With the increasingly busier lives that people tend to live, especially in the last decade, it is no wonder that they constantly search for quicker and more effective ways to do their daily chores. One of these quick ways is preparing or heating food in a microwave oven.
Although these ovens have been around for quite some time now, many people are still unsure how much radiation does a microwave emit and how much harm microwaves can cause to human health.
If you are one of these people concerned about their safety because of microwave radiation, ensure to read this article until the end and equip yourself with the ultimate knowledge regarding this topic.
How Much Radiation Does a Microwave Emit?
If you are a regular microwave user or if you are simply curious about how much radiation a microwave emits, you have come to the right place. As, thankfully, people started being more aware of the potential health risks that microwave ovens can cause, the curiosity regarding this topic has drastically increased.
According to the FDA standards of performance for electronic products that produce radiation, the limit of the amount that can leak from the microwave oven is 5 milliwatts per square centimeter and approximately two inches from the surface of the microwave oven.
Regarding the frequency that microwave ovens use, it is usually around 2.45 GHz, which is similar to the 2.4 GHz WiFi. So, considering this frequency, microwave radiation’s wavelength is around 12 centimeters (4.7 inches).
Finally, as radiation emitted from a microwave oven is a bit more complicated, you can read much more about it in the continuation of this article.
The type of microwave radiation
The first and foremost thing you need to know regarding the microwave is the type of radiation it emits. So, if you want to understand how much radiation does a microwave emit and how it can affect you, you must know the basics of this type of radiation.
Namely, the radiation that the microwave oven emits is called microwave radiation and is second on the electromagnetic spectrum. This radiation falls under non-ionizing radiation, which basically does not have enough energy per quantum to ionize molecules or atoms. In other words, non-ionizing radiation does not have the power to remove an electron from a particular molecule or atom completely.
That said, the microwave radiation wavelength is anywhere between one meter (3.2 feet) to one millimeter (0.003 feet), and its frequencies vary between 300 MHz and 300 GHz.
In the end, besides microwave ovens, microwaves are used in astronomy, radars, satellites, wireless networks, garage doors, etc.
Cooking with microwaves
Now that you know what microwave radiation is and how much radiation does a microwave emit, it is time to see how this radiation aids in cooking food and whether it can change the food or not.
To begin with, I would first like to point out the way that microwaves work. Inside every microwave, there is an electron tube called a magnetron. This tube is responsible for creating microwaves inside the microwave oven.
Once microwaves (electromagnetic radiation) are created, they start to reflect from the metal surfaces in the microwave oven and cause the water molecules in the food to vibrate. After longer vibration, they produce heat that cooks or warms up the food.
Another thing you must know regarding cooking food with a microwave is that, unlike other cooking appliances, a microwave oven cooks the food outside, so if you try to cook any thicker food, it will stay raw or cold in the middle.
So, is microwaved food contaminated or radioactive? Although more research needs to be done, it seems that if you do not let your food stay in the microwave too long, it is supposed not to have big harmful effects on your health.
The Safety Standards of Microwave Ovens
As I have mentioned earlier, to stay safe and to avoid exposure to larger amounts of microwave radiation, FDA has limited the amount of microwave radiation that can leak from microwave ovens. Although the amount of 5 milliwatts (mW) of radiation per square centimeter might not sound scary, constant exposure to it, the consequences of this radiation can not be avoided.
Additionally, as another safety standard, you can notice that when the door from the microwave is suddenly opened, the microwave stops working, i.e., it stops producing microwave radiation.
Finally, to ensure that all the microwave ovens that go up for sale are safe, FDA tests them in their laboratories. Still, since they consider smaller amounts of microwave radiation not harmful, they, of course, give permission for sale.
Microwave ovens’ impact on human health
As I believe that besides knowing how much radiation a microwave emits, you must know how microwave ovens can impact human health. I have made sure to include all the possible health side effects of microwave radiation.
Remember that these potential health side effects can appear after prolonged use and exposure to higher doses of microwave radiation, mostly in people more sensitive to this type of radiation.
The most common side effect from prolonged exposure to high doses of microwave radiation is overheating or even burns. However, to experience these severe symptoms, you must stand extremely close to a maximum dose of microwave radiation.
Other potential symptoms that might occur from high microwave radiation doses are cataracts on the eyes, inflammation, or some more serious damage to the testes, irritability, persistent headaches, blurry vision, insomnia, etc.
How to Safely Use a Microwave Oven?
- Avoid operating the microwave if the door is not properly closed
- Do not stand closely in front of the microwave while it is in working mode
- Do not heat liquids or water in the microwave longer than what the manufacturer instructed
- Regularly clean your microwave oven as per instructions in the manual
- Use only microwave-safe cookware in the microwave oven as per instructions
- Stop using the microwave if it continues working even though its door is open