Science Friday on NPR radio, Ira Flatow interviewed Timothy Jorgensen, associate professor of Radiation Medicine at Georgetown University, and John Drengenberg, the Consumer Safety Director at Underwriters Laboratories about Microwave Ovens.
Here are some questions and answers regarding the safety of microwaves based from this interview.
- If you put your hand in a microwave while it is on, what happens?
First, it will burn the skin. It’s best to not place your hand in a microwave that is still running. But if you do, withdraw it quickly. The main hazards from a microwave comes from the heating. Secondly, get rid of the microwave.
2. Who invented the microwave?
Microwaves have been in homes 50 years. The invention was accidental. Percy Spencer, at Raytheon was working on developing radar for the government. One day he was working with the magnetron, which is what produces radar waves. The thing was on and it melted the candy bar in his pocket. The next day he brought an egg and aimed the magnetron at it and the egg exploded. After more experimentation, he went on to patent it and it became the microwave oven.
3. Is it safe to stand in front of a running microwave oven?
Yes, the mesh in the glass prevents the micro waves from coming through the glass, and causes the waves to bounce around in the oven.
4. Does a microwave oven leak out rays?
Microwave ovens are very safe. But when you spill food in the oven it may harden on the door gasket. This crusty food may cause leakage. When you spill food clean it up with a wet rag immediately.
5. Is there nuclear energy or radiation of this type involved in microwave ovens? As the saying goes, “Going to nuke some hot dogs”.
No, there’s no nuking (nuclear energy) in microwave ovens. The radiation comes in an electromagnetic spectrum. Wavelengths that run as long as a football field are in microwave ovens, cell phones and AM radios. This non-ionizing radiation will not do any chemical or biological damage.
Now x-rays and gamma rays (ionizing radiation), have wavelengths that measure one-hundredth of a width of a hair, can do chemical and biological damage.
6. What is the safest way to cook your food in a microwave oven?
Paper bowls or ceramic work well. Do not use metal, aluminum foil, or re-constituted paper plates (they contain metal filings).
Enjoy your microwave. Here’s to your Health!
Kim Lowrey, Certified Colon Hydrotherapist
Colon Hydrotherapy Center, Fayetteville, AR