Are microwave ovens banned in Russia?

My sister, a diehard conspiracist, insists on spreading via Facebook and email every fool thing she stumbles across on the internet or hears from friends. I’ve given up trying to disprove her whacky assertions. I’m sure she thinks I’m brainwashed along with most of the rest of the US. However her latest rant stated with great certainty that microwave ovens are bad for people and the Soviet Union banned them back in the 70’s’ ostensibly because their government cared more about them than ours does. I’ve poured over countless sites and have not found a conclusive answer, one way or the other. Are/were microwave ovens ever banned in the USSR or any other country for that matter?

According to this site microwave ovens were banned in the USSR in 1976. The ban was lifted under Gorbachev, in the 90s presumably.

This site looks more authoritative.

Saw plenty of them in Ukraine in the past few years and that country was definitely part of the USSR. I would venture a guess that they were banned originally because there was no way that the Soviets could manufacture them cheaply enough to meet potential demand, would not import them, and so found reasons to find them “harmful” to all those happy workers.

Just a WAG, but in the mid-70’s, the Soviet Union might also not have had power generation and distribution capable of handling an extra 1000-1200 watts per household.

They would have been smaller back then (right? or did they start bigger, then get smaller then bigger again), but my electric oven is nearly triple that (in watts) and needs to run for probably 25 minutes to do what a microwave can do in just a few minutes.
But if electricity was a problem, more ovens were probably gas.

Another thing is that a microwave oven isn’t something that you want to make imperfectly. So if Soviet factories were as poor as I’ve heard, the microwave ovens they produce might not be safe to operate.

Electric oven ? In many countries people do not have the large electric ovens that you see in the USA.
In many countries people just have a gas stove or electric hotplate to do their cooking, no gas or electric ovens.

If she lived in Adult Land, she’d know it’s up to the person making the claims to support them, not to the person doubting the claims to refute them.

Otherwise, I’m the King of Thailand and you can’t prove I’m not.

As one who’s spent the last 20 years living in Moscow, I can assure you that microwave ovens have been here at least that long (I have a nice little Moulinex in my kitchen that I picked up at a nationwide household appliance/electronics vendor). They’re everywhere.

Soviet-built microwaves were available in the late ‘80s (when I was here as a grad student), but the things were freakin’ HUGE and poorly made (did you know that Soviet TVs were notorious for exploding on occasion?). In addition to shoddy workmanship, they probably also emitted huge quantities of radiation—which, knowing the Soviet government, probably was NOT all that great a concern; it was more important that they produce the same consumer goods as the West in a kind of dick-matching contest.

Probably the greatest thing putting most people off Soviet microwaves was their cost: they were NOT cheap (though I can’t quote you a price right off the top of my head) at a time when the average person couldn’t afford a decent automobile. It’s a great tribute to the underground economy here that most people were able to afford microwaves back in the '90s, despite the image of poverty that the country projected (I think I paid $300 for mine back in '98).

Please tell me that you realize that there is a huge difference between microwave radiation and nuclear radiation.

Yes, I know that. But excessive quantities of any kind of radiation are not good for you.

With microwave radiation, if it’s hurting you, you can feel it burning. Like fire. Fire bad?

Ughhhh, fire heap bad, Kemosabe.

Maybe, like Soviet TVs, microwaves were responsible for fires in the few apartments that had them back then.

But, is fire the only bad thing that can result from being bombarded with excessive electromagnetic radiation? I think not, Watson!

They’re known as the Microwave Militia. They are like the truthers of the microwave oven world. They’ve been sending this crap around for years. Facebook is just the latest outlet.

A good example of their typical claims from one of their faithful, Lita Lee can be found here: Microwaves And Microwave Ovens By Lita Lee, Ph.D.

She goes on to repeat most of the common myths about microwaves - radiation leakage, high levels of carcinogens in microwaved foods, decreased nutrients, chemical breakdowns of plastics into microwaved food, etc.

