Microwave ovens have always held a place of suspicion in the minds of the fearful and nervous. It's probably because they run on plutonium and lasers. Anyway, one of the many warnings that surround the witchcraft of microwaves is that microwaving plastic containers can release deadly toxins into your food, making it a health hazard well beyond the 80 grams of trans fat you're about to chase with a Red Bull.
And as though that wasn't bad enough, these same chemicals can leach into your water if you put a plastic water bottle in the freezer. All in all, it's best to enjoy your food at room temperature.
Solid butter's better for you; it acts as roughage.
The dangers of plastic in microwaves appears to have originated with a TV station in Honolulu that ran a segment in 2002 featuring one Dr. Edward Fujimoto, who explained how microwaving plastic wrap and containers can release potentially deadly toxins into your food. As with the aspartame scare, a short news segment from Hawaii that hardly anybody saw became a huge thing when someone made it into a forwarded email that raced around the globe.
Claiming to be a media release from Johns Hopkins University, the email, which looks like it was written in a hell of a rush, babbles about "dioxins" and urges you to "pass this on to your family & friends." It has the look of something that was rattled off by someone who microwaved plastic and now has five minutes to live, so you can bet it made its way around the world quickly.
"Typing from INSIDE microwave, connection bad, plz FORWARD."
If you ask more reputable scientists, they'll tell you that it's possible that heating plastic in a microwave might leach some substances into foods ... but nowhere near the amount that would cause you any harm. As for the myth about chemicals in plastic water bottles, while a boon for the metal water bottle industry, scientists say that cold temperatures actually inhibit the ability of chemicals to leak out of plastics.
Name dropping Johns Hopkins, by the by, was a bullshit tactic to make the email seem more reputable, as the university has never said any such thing, and wrote a press release to debunk the claims. As for the ominous sounding "dioxins," they're actually pretty poisonous and it's a good idea to stay away from them, so it's fortunate that they're not in plastics and thus pose no threat. So don't worry -- microwaving those TV dinners won't cause you any pain beyond regret.
Related Reading: We don't really understand the world around us very well, which is why all these myths about flying persist to this day. Illegal drugs have even more bullshit floating around them, like the idea that LSD somehow causes insanity. Maybe it isn't surprising we have so many different myths about drugs, we don't even understand our own bodies very well. If you think a strong immune system keeps the cold at bay, you're sorely (and sneezily) misinformed.
We have some bad news: health foods are trying to give you diabetes, the whole '8 glasses of water a day' thing is bullshit and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.
It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.