How Safe Are Microwave-Safe Plastics?

Microwaves don't blast you with dangerous radiation when in use, but that doesn't mean they pose no problems in cooking or heating food.

Plastic containers labeled “microwave-safe” won’t melt or crack, and they have been tested under typical conditions of use to see if chemicals from the plastic wind up in food. What the term "microwave-safe" basically means is that any chemicals leaching from the container into food do so at levels far below those shown to have any health effects.

There is cause to be wary of this claim, however. In particular, #7 polycarbonate plastic should not be used in a microwave, even if it is labeled “microwave-safe,” because it leaches hormone-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA), especially when heated. BPA has been associated with reproductive abnormalities, obesity and insulin resistance in animal studies, and a number of animal studies have found abnormalities at levels of exposure similar to what people have in their bodies today. Residues of BPA have been found in more than 90 percent of the general population.

What you can do

  • Don't store or microwave food in #7 polycarbonate plastic containers. 
  • Microwave food in glass or ceramic containers or on undyed paper towels. If you cover a food dish with plastic wrap, be sure it does not touch the food, and leave vents for steam to escape.


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