Microwaved Water Kills Plants

Status: Undetermined
microwave experiment I've posted before about theories that microwaved food is bad for you, but this is slightly different. Some guy has posted pictures of his granddaughter's science fair project in which she tested the effect microwaved water would have on a plant. The result: the plant died. (Yes, the water had been cooled before she watered the plant with it.) But the plant given water that had been boiled on a stove did just fine. So what does this prove? That microwaved water is toxic? Not necessarily. The guy notes:

We have seen a number of comments on this, such as what was the water in the microwave boiled in. The thinking is that maybe some leaching took place if it was in plastic. It was boiled in a plastic cup, so this could be a possibility. Also it was not a double blind experiment, so she knew which was which when watering them. On top of that she was wanting the microwaved ones to do poorly, and although most scientists would dismiss the idea, it is possible that her thoughts toward each plant had an effect as well. Bottom line is, the results are interesting, and duplicate the results that others have reported (try Googling '"microwaved water" plants') more experiments need to be done with better controls and as a double blind study. But this was a simple 6th grade science fair project, and was never intended to be anything more than that. The plants were genetically identical, they were produced from graphs from the same parent plant, so that variable can be eliminated.

Intriguingly, the Straight Dope (a source I usually trust) has written an article about the controversy over microwave cooking, and he notes that scientists actually do not fully understand the chemical changes that take place when food is microwaved, and so there may indeed be some kind of "microwave effect." He notes a 1992 Stanford study that found microwaving breast milk mysteriously reduces its infection-fighting properties, as well as studies that have found that microwaves can accelerate certain chemical reactions. He writes: "'One suggestion,' a bunch of chemists wrote recently, 'is that this is some form of 'ponderomotive' driving force that arises when high frequency electric fields modulate ionic currents near interfaces with abrupt differences in ion mobility.'" He doesn't attempt to explain this theory.

I would repeat the girl's experiment myself, but everything I try to grow mysteriously dies, so there wouldn't be much point. (via The Greener Side)

Food Science

Posted on Fri Apr 21, 2006


Does it depend on the type of plant?
Posted by V-Person  in  US  on  Sun Nov 28, 2010  at  05:12 PM
I'm more confused than ever from Mercola's position. I heat only water--for tea--in the microwave, and have assumed it's safer than heating it in a metal kettle on the stove. All stainless steel comes from China. Is it safe to assume they haven't added alloys to their steel and thereby have contaminated it? If you leave hot water in the kettle as you slowly use it for your tea, I would think there would be the danger of stuff leeching into the water. Anyone with any thoughts on this?
Posted by Babs DAngelo  in  Laguna Beach, CA  on  Wed Dec 08, 2010  at  06:26 PM
I'm no expert (definitely not an "Anthroposophist," whatever that is), but isn't water made of 2 Hydrogen atoms bonded to 1 Oxygen atom? And, I'm not sure, but I thought that a microwave oven just sends radio waves. That is, it sends rapid pulses of energy that are absorbed by water (and also by fats and sugars in the case of food). This only has the effect of exciting the water molecules, making them move around faster and heat up. So, aside from heating up, how does this cause the water to be essentially changed somehow so that it loses its efficacy for nourishing plants? I can logically understand explanations that microwaves might damage the cell structure of foods that are heated, and I suppose this could make them less nutritious than food cooked conventionally, but purified WATER? I must be overlooking something.
Posted by Keith  in  Texas, USA  on  Wed Jan 12, 2011  at  08:08 PM
What has not been pointed out here is that microwaves (which have nothing to do with infrared)
because of the way they work literally blow apart bacteria within fractions of a second killing them instantaneously this means you are more than very un lightly to get any sort of food poisoning from something cooked in a microwave oven than conventionally. I have been using them for over 30 years & found this to be the case so far...
I am also an electronics design Eng so fully understand their workings( also having repaired industrial ones ). microwave ovens have safety devices built in which prevent any exposure to microwaves. out of the millions sold how many documented law suits have you read about where manufactures paid out compensation? I have never seen any ever!
Posted by ron  in  london uk  on  Sat Feb 26, 2011  at  11:19 AM
Technically speaking there isn't anything in water that can make it toxic. There should only be h2o. It is impossible that the microwave is actually adding any chemicals to the water itself (i.e. the microwaves are not toxic chemicals but waves of energy). The only place any toxicity could have come from is the containers.

