microwavemyths - medicine physician who operIt all started...

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10 NUTRITION ACTION HEALTHLETTER ± APRIL 2005 It all started with Hans Hertel. The Swiss food chemist and seven fellow vegetarians con- fined themselves to a hotel for two months in the late 1980s. There, they consumed milk and vegetables prepared in the micro- wave oven and in other ways. Hertel emerged with an aston- ishing pronouncement. Eating microwaved milk and vegetables caused changes in the men’s blood that “appear to indicate the initial stage of a pathological process such as occurs at the start of a cancerous condition.” Hertel didn’t actually find that microwaved food caused cancer. And his “study,” which no re- searchers have tried to reproduce, was never peer-reviewed or pub- lished in a scientific journal. “Without knowing more about how he conducted his study, what he measured, how he measured it, and what he found, it’s impossible to even begin to evaluate his findings,” says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University in Pullman. Hertel has dropped out of pub- lic view. So has William Kopp, described only as a “U.S. re- searcher,” who wrote an article in 1996 claiming that Cold War research in the Soviet Union had proven the dangers of microwave ovens. “People who ingested micro- waved foods showed a statisti- cally higher incidence of stom- ach and intestinal cancers, plus a general degeneration of periph- eral cellular tissues and a gradual breakdown of the function of the digestive and excretory systems,” Kopp wrote. The Soviet research was never pub- lished and the institute where it was con- ducted, in what is now the Republic of Belarus, no longer exists. (The former Soviet Union may have banned micro- wave ovens for a short period, but no countries ban them today.) Kopp himself reportedly changed his name and van- ished, believing that the appliance indus- try was out to persecute him. While Hertel and Kopp are no longer around, their unsubstantiated charges are all over the Internet. “The prolonged eating of microwaved foods causes cancerous cells to increase in human blood,” says “10 Reasons to Throw Out your Microwave Oven,” an article by Joseph Mercola, an Illinois alternative- medicine physician who oper- ates what he says is the “#1 Natural Health Site” on the Internet ( www.mercola.com ). Foods cooked in microwave ovens are “a recipe for cancer,” adds medical journalist Simon Best on his Electromagnetic Hazard and Therapy Web site ( www.em-hazard-therapy.com ). Hertel and Kopp aside, here’s what we know about micro- wave ovens. Inside the Microwave “A microwave oven heats food using radio waves that are almost identical to radar,” says Jim Felton of the Lawrence Livermore Radiation Labora- tory in Livermore, California. The frequency used in micro-
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microwavemyths - medicine physician who operIt all started...

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