The Dangers of Microwave Radiation and How To Reduce ExposureJul 03, 2017
by the editorial team and Sophia Ruan Gushée
As someone who has become sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), I have often wondered about the safety of microwave ovens. Are they safe: not only in terms of the radiation they emit, but also in terms of what they may do to the food that they cook?
What is microwave radiation?
Microwave radiation is a class of radio waves that have frequencies ranging from 3000 waves per second (3 kHz) to 300 billion waves per second (300 GHz). These high level radio frequencies (RF) can damage our DNA and potentially cause cancer.
The NASA video below explains microwave radiation.
Where can microwave radiation be found?
Microwave ovens are not the only source of microwave radiation. Other sources include cell phones, TV, radio, WiFi, and bluetooth. These devices emit very low levels of microwave radiation and there is no immediate concern.
However, long term, chronic exposures to these sources is not well studied. After all, our average daily exposures are unprecedented. For example, the iPhone was just released in 2007. Since then, there's been a boom in smart, wireless products. So, we simply have not had enough time and data to study the potential threats to our health from our current EMF circumstances.
Becoming aware of what we do know is an important first step. In this article, we focus on common appliances that emit microwave radiation. From there, you're better positioned to reduce your exposures and maybe decrease your risk of developing suspected health effects.
Learn more about devices that emit radiation here: EMF Danger Levels of Home Appliances.
Facts and Studies
While I don't think we've had enough time and data to understand the long-term effects of an average person's exposure to microwave radiation, below are examples of a few studies that suggest precautionary measures.
- According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), our eyes are one of the most vulnerable. (Testes are highly vulnerable too.) Unlike other areas of the body, they lack the blood vessels to dissipate the heat and cellular stress caused by radiation exposure. Cataracts have been reported in those frequently exposed to x-ray radiation.
- A 2016 study in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine revealed that long-term microwave radiation exposure increases your risk of impaired brain function and can affect our central nervous system (CNS) causing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's (the most common form of dementia), cancer, and infertility.
- Another study found that over exposure to microwave radiation caused headaches, fatigue, memory loss, impaired learning, brain damage, and dysfunction.
Are microwave ovens safe?
Some of the most credible organizations including the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and the FDA agree that microwave ovens do not pose a risk to our health when used properly. And a minority of experts warn that microwave ovens are not safe.
One important thing you should do is assess whether your microwave meets the most recent regulations, and that you’re using it properly.
Avoid radiation exposure from your microwave
The most common misuse of microwave ovens is because they are somehow damaged or otherwise faulty.
This may include:
- Being unable to close the microwave door properly
- A loose seal or hinge
- Being unable to turn the microwave off after opening the door
Radiation injuries can happen from radiation leaking through gaps in microwave oven seals. If you notice any of the above, stop using the microwave immediately.
Tips to avoid radiation from your microwave
- Leave the room while the microwave is in use
- Avoid use when you have children around
- Test your microwave for leaks – you can do this simply by placing your cell phone in the microwave, calling from another phone and seeing if the signal goes through. Although they emit different frequencies, the microwave oven should block it.
Does microwaving your food make your food more unhealthy?
Again, there is debate on whether microwaving food deteriorates its quality. While there's no consensus, most seem to believe that microwaving food does not significantly decrease nutritional value more than other forms of cooking. A minority claim that it denatures proteins, like in breast milk (it's recommended that you NOT use the microwave for breast milk). One thing I know is that microwaving plastics and other packaging materials can contaminate your food with toxic chemicals. For example, hormone disruptors (like BPA and phthalates) can be released from food packaging, when heated, into your food.
The general consensus is that microwave ovens are safe when used properly. The jury is still out on our everyday sources of microwave radiation. Regardless, my instincts lead me to avoid microwaving food whenever possible, and to reduce any unnecessary microwave radiation.
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