water and carbon dioxide, they produce hydrogen peroxide and carbon monoxide. In such a situation, Hertel asserts, cells revert from ‘healthy oxidation’ to an unhealthy ‘fermentation’ process of energy generation. Hertel goes on to state that when food is microwaved, the oven exerts a power input of about 1000 watts or more. The resulting destruction and deformation of food molecules produces new compounds called ‘radiolytic’ compounds, unknown in nature. The current received wisdom in scientific circles is that microwaved and other irradiated food does not contain significantly higher levels of radiolytic compounds than that cooked conventionally, but Hertel’s results suggest the contrary. Blood analyses from the participants also confirmed that all was not well in those eating microwaved food. Samples taken at 7.45 each morning, at 15 minutes after food intake and two hours later showed that erythrocyte, haemoglobin, haematocrit and leucocyte measures were all at the lower limits of normal in those eating the microwaved food. These results are akin to those of individuals with a tendency towards anaemia; the results were more pronounced and statistically significant in the second month of the study. Furthermore, as these values decreased, blood cholesterol levels correspondingly increased. It is not hard to see why the publication of such results in 1992 might have produced a furor in Switzerland. Nevertheless, the reaction of the Swiss authorities and industry which took him to Court and convicted him under their Unfair Competition law remains a shameful chapter in Swiss history. Such was the pressure on Professor Blanc that he felt forced to publicly dissociate himself from the interpretation given in their joint report shortly after publication. Privately, he admitted to Dr. Hertel that he feared for the safety of his family (Journal of Natural Sciences, 1998: 1:2-7). Despite attempts to shut him up publicly, Dr. Hertel’s research remains available to the public outside of Switzerland through the post or his website (copies available from The World Foundation for Natural Science, Box 632, CH-3000, Bern, Switzerland; tel: 0041 33 438 1158 fax: 437 48 16. Website: http://www.wffns.org).
Russians ban microwave ovens
After World War II the Russians also experimented with microwave ovens. From 1957 up to recently, their research has been carried out mainly at the Institute of Radio Technology at Klinsk, Byelorussia. According to US researcher William Kopp, who gathered together much of the results of Russian and German research – and was apparently persecuted for doing so (Journal of Natural Sciences, 1998; 1: 42-3) – the following effects were observed by Russian forensic teams:
- Heating prepared meats in microwave sufficiently for human consumption created:
- d-Nitrosodiethanolamin (a well-known cancer-causing agent);
- Destabilisation of active protein biomolecular compounds
- Creation of a binding effect to radioactivity in the atmosphere
- Creation of cancer-causing agents within protein-hydrolysate compounds in milk and cereal grains
- Microwave emisions also caused alteration in the catabolic (break-down) behaviour of glucoside – and glactoside – elements within frozen fruits when thawed in this way;
- Microwaves altered catabolic behaviour of plant-alkaloids when raw, cooked, or frozen vegetables were exposed for even very short periods;
- Cancer-causing free radicals were formed within certain trace-mineral molecular formations in plant substances, especially in raw root vegetables;
- Ingestion of microwave foods caused a higher percentage of cancerous cells in the blood;
- Due to chemical alterations within food substances, malfunctions occurred in the lymphatic system, causing degeneration of the immune system’s capacity to protect itself against cancerous growth;
- The unstable catabolism of microwaved foods altered their elemental food substances, leading to disorders in the digestive system;
- Those ingesting microwaved foods showed a statistically higher incidence of stomach and intestinal cancers, plus a general degeneration of peripheral cellular tissues with a gradual breakdown of the digestive and excretory system function;
- Microwave exposure caused significant decreases in the nutritional value of all foods studied, particularly:
- A decrease in the bioavailability of B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential minerals and lipotrophics;
- Destruction of the nutritional value of nucleoproteins in meats
- Lowering of the metabolic activity of alkaloids, glucosides, galactosides and nitrilosides (all basic plant substances in fruits and vegetables.);
- Marked acceleration of structural disintegration in all foods (Perceptions, 1996; May/June: 30-3).
As a result, microwave ovens were banned in Russia in 1976; the ban was lifted after Perestroika.
