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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, "Mystifying Card Magic" asks: "Is it unhealthy to stand in front of a microwave while it is cooking?"

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Hi, I'm Craig. My socks give off dangerous levels of microwave radiation and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today I'm going to answer mystifyingcradmagic's big question: Is it unhealthy to stand in front of a microwave while it is cooking? The answer is no. Good show guys, good job everybody. I'm gonna take a nap.
We here at Mental Floss are detail oriented, so I'm going to give you a longer answer than just one word... 'cause they're making me.


So anyone who saw American Hustle knows the dangers of the science oven. But many people think microwave ovens, aka microwaves, can cause more damage than starting fires and freaking Jennifer Lawrence out. A lot of people believe that standing in front of a cooking microwave might even cause cancer. In order to understand why people think that I'm going to have to explain a little about how microwaves actually work.

So your microwave heats up food using microwave radiation. These waves get absorbed by water molecules. These water molecules start to vibrate and that's what heats up your food. And that's what burns my tongue when I have leftover pizza. I should just eat it cold, I should just eat it cold!

It's the radiation that freaks people out. But in the U.S. microwaves are designed and regulated so that barely any radiation escapes. If you look at your microwave, you'll notice a layer of mesh between the glass and the food. That metal mesh makes it so that radiation is contained within the microwave. Very very small amounts of radiation can still escape from the microwave but most experts agree that it is impossible that they would give you cancer. So why do people still believe this?

Well, many experts blame a study done by Dr. Hans Hertel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or SWFIT, SWFIT! It was published in 1992 with the shocking statement that participants who ate microwaved food got less nutrients. Even more worrisome Hertel found, "changes in the blood which appear to indicate the initial stage of a pathological process such as occurs at the start of a cancerous condition." Scary stuff right? But less so when you find out that there were only eight participants in the study, and they were all men, and one of those men was Dr. Hertel himself. Plus, his methods were generally looked down upon by the scientific community. No one bothered to replicate his study. Poor Hertel, poor doctor Hertel. He had a lot of hurdles to overcome.

So we're going to take the FDA's word on this one. They have claimed: "There are no established adverse health effects, including cancer, from using or standing in front of a standard microwave oven." But, they still recommend not standing in front of it while its cooking for long periods of time. Better safe than sorry. I don't even recommend standing. At all.
Fun Fact. The first item ever microwaved, other than the chocolate bar that melted in inventor Percy Spencer's pocket, which I still would have eaten, was popcorn. Then they tried an egg. Which ended up eggsploding all over a fellow eggsperimenter. Boy did he have egg on his face, and body. Boiling hot egg. Which I also still would have eaten.

If you have a big question of your own that you'd like answered, leave it below in the comments. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on You Tube. Hope you pop in next week. I won't eat you, though, that's a, that's an expression.