Also the plant itself could have been unhealthy or the soils could have been different with one plant getting more nutrients than the other.
Posted by Oven Cleaning Chessington  in  England  on  Wed Mar 02, 2011  at  08:29 PM
Speaking of L. Ron Hubbard, I read he was involved with Allister Crowley, and Great Britain's MI-5 durring the war. hummm? They together were involved with PSYCHOTRONIC-WEAPONRY. AND the Russinas used Psychotronic weapons to sink the Nuclear Submarine SSN 593 Thresher! I wouldn't trust Ron, OR his "so-called-religion" as far as I can throw them! He was a SATANIST
Posted by D.E.GOODMAN  in  Prescott  on  Fri Mar 04, 2011  at  04:09 PM
I would suggest 4 participants:
1. Plant handler
2. Intermediary
3. Water handler
4. Independent Trustee

The plant handler plants an even number of plants in a tray. Trays might favor some regions (light, heat, etc.) so the distribution of A and B seeds within the tray should be set up as a checker board. Markings must be minimal (if the A's are in white containers and the B's are in black ones, the experiment is bad in several ways). Identical labels, toothpicks, placement and depth, pen ink, etc. must be used.

1. Intermediary makes all the "A" and "B" labels that both the water and plant handlers will need.

2. Working alone, seeds are planted. The plant handler tries for uniformity but is assumed to fail ("he got better, or more bored, as he went along", etc).

3. Working alone, the intermediary uses dice to randomly transfer containers into a the final tray. Last, he then flips a coin to label the plants with a checker board patter with "A" vs. "B" in the top left corner.

4. Working alone, the water handler flips a coin for "A" vs. "B" to be the microwaved sample. He writes this down in two copies with trustee present. One for his wallet to use, one for the trustee.

5. Each day, working alone, the water handler boils the "A" and "B" water as per the initial coin toss. This is done in identical pyrex glassware for both the microwave and burner methods, at power levels such that both samples boil in/for about the same period of time. He places the "A" and "B" samples in the cooling area or fridge.

6. Later in each day, working alone, the plant handler waters the appropriate plants with the cooled "A" and "B" samples, checking for identical temperature.

7. Working alone, when the experimental period is over, the intermediary (who has no idea which type of water is "A" or "B") measures/photographs/etc. the plants. He must NOT allow the water handler to find out about these results, or the plant handler to do the measuring.

8. Finally, the trustee, with everyone present, produces the sealed envelope, and any differences in the A and B groups can now be attributed to the type of boiling method actually used.

Personally, I doubt under these conditions that microwaved water will be any different. But, hey, it doesn't matter what I think: this method will PROVE it.
Posted by DieDaily  on  Tue Apr 05, 2011  at  03:22 AM
@Oven Cleaning Chessington in England

As a scientist you can never say stuff like "Technically speaking there isn't anything in water that can make it toxic." That's wrong for known reasons, for instance the H2O could be made with Tritium (a radioisotope of hydrogen). A glass of that type of H2O would kill really, really quickly and certainly. Or something else weird could be going on, that's the thing. That's where we, as scientists, must never say never. Instead we go "hmm, what the heck, maybe" and DO THE UNBIASED EXPERIMENTS.
Posted by DieDialy  on  Tue Apr 05, 2011  at  03:26 AM
Microwaving water will not do a thing to the water. Microwaves use focused radio waves to cause hydrogen (positively charged) to vibrate, which causes heat. Water is a simple molecule with two hydrogens and an oxygen, so it heats fairly quickly, but its simplicity leaves no room for modifications to its structure. Microwaved water is water, just like purified water.

As for the breast milk argument, they have found that breast milk transfers bateria necessary to help digest foods and build an immune system to the child. When you microwave something, any bacteria or other organism will die because the hydrogen in its "body" (cell wall) will vibrate and heat up, effectively killing it. You are essentially disinfecting the breast milk by killing the good bacteria that newborns need introduced into their intestinal track.
Posted by Nate  in  Seattle, WA  on  Wed Apr 10, 2013  at  02:26 PM
If purified water was really used, as stated on the plant pots in the pictures, then it wouldn't matter. All that would be involved would be Oxygen, Hydrogen, and H2O. Proper purification reduces to water to it's pure form with maybe a few bits here and there. There wouldn't be any minerals or proteins that would be beneficial to mess up through wave energy.

My question about the experiment is if she let the water cool down before watering the plants. Hot or warmed water can damage roots and lead to the death of a plant, which would pretty much leave this experiment unreliable. There isn't enough information about the scientific process, and unless it is reproduced in a sealed environment with a proper report we won't know the true answer.

Because if I think back to my middle school projects, I would have done anything to prove my hypothesis. Kids can't really grasp the idea that proving your hypothesis right isn't the goal, and doesn't guarantee a good mark on the project.
Posted by Renee  in  Canada  on  Mon Sep 30, 2013  at  09:18 AM
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