While some of the above findings remain to be replicated, other research in Britain and the U.S. has unearthed other possible hazards. In 1990 at the University of Leeds, two scientists in the Department of Medical Microbiology studied the uneven heating that can be caused by microwave ovens. They found that the salt content in a specified portion of mashed potatoes influenced its inside temperature ? the greater the salt content, the lower the temperature. The authors concluded that “the poor penetration of microwaves into the test food with high ionic concentrations may result from the induction of electrical / ionic flow in the surface of the food. This would also explain why commercial food heated in microwaves boils on the surface but is cool on the inside” (Nature, 1990; 344:496). A case was reported in 1991 of a patient in hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who died of anaphylaxis after receiving a transfusion of blood which had been warmed in a microwave oven. The irradiation appears to have altered the blood in some way and caused patient’s death (Journal of Natural Sciences, 1998; 1 : 2-7). In August 1989, British Government research showed that Listeria and other potentially fatal bacteria can survive in microwave-cooked food, even if instructions are followed (Food Business, 1989; 20:12). Other U.S. research has shown that the practice of reheating leftover food in a microwave is potentially dangerous, Researchers investigating an outbreak of Salmonella among those attending a picnic in 1992 discovered that, of 30 people who took home leftover meat, all ten who used a microwave became ill. None of the ten persons who used a conventional oven or skillet to reheat the pork became ill. The researchers concluded that, compared with conventional methods of reheating food, microwave ovens offered no preventative protection from illness (American Journal of Epidemiology, 1994: 139 : 903-9).
Do not heat milk in a microwave oven
Heating or thawing human milk by microwave causes a decrease in the level of anti-infective factors in the milk, even when low temperatures (20-53°C) are used (Pediatrics, 1992; 89:667-9). In one study, conducted at Stanford University in California, microwaving at higher than 72°C was found to cause a considerable decrease in all the tested anti-infective factors. The Stanford researchers strongly rejected the use of microwaving, even at low temperatures, of human milk in hospitals. Another study carried out in Vienna, found that microwave cooking induced high rates of change in food proteins that were not observed after conventional cooking. D-proline and cis-D-hydroxyproline were found in significant quantities in microwave-heated infant milk formulas, whereas only L-proline is normally found in biological material. (L stands for laevo-rotary, D for dextrorotary, referring to the direction electrons rotate in their plane of optical polarisation). Lubec and his colleagues warned that “the conversion of trans to cis forms could be hazardous because when cis-amino acids are incorporated into peptides and proteins instead of their transisomers, this can lead to structural, functional, and immunological changes” (Lancet, 1989; 9 : 1392-3). Other research has also found that microwaving infant formula can produce molecular changes to the amino acids in milk proteins, causing toxicity or affecting the nutritional value of the milk formula. Nevertheless, the quantity of proteins changed was very small (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1994; 13:209-10). Not all evidence has been negative. Scientists at a nutrition and food research institute in Zeist, The Netherlands, carried out a 13-week study of the effects of micro-waved food on the blood chemistry and other healt indicators in rats and apparently found no adverse effects (Food Chemical Toxic, 1995; 33 : 245-56). Nevertheless, these were animal studies and may not necessarily apply to human health.
Beware ? additives leaking
Another problem with microwaved food is that it is low in colour and flavour compared with conventionally cooked food, especially in foods containing pastry. This has encouraged the development of microwavable food additives to artificially produces the colours and flavours consumers have come to expect. As Australian academics Ashton and Laura state in their strongly recommended book “The Perils of Progress” (Zed Books, London, 1999): “An example of a new type of flavour-producing technology designed for use in microwave ovens is susceptors. These devices are usually glued to the packaging of microwavable foods and are used to achieve local areas of high temperature. This has the effect of browning the food during microwave cooking. A subtle side-effect of some of the pre-1992 susceptor devices involved the release of small amounts of a toxic chemical bisphenol-A-diglycidyl ether (BADGE); into the food during microwaving. BADGE was a component of the cold-cure adhesive used to fix susceptors to packaging”. The authors cite a 1992 study of 52 samples of pizza in which nine samples of susceptors used in one brand contained BADGE at concentrations between 0.2 ? 0.3%. The chemical was found to migrate into the pizza when they were cooked in their packaging according to the instructions (Food Additives and Contaminants, 1995; 1:779-87). Other research has shown that a large number of chemicals are released from susceptor packed together with foods such as pizzas, waffles and French fries intended for a microwave. One study identified 44 different volatile chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene (AOAC international 1993; 76:1268-75). Another toxic chemical observed to migrate from packaging into food when microwaved is benzophenone, a component of the ink on the printed paperboard (Food Additive Contaminates, 1994; 11:231-40). Bread and breakfast cereals are often sold in waxed bags for easy heating in a microwave. However, a recent study showed that following the instructions on the packaging resulted in 60% of the wax being transferred to the food (Food Additives Contaminants, 1994; 11:79-89). The PVC plastic films that cover food during microwave cooking have been found to release plasticisers into the food to such a degree that a 1996 study recommended that PVC should not be used in direct contact with food during cooking (AB Badeka, MG Kontominas, 1996; cited in Ashton and Laura, 1999, page 68).
