Microwave Radiation—Should You Be Worried?

A “microwave” is a wave of electromagnetic radiation. These waves are shorter than radio waves, and, besides their use in microwaves ovens, are used in radar and transmitting data. In a microwave oven, these waves pass through the food, which is heated via dielectric heating. This basically means that the molecules in the food are agitated in order to align themselves with the frequency of the microwaves.

But do the microwaves stay in the oven, or do they radiate throughout the room? Should you be concerned about exposure to microwave radiation?

Human Exposure to Microwave Radiation

If the human body is exposed to high levels of microwave radiation, the waves will be converted into heat, just as with food. The eyes and brain are most vulnerable to damage from this type of heat, because these organs can not cool themselves as efficiently as other organs. The cornea and lens of the eye do not have the blood vessels necessary to remove heat. The inner ear, too, has been known to sustain damage from microwave radiation, particularly as it is used in radar. Parts of the inner ear expand in response to the heat, causing clicking or buzzing sounds that interfere with normal hearing.

Some effects of excessive exposure are neurological rather than heat-related. These can include headaches, eye strain, and sleep disturbances. Since these problems are not due to microwave radiation’s effect of heat, they are probably due to exposure to an electromagnetic field.

Some experts note, however, that normally functioning microwave ovens do not emit the type or amount of radiation that is necessary for damage to the human body. Microwaves emit non-ionizing radiation, which means they do not have the ability to change materials by ionization.

So, although there is no need to worry about most everyday exposure to microwave radiation. There are certain instances when you should be cautious. Here are some situations that might warrant extra attention to the potential dangers of microwave radiation.

Microwave Radiation Leakage

Microwaves with faulty or worn out seals on their doors are the ones most likely to leak radiation. Your microwave seal may not be tight enough if there is build-up inside the microwave oven, if the seal is worn, or if the door does not close properly.

There are those who maintain that the windows of microwave ovens leak radiation. While this would be very low levels of microwave radiation, some experts claim that there are valid studies showing that low-level exposure is actually more damaging than high-level exposure.

Pacemakers and Microwave Radiation

Clearly some sort of electromagnetic field occurs around working microwave ovens. People with pacemakers have experienced interference from microwave radiation to the point that modern pacemakers are now made with an electromagnetic shield.

Exposure to Microwaves During Pregnancy

Some health care professionals advise their pregnant clients and patients to stay at least eight feet away from a running microwave, or to leave the room when it’s running.

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