Microwave Oven Radiation (2023)

  • What is Microwave Radiation?
  • Cooking with Microwaves
  • Avoiding Injuries from Super-Heated Water in Microwave Ovens
  • Microwave Oven Safety Standard
  • Microwave Ovens and Health
  • Have Radiation Injuries Resulted from Microwave Ovens?
  • Microwave Ovens and Pacemakers
  • Checking Ovens for Leakage and Other Radiation Safety Problems
  • How to Report Microwave Oven Radiation Safety Problems
  • Tips on Safe Microwave Oven Operation

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated the manufacture of microwave ovens since 1971. Microwave oven manufacturers are required to certify their products and meet safety performance standards created and enforced by the FDA to protect the public health. On the basis of current knowledge about microwave radiation, the Agency believes that ovens that meet the FDA standard and are used according to the manufacturer's instructions are safe for use.

What is Microwave Radiation?

Microwaves are a form of "electromagnetic" radiation; that is, they are waves of electrical and magnetic energy moving together through space. Electromagnetic radiation spans a broad spectrum from very long radio waves to very short gamma rays. The human eye can only detect a small portion of this spectrum called visible light. A radio detects a different portion of the spectrum, and an X-ray machine uses yet another portion.

Visible light, microwaves, and radio frequency (RF) radiation are forms of non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to knock electrons out of atoms. X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation. Exposure to ionizing radiation can alter atoms and molecules and cause damage to cells in organic matter.

Microwaves are used to detect speeding cars and to send telephone and television communications. Industry uses microwaves to dry and cure plywood, to cure rubber and resins, to raise bread and doughnuts, and to cook potato chips. But the most common consumer use of microwave energy is in microwave ovens. Microwaves have three characteristics that allow them to be used in cooking: they are reflected by metal; they pass through glass, paper, plastic, and similar materials; and they are absorbed by foods.

Cooking with Microwaves

Microwaves are produced inside the oven by an electron tube called a magnetron. The microwaves are reflected within the metal interior of the oven where they are absorbed by food. Microwaves cause water molecules in food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food. That's why foods that are high in water content, like fresh vegetables, can be cooked more quickly than other foods. The microwave energy is changed to heat as it is absorbed by food, and does not make food “radioactive” or "contaminated."

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Although heat is produced directly in the food, microwave ovens do not cook food from the "inside out." When thick foods are cooked, the outer layers are heated and cooked primarily by microwaves while the inside is cooked mainly by the conduction of heat from the hot outer layers.

Microwave cooking can be more energy efficient than conventional cooking because foods cook faster and the energy heats only the food, not the whole oven compartment. Microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking. In fact, foods cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals, because microwave ovens can cook more quickly and without adding water.

Glass, paper, ceramic, or plastic containers are used in microwave cooking because microwaves pass through these materials. Although such containers cannot be heated by microwaves, they can become hot from the heat of the food cooking inside. Some plastic containers should not be used in a microwave oven because they can be melted by the heat of the food inside. Generally, metal pans or aluminum foil should also not be used in a microwave oven, as the microwaves are reflected off these materials causing the food to cook unevenly and possibly damaging the oven. The instructions that come with each microwave oven indicate the kinds of containers to use. They also cover how to test containers to see whether or not they can be used in microwave ovens.

Avoiding Injuries from Super-Heated Water in Microwave Ovens

The FDA received reports in the past of serious skin burns or scalding injuries around people's hands and faces as a result of hot water erupting out of a cup after it had been overheated in a microwave oven. Super-heated water (water heated past its boiling temperature) does not appear to be boiling and occurs when water is heated by itself in a clean cup. If super-heating has occurred, a slight disturbance or movement such as picking up the cup, or pouring in a spoon full of instant coffee, may result in a violent eruption with the boiling water exploding out of the cup. Adding substances such as instant coffee or sugar before heating greatly reduces this risk.

Users should closely follow the precautions and recommendations provided in the microwave oven instruction manuals, specifically regarding heating times. Users should make sure that they do not exceed the recommended heating times when determining the best time settings to heat water to the desired temperature.

(Video) Does a microwave oven leak radiation? Lets measure it.

Microwave Oven Safety Standard

Through its Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the FDA sets and enforces standards of performance for electronic products to assure that radiation emissions do not pose a hazard to public health.