Protect yourself against radiation if you must continue to use a microwave oven:
- Have it checked regularly for leakage, especially the door, which is prone to leakage;
- Never open the door while the oven is on;
- Stand at least three feet away (especially children) from the oven when in use to avoid the cumulative effects of even low-level exposure. The lens of the eye is most at risk from prolonged micro-wave exposure because it has no way of dissipating the energy ? thermally or otherwise;
- Avoid microwave cooking of frozen foods and commercially prepared meals, especially if they are to be cooked in their packaging;
- Use non-PVC cooking containers whenever possible;
- Discourage growing children from eating microwaved food or using a microwave;
- Be aware that the majority of restaurant food is now microwaved using large commercial ovens. These pose even greater potential risks to users, and those using them should be warned.
The message seems clear. Don’t cook food in a microwave oven, especially for children, unless there is a genuine need for urgency. Resist the slick and misleading advertising offering the ‘quick fix’ for your ‘busy life’. Realise that the body requires wholesome food prepared in as wholesome a way possible to function optimally. To the degree that you consume less-than-wholesome food, your body organs and processes will be adversely affected, leading to degeneration and disease. Treat your body like a Rolls Royce – not a waste disposal bin.
Written by Simon Best, editor and producer of the quarterly news report “Electromagnetic Hazard Therapy”.
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Simon Best, our resident expert on ail things electromagnetic, has produced above a chilling testimonial to the dangers of microwave ovens.
One of the most comprehensive pieces of journalism on this technology, his article makes for grim reading. Solid scientific evidence suggests that heating food by microwave denatures food of most vital nutrients. Eating food that has been cooked in this manner produces changes in your blood, cells and immune system suggestive of conditions like cancer.
Food that is microwaved tastes so disgusting that manufacturers have to throw in additives, colourants, artificial flavours and other assorted junk to try to approximate the real thing, or attach them onto the packaging, causing chemicals to melt into the food. It should come as no surprise to anyone that particles of nifty little time-savers, like plastic cook-in-the-bag containers, end up in popcorn or breakfast cereal when they are heated up to this degree.
But if this technology is so dangerous, why haven’t we heard anything about it before?
The answer is that a few people have been trying to shout loudly about this, but their information has largely been suppressed by supposedly enlightened Western societies like Switzerland.
This is a story not simply about the dangers of a technology universally sold to a public before its effects were studied or comprehended. It is a classic illustration of commercial interests, in collusion with a government and judiciary, placing profits above public interest and health. The case of Swiss scientist Dr. Hans-Urich Hertel is another shameful chapter in the history of Switzerland. For 10 years, the Swiss have successfully stifled Dr. Hertel’s voice through a draconian law which prohibits any criticism whatsoever of business that might harm trade. Although this law is supposed to pertain only to statements that are “untrue or misleading”, this of course depends upon who is called upon te make that determination. What the Swiss law amounts to, of course, is a deliberate stifling of free speech and a suppression of any evidence that might potentially put a dent in the turnover any particular company or industry. Most disturbing is that the Swiss hold their commercial liberty more sacred than any other. Although the European court ? the court that is supposed to prevail in Europe over those of any individual nation ? has ruled in favour of Hertel, the Swiss court is taking its time about deciding if it intends to take any notice. Far be it from me to applaud communism, but the irony of this saga is that a repressive and totalitarian regime like Russia in the 1970s was the only one that saw fit to ban a technology that its scientists determined was undeniably dangerous. Lest we think this can’t happen in Britain, a law is about to be passed here which will prohibit criticism of a product unless it can be backed up by scientific evidence. This sounds fine until you consider how research like Hertel’s might be received. Some professor with impressive-sounding credentials would probably be wheeled out in court to say that his evidence was not conclusive, and Hertel’s voice would be silenced here as well. Sometimes the laws that are meant to protect us are the very ones that we should most resist. This new law, which is supposed to help deliver the truth about new products and prohibit companies from making false claims, is really about protecting commerce from scientific enquiry. Only time will tell how many British Hertels get muzzled here as well.
Written by: Lynne McTaggert, Editor of the monthly magazine, “What Doctors Donít Tell You”, Satellite House, 2 Salisbury Road, London SW19 4EZ, U.K.