DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have friends who will not use a microwave because they believe that it causes cancer. Does it? — D.E.B., Lewiston.

ANSWER: Microwave oven manufacturers are regulated, so while issues were being reported about early models back in the late 70s and 80s, microwave ovens are much more safe today.

First, know that microwaves—the actual waves produced by these ovens—are a type of electromagnetic radiation. These waves cause water molecules in food to vibrate. These vibrations, in turn, produce the heat that cooks food. Microwaves can cook food, but they do not otherwise change the chemical or molecular structure of it.

The waves are produced by a vacuum tube within the oven called a magnetron. They are reflected within the oven’s metal interior; can pass through glass, paper, plastic, and similar materials; and are absorbed by food.

Microwaves are a kind of non-ionizing radiation. They do not have the same risks as x-rays or other types of ionizing radiation. (Ionizing radiation is a more energetic type of radiation that can cause changes to human cells.)

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, most injuries related to microwave ovens are the result of heat-related burns from hot containers, overheated foods, or exploding liquids. Most injuries do not relate to radiation.

That said, there have been very rare instances of radiation injury due to unusual circumstances or improper servicing. In general, these radiation injuries are caused by exposure to large amounts of microwave radiation leaking through openings such as gaps in the microwave oven seals. However, FDA regulations require that microwave ovens are designed to prevent these high-level radiation leaks. In fact, manufacturers must certify that their microwave ovens comply with specific FDA safety standards requiring any radiation given off by ovens to be well below the level known to cause injury.

There should be little cause for concern about excess microwave radiation leaking from these ovens unless the door hinges, latch, or seals are damaged. The FDA recommends looking at your oven carefully to see if any of these issues exist. The agency also recommends that you do not use an oven if the door doesn’t close firmly or is bent, warped, or otherwise damaged.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Here is another popover recipe, in response to the reader from Sun Spots on Feb. 20. This is a recipe from “A Taste of Freedom, Recipes for Hungry Patriots.”

Grammie’s (Ella Kelley Holt) Popovers

Submitted by Lynn J. Knightingale, Rome, Maine.

Cold oven

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Break eggs into a bowl. Add milk, flour, salt. Mix well with spoon, disregarding lumps. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full. Place in cold oven. Set temperature at 350 degrees. Bake 30 minutes without opening the oven. — Sylvia, no town.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: For the reader looking to get involved with Democrats in Lewiston, you can get in touch with the Lewiston Democratic Committee by calling 207-330-1446. — Bruce Noddin, Lewiston.

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