06 August 2012

Microwaves: they lurk you know.

Click to enlarge. Ding!
I'll be honest - I don't usually expect very much from the Northern Ireland Healthcare Review. But, seriously people, if you are pitching your rag at the cream of the medical establishment in our esteemed Province, at least have the decency not to fill it with total crap.

Like the article to the left. This month's incarnation of the Fastest Diabetic Foot Ulcer Dressing Nurse Practitioner of the Year Award Magazine has a hilarious story on page 63 of how we are dramatically increasing our risk of a lingering death by using a microwave. Perhaps the most surprising statistic in this litany of ripped-off shite is the revelation that 80% of people in Northern Ireland use a microwave. Seriously. What the hell are the other 20% doing? Microwaves are a "lurking danger in your kitchen" (they lurk?) and "ingestion of microwaved food caused a higher percentage of cancerous cells in the blood."

This "research" (which is uncited, and the article doesn't even tell us who wrote this bullshit) is actually largely re-packaged (that's a polite word for "plagiarised" from an  altie website on tripod.com (yes - it still exists!). Interestingly, the website in question, http://healingtools.tripod.com , contains all sorts of warnings as to what will happen to people who misuse their copyright - presumably the wrath of the Lord will be invoked, or some similarly evidence-based smitery.

Be that as it may. Normally the NI Healthcare Review is considered a bit of mindless junk entertainment for Northern Irish medics. It is not usually taken that seriously. You look at it to see your colleagues in silly suits or dresses, holding shapeless bits of glass that are going to end up shoved to the back of the top of a very high cupboard. However, I feel a line has been crossed here. How dare Medical Communications Ltd foist this cobblers on the medical community in Northern Ireland? Why not contact them and let them know how you feel? If medical professionals are being pissed over in this tawdry manner, spare a thought to the quality of the information that the glossy media are pouring down the throats of our patients. It's time to make our voices heard.


  1. Its interesting that the article doesn't mention a different danger. The microwave in our kitchen at work had to be changed recently, and Health Physics came along and measured the leakage rate. I don't know exactly how big the problem was on the brand new one, but it had to be replaced twice before passing their test. In the kitchen at home nobody would have known. Moral of the story - step to the other side of the kitchen and rely on the r squared law. Or else be part of the 20% perhaps?

    p.s. I enjoyed a visit to Belfast last week. Nearly said hello but the week flew past too quickly!

  2. Another interesting observation. I don't know how things stand just now, but in 1981 the USSR had a ten times lower occupational exposure limit than UK for the frequency range used in microwaves. It was very unusual for them to be MORE cautious about health issues.

    But don't get me wrong. I still use a microwave and your comments about that article seem perfectly sensible.

  3. Shane,

    You work in public service, I work in public service - there are things we should realise: A very wise friend once pointed out to me that I am a mere 'cog in the machine'. It doesn't matter that I actually do the job, that I work at the 'chalk face', so to speak; what matters is that there is a difference between knowledge and information - knowledge enables people to do useful stuff, although this usually goes unnoticed, information is largely useless, but it grabs all the attention.

  4. Hi folks. The physics wins here. Microwave "radiation" is of far far too low energy to cause any problems other than simple localised heating. The risks from regular cooking for causing carcinogenic chemicals are actually a lot higher (esp frying/grilling etc), but even there the *absolute* risk that you are going to really harm yourself is pretty darned low. The biggest risk from microwave cooking lies in uneven heating and failing to zap some of the bugs that may be present. And it often makes stuff soggy & mushy, and hence not so pleasant to eat. But pretty much everything in that article is utter crap.