For a more rational analysis of all of these claims, try Fact vs. Fiction an article from 2005 by David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

I guess it’s his word against hers. (Note that Dr. Lees’ article is followed by a lengthy legal disclaimer indicating that none of her information is substantiated, has been contested by scientific authorities, is not endorsed by anyone, and is for ‘informational purposes only’. Dr. Schardts’ attorneys don’t appear to have required that of him.)

Yes, there is ionizing radiation and then there is non-ionizing radiation; microwaves are the latter - if microwaves were ionizing, then so would visible light (which is several orders of magnitude more energetic), meaning that we’d get cancer just from being exposed to light (UV is the point where ionization effects and associated chemical damage start). Visible light can even be used to cook food, albeit not as efficiently because it doesn’t penetrate well (magnetrons are also more efficient than light bulbs, including LEDs).

For the same reason, microwaves don’t produce carcinogens in food (or far less than high-temperature cooking, even if the food isn’t browned, like starches), or destroy nutrients (except for those destroyed by heating, and in this case, the lower temperature, usually limited to the boiling point of water, and shorter cooking time preserves more nutrients, same reason for fewer carcinogens).

You completely misunderstood what I said. I meant that microwaves are only dangerous in the same way fire is dangerous: If it’s intense enough on your tissue to cause burns. Normal burns, like what you get from fire. It isn’t ionizing, which means it can’t really cause cancer any more than fire can.

Microwaves aren’t anything special. They obey all the normal laws of physics, one of which is that photons need to be at least as energetic as the photons in the ultraviolet range to ionize molecules and cause damage that way. Microwave photons are less energetic than visible light photons, so if they could cause cancer so could all the light you’re capable of seeing, meaning that microwaves would be the least of your worries.

Bill Kopp invented the Soviet banning of microwave ovens, this was picked up by Anthony Wayne and Laurence Newell in their “article” The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking which itself was picked up Joseph Mercola and the myth then spread. If you actually look at the sites that state that microwave ovens were banned you come across essentially repetitions of these articles but absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Several debunkers have asked Russian lawyers to find the relevant law, or the law supposedly repealing it, but to no avail.

It’s a myth.

Another related myth is that the Nazis invented the microwave oven for use on the Eastern Front against the Soviets. The Germans weren’t fools, if they had a cavity magnetron - the gizmo that creates the microwaves - they would have done exactly the same as the Brits (who did have it) and put it into a radar set and shoved it into every aeroplane they could. It’s funny that despite our knowing about German top secret work on oil from shale, aerodynamics, jet engines, rockets, tank armour, etc, never have microwave ovens ever appeared on any list.

It’s another myth.

Now how effective is that! One evil empire invents satanic microwave ovens, another evil empire finds them so demonic even they have to ban them, so if the evil people ban it why haven’t we? Very very effective, based on the number of times these are quoted, but with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. None. Zip.

So if neither the Germans nor the Soviets had microwave ovens, how could they have done work on them? Now the whole house of cards starts to wobble.

Conclusion - myths, but very ably and effectively used myths.

On the alleged dangers of radiation from microwave ovens:

In the mid-1970’s, when microwave ovens were still fairly new-fangled at least for general public consumers, there was widespread fear over the safety of microwaves. It was widely reported that:
(a) Older microwave ovens tended to leak radiation, especially via poor fittings around the doors,
(b) Low-level microwave exposure, even low enough that you can’t feel it, might produce some kind of health effects over the longer term. In particular, it was said to lead to cataracts of the eyes.

So people would pop that TV dinner in for some nuking, and quickly turn away or step away for the duration.

As of the late 1970’s (when I first began to see microwave ovens in the company lunchroom where I worked), the common word on the street (aside from the paranoids) was that the newer ovens had resolved the leakage problems, and were safe.

" Microwave ovens were originally developed by the Nazis… "

Aaand that’s where I stopped reading…

Per this 2008 MSNBC article, microwaves were "off limits to buy for everyone but foreigners and companies"in Cuba. The issue seemed largely to be the capacity of the electrical generation and distribution system.

Many other consumer electronics items were (possibly still are?) prohibited in Cuba. My fiancée had some such items seized from her while she was in transit through Havana overnight. Customs somehow “misplaced” those items when she came back to claim them for her ongoing flight.