Standing Next to Your Microwave Isn’t Dangerous

Standing next to your microwave isn’t dangerous? This question always bothers us one or the other times when we come across news that radiation is harmful to us. Radiation may give birth to various severe diseases in our bodies.

But what is the reality? Do we know that? For that purpose, we must understand the history of Microwave ovens.

History of Microwave Oven

The history of microwave ovens can be traced back to the work of Percy LeBaron Spencer. Percy wasn’t looking for a quick way to reheat his lunch when he started his work one morning back in 1946. He was focusing on improving radar and on his magnetron.

The magnetron, the machine that produces microwaves, was invented in 1921 by Albert Wallace Hull. Magnetron was used by the British to detect enemy aircraft during World War II.

During that particular morning, Percy stopped for a snack. Reaching into his pocket for his candy bar, he was more than a little surprised to find it completely melted.

Being a scientist by nature, his immediate question was why? What caused this to happen?

To answer the question, Percy decided to try experimenting with other foodstuffs. Would the effects be reproduced? First, he put some kernels of popcorn near the magnetron and turned it on. As we could have warned him, with the benefit of hindsight, the popcorn popped and cracked and whizzed all over his lab.

He then moved on to an egg, which (after a short while and a bit of rumbling) exploded.

By the time he’d got his lab and suit cleaned up, his mind had turned to figure out a way to confine the microwaves into a small area along with the food.

The first microwave oven was a very simple metal box. The microwaves being confined to a smaller area bounced around much faster. The result was a far more intense energy field and much faster cooking times.

Does Microwave Radiation Dangerous

Microwave safety has been occasionally questioned more in the past rather than now. However, there are still individuals out there who think that microwave ovens can pose a radiation danger and are a cancer risk. They also believe that standing next to microwave oven is dangerous. Still, the truth is that they either base these beliefs on hearsay or incredibly old research.

People generally tend to fear what they don’t understand, and as far as most are concerned, microwave ovens are still somewhat of a mystery in regards to how or why they work, and the answer is rather simple and easy to understand once you have access to it.

The way microwave ovens heat or cook food is through the use of microwave oven radiation. Now, the word radiation comes with heavy baggage usually being associated with the word nuclear, but this is nothing of the sort. We get bombarded with radiation from the sun all day long, radio waves are a sort of radiation and so forth.

So the microwave energy is produced by a component called the magnetron. It is then fed into the oven’s cavity, where it heats or cooks food by causing the water molecules in the food to vibrate extremely fast.

Vibration gives birth to friction, and friction produces heat which in turn cooks or heats your food. It’s the same process that our ancestors used to create fire by rubbing two sticks together. The only difference now is that we have better sticks.

Can a microwave oven leak radiation?

A microwave oven that has defective seals can lead to risky behaviors. Radiation exposure might be causing harmful effects on your family members without knowing about it.

Dangers of microwave oven radiation includes cataracts, cancer, congenital disabilities and other life-threatening health problems. These issues may in turn damage the nervous system and interfere with your pacemaker.

So, people usually concerned whether standing next to microwave oven is dangerous or not?

Moreover, microwave radiation can be caused by the following practices:

  • Frequent slamming of oven doors,
  • Missing or broken door glass, wear and tear,
  • Defects in manufacturing and build-up of food particles around the door seals.

Radiation leakage on microwave ovens had become a serious concern. Warning labels have been included in the owner’s manual of every microwave oven.

The FDA has been focusing on this problem and has set standards on the limits of the permitted leakage. New microwave unit ovens have a limit of 1 milliWatts/centimeter2 (mW/cm2) of radiated energy power. Any leaks exceeding the standard value with a distance of 2 inches from the microwave oven is strictly prohibited.

Now the problem is whether or not microwave ovens leak some of their energy to the outside, and it is true that in some cases, they might. If you’re dealing with old or faulty door seals, there can theoretically be a small amount of radiation leakage. Still, there’s a small amount of radiation leaking through the viewing glass as well. But measurements have shown this to be quite insignificant.

Let’s not forget that microwave ovens are designed for one purpose, and that is to enclose the microwave energy so that it heats your food in record time; energy leaks would be quite unwanted.

The fact is that even if, let’s say, there would be a leak of microwave energy from your oven, the power of microwave oven radiation decreases extremely quickly as you increase the distance from the oven, meaning that the farther away you are from the microwave, the less radiation you’ll be exposed to. There will be practically no radiation left at only a one-meter distance because it dissipates so fast.

There is also the important fact that microwaves, as their name implies, are very short wave pulses of energy. They’re about five inches long and only survive for a split second once the magnetron generates them.

Also, going back to the radiation issue, there are two forms of radiation: ionizing radiation, which can indeed damage organic molecules. Then there’s non-ionizing radiation that does not damage molecules. Microwaves are part of the second category, and they do not cause the food to become irradiated; they only cause it to heat up.

Some research done by those who repair microwave ovens. The research shows that over half of the microwave ovens that are two years or older leak around ten per cent more radiation than the FDA recommended amount. This may seem to be bad news. But the truth is that with just a minor readjustment, this problem can be solved without much hassle. So, if you have a microwave oven that’s two years or older, make sure that you have it serviced to check for this problem.

Microwave safety tips on how to avoid microwave oven radiation

Other Safety Measures

  1. When the microwave is operating, don’t stay close to it. You must be at least one arm length distance from the microwave
  2. When there is nothing inside to cook, do not run the microwave empty.
  3. Do not turn on the microwave if the door is not properly close
  4. Do not mess around with safety interlock switches or the fuse


It is also worth mentioning that technology has advanced considerably in the past decades, and we now have access to better materials than we did all those years ago. Hence today’s microwave ovens are much safer than they were twenty years ago, and keep in mind they were pretty safe back then. So, Standing next to your microwave isn’t dangerous.

Also Read: Is Microwave Oven Good For Health

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