Do microwave ovens use radiation-are they harmful?


Do microwave ovens use radiation-are they harmful? Yes, microwave ovens do use radiation. They use a radiation type called non-ionizing radiation( with wavelengths ranging from 10^-9 to 10^5 and frequencies of 10^3 to 10^18) which is not harmful to the human body.

Below I have attached an image of the electromagnetic spectrum of radiation. The spectrum clearly shows the radiations being divided into two types.

  • Ionizing Radiation
  • Non-Ionizing Radiation
Do microwave ovens use radiation

Ionizing radiation is further divided into gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet rays (UV). These are called ionizing radiations as they possess high energy and can cause damage to the cells in the human body as they excite electrons and can lead to DNA damage if you are exposed to them for a long time. The gamma rays are released mostly by nuclear fission and radioactive elements like uranium. X-rays on the other hand are the ones used by your doctor to visualize your bones. UV-rays are the ones that are found in sunlight.

The second type of radiation is non-ionizing radiation. They include visible light (the spectrum of light that we can see with our eyes), infrared rays, microwaves and radio waves. These are all types of radiation that are not harmful as they possess only very little energy. They are not able to cause any DNA damage as they don’t excite electrons in atoms. They are pretty safe, that is the reason why they are used in a lot of appliances.

Infrared and microwaves both are used to heat objects while radio waves are used in cellphones and Wi-Fi etc. If you want to read more about ionizing radiations you can visit here.

Do microwave ovens use radiation


The question = Do microwaves use radiation?

Answer = Yes they do, but it is not the harmful type.

Follow-up Questions to “Do microwaves use radiation”

Are micro-waves harmful to skin

No, they are not. Keep reading on for the big disclaimer. Microwaves are non-ionizing radiations and hence they are very safe as they don’t generate free radicals. Free radicals are only generated by ionizing radiations. The microwaves don’t have the energy to excite and dislodge electrons from their orbits in the atoms as I explained above. But if you place your hand or any skin part in the microwave oven when it is on you can get burns or blisters. This occurs because microwaves cause the water molecules to get excited and this causes a release of energy. This is the same method which causes your food to get warmed up.

Can microwaves oven harm my skin in any way?

Yes, they can. The microwaves can cause the water molecules in your skin cells to emit energy that can cause first or second-degree burns.

Are microwaves trapped by the casing

Yes, the casing of the microwave oven works like a faraday cage to trap the microwaves. It is always a good idea to get a microwave that allows very few microwaves to escape. I have listed an example if you want to check it out here.

Are microwave ovens harmful when they are on

As the radiations emitted by microwave ovens are in the non-ionizing spectrum they are not harmful when they are on. Bear in mind that I am talking about when you operate with their front door closed.

Are microwave ovens harmful when they are off

Microwave ovens usually don’t emit any radiation when they are off, unlike radiation from radioactive materials so they are generally very safe. The microwave oven only emits radiation when it is turned on, and even that radiation is generally not harmful to humans.

Are microwaved food items harmful to eat

No, they aren’t. Microwaving food causes it to just heat up. This is because the microwaves cause the water molecules in the food items to get excited and release energy that just heats up the food. The microwaves don’t cause any changes to food items themselves, other than the changes that occur to food when it is heated up.

Do microwave ovens cause cancer

No, they don’t. This is a very common but false myth. Microwave ovens are incapable of causing cancer. This is based on the nature of the waves they emit as I explained earlier.

Do microwave ovens heat my kitchen

Yes, they can. Microwave ovens convert electricity into microwaves, which are carriers of energy. These carry cause-specific molecules to excite. Usually, they excite water molecules. Most items containing water will heat up, especially if you leave the door open.

Can I start the microwave oven with the door open?

No, you shouldn’t. Microwaves are waves. Microwave ovens have a faraday cage that stops these microwaves from leaving the casing and all waves usually get absorbed by the casing. Only a few minor waves can escape which usually don’t cause any harm. But if you turn the microwave oven on with the door open, all the microwaves can escape the Faraday cage made by the casing of the microwave oven. Hence, these escaped microwaves can cause all items which have water molecules within them to heat up. The most dangerous thing would be that microwaves can even heat up the water within your cells and can cause burns or blisters if you are standing very close to the open door. It is usually a better idea to buy a microwave oven that automatically turns off the power when you open the door. This ensures that you don’t accidentally open the door when the microwave is on.

Can microwave ovens harm in any way?

Yes, they can. If you stick your hand accidentally when the microwave oven is on, your skin can get burned. So, it is always a better idea to get a microwave oven that automatically turns off when you open the door accidentally while it’s on.

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