A Federal standard (21 CFR 1030.10) limits the amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime to 5 milliwatts (mW) of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the oven surface. This limit is far below the level known to harm people. Microwave energy also decreases dramatically as you move away from the source of radiation. A measurement made 20 inches from an oven would be approximately 1/100th of the value measured at 2 inches from the oven.

The standard also requires all ovens to have two independent interlock systems that stop the production of microwaves the moment the latch is released or the door is opened. In addition, a monitoring system stops oven operation in case one or both of the interlock systems fail.

All ovens must have a label stating that they meet the safety standard. In addition, the FDA requires that all ovens have a label explaining precautions for use. This requirement may be dropped if the manufacturer has proven that the oven will not exceed the allowable leakage limit even if used under the conditions cautioned against on the label.

To make sure the standard is met, FDA tests microwave ovens in its own laboratory. The FDA also evaluates manufacturers' radiation testing and quality control programs at their factories.

(Video) Will Microwaving Food Give You Radiation?

Microwave Ovens and Health

Microwave radiation can heat body tissue the same way it heats food. Exposure to high levels of microwaves can cause a painful burn. Two areas of the body, the eyes and the testes, are particularly vulnerable to RF heating because there is relatively little blood flow in them to carry away excess heat. Additionally, the lens of the eye is particularly sensitive to intense heat, and exposure to high levels of microwaves can cause cataracts. But these types of injuries – burns and cataracts – can only be caused by exposure to large amounts of microwave radiation.

Consumers should take common sense precautions regarding handling of hot foods and beverages. For more safety recommendations see the section of this page titled: Tips on Safe Microwave Oven Operation.

Have Radiation Injuries Resulted from Microwave Ovens?

Most injuries related to microwave ovens are the result of heat-related burns from hot containers, overheated foods, or exploding liquids. Most injuries are not radiation-related. That said, there have been very rare instances of radiation injury due to unusual circumstances or improper servicing. In general, microwave oven radiation injuries are caused by exposure to large amounts of microwave radiation leaking through openings such as gaps in the microwave oven seals. However, FDA regulations require that microwave ovens are designed to prevent these high level radiation leaks.

Microwave Ovens and Pacemakers

At one time there was concern that radiation leakage from microwave ovens could interfere with certain electronic cardiac pacemakers. Similar concerns were raised about pacemaker interference from electric shavers, auto ignition systems, and other electronic products. While FDA does not specifically require microwave ovens to carry warnings for people with pacemakers, this problem has largely been resolved as today’s pacemakers are designed to shield against such electrical interference. However, patients with pacemakers are encouraged to consult their physicians if they have concerns.

Checking Ovens for Leakage and Other Radiation Safety Problems

There is little cause for concern about excess microwaves leaking from ovens unless the door hinges, latch, or seals are damaged. The FDA recommends looking at your oven carefully, and not using an oven if the door doesn’t close firmly or is bent, warped, or otherwise damaged.

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The FDA also monitors appliances for radiation safety issues and has received reports of microwave ovens that appear to stay on – and operate – while the door is open. When operating as intended, microwave ovens have safety features to prevent them from continuing to generate microwaves if the door is open. However, if an oven does continue to operate with the door open, consumers cannot be 100 percent sure that microwave radiation is not being emitted. Thus, if this occurs, the FDA recommends immediately discontinuing use of the oven.

How to Report Microwave Oven Radiation Safety Problems

If you suspect a radiation safety problem with your microwave oven, you may contact the microwave oven manufacturer. Manufacturers who discover that any microwave ovens produced, assembled, or imported by them have a defect or fail to comply with an applicable Federal standard are required to immediately notify FDA. In addition, manufacturers/importers are required to report all accidental radiation occurrences to the FDA, unless the incident is associated with a defect or noncompliance that has previously been reported (21 CFR 1002.20).

You may also report any suspected radiation-related problems or injuries to the FDA by completing and mailing the Accidental Radiation Occurrence Report form.

Tips on Safe Microwave Oven Operation

  • Follow the manufacturer's instruction manual for recommended operating procedures and safety precautions for your oven model.
  • Use microwave safe cookware specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven.
  • Don't operate a microwave oven if the door does not close firmly or is bent, warped, or otherwise damaged.
  • Stop using a microwave oven if it continues to operate with the door open.
  • As an added safety precaution, don't stand directly against an oven (and don't allow children to do this) for long periods of time while it is operating.
  • Do not heat water or liquids in the microwave oven longer than recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Some ovens should not be operated when empty. Refer to the instruction manual for your oven.
  • Regularly clean the oven cavity, the outer edge of the cavity, and the door with water and a mild detergent. A special microwave oven cleaner is not necessary. Be sure to not use scouring pads, steel wool, or other abrasives.

For more consumer information on microwave oven radiation, contact the Staff of the Division of Industry and Consumer Education (DICE) by email at DICE@fda.hhs.gov.


Does microwave oven emit radiation? ›

Microwave ovens use electromagnetic radiation to heat food. The non-ionizing radiation used by a microwave does not make the food radioactive. Microwaves are only produced when the oven is operating.

Is microwave oven safe for health? ›

Food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe, and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

How much radiation does a microwave expose you to? ›

The FDA rules also say that only a certain amount of radiation can leak from the microwave at about 2 inches away or farther. The amount is 5 milliwatts per square centimeter, which is a level of radiation that is not dangerous to people.

How do I know if my microwave is leaking radiation? ›

Call the phone inside the microwave.

If you hear a ring, your microwave is leaking radiation, assuming the settings on your phone are correct. It's highly unlikely that your leaking microwave is a danger to your health. All microwaves are FDA approved and emit tiny amounts of radiation.

Does covering food in microwave reduce radiation? ›

Microwave radiation isn't blocked by anything you'd use as a microwave cover/wrap, because then your food wouldn't heat up. So it's a good thing your friend's cover does nothing.

What are 3 disadvantages of using a microwave? ›

Following are the disadvantages:

It is not advisable to stand in front of the microwave as it is harmful while cooking. Radiation it emits is dangerous. Even plastic used in microwave cooking is dangerous as it emits Bisphenol which is also again very harmful. It is more dangerous for cooking baby food.

Does Europe use microwaves? ›

94 percent of households in Greece own a cooker/oven according to the Statista Global Consumer Survey. Finland has the highest ownership rate of microwaves amongst the most populous countries in Europe with 91 percent.
12 more rows
Nov 23, 2022

Is oven safer than microwave? ›

Because they heat the food from the inside out (rather than outside-in), microwave ovens have a better cooking efficiency (the % of energy that heats food during the cooking cycle) than electric or gas convection ovens.
Energy use.
Oven typeEfficiency
Electric convection oven17%
Gas convection oven9%

How much radiation is in a banana? ›

Each banana can emit . 01 millirem (0.1 microsieverts) of radiation. This is a very small amount of radiation. To put that in context, you would need to eat about 100 bananas to receive the same amount of radiation exposure as you get each day in United States from natural radiation in the environment.

How long is microwave radiation? ›

A Introduction and Physical Properties. Microwave radiation is commonly defined as that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths between 1 mm and 1 m (or the equivalent frequency range from 300 GHz to 300 MHz).

How long can you stay in a microwave? ›

Surprisingly, a human being might survive being in a microwave for only 30s. Your eyeballs would probably be fried, as they have a lot of water.

Is microwave radiation cancerous? ›

Microwaves are not known to cause cancer. Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to heat food, but this does not mean that they make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food by causing water molecules to vibrate and, as a result, food is heated.

What happens if you stand too close to a microwave? ›

Proximity to a microwave oven is not dangerous.

Can a leaky microwave make you sick? ›

The answer is no. In the event that an old or faulty microwave does leak, the level of non-ionizing radiation it emits is too low to be harmful.

What absorbs microwave radiation? ›

Electromagnetic radiation, such as microwaves, are all the time reflected, transmitted, and/or absorbed by any kind of matter, glasses, conductors, water, ferrites, and so forth. Magnetic materials absorb greatly microwaves. The more magnetic, the more microwaves are absorbed.

What are the side effects of microwave waves? ›

The damaging effects of MW radiation on the brain include brain dysfunction and brain structural damage. An epidemiological survey found that MW radiation caused human fatigue, headache, excitement, dreams, memory loss and other symptoms of neurasthenia [20].

What are the symptoms of EMF radiation? ›

The symptoms most commonly experienced include dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling, and burning sensations) as well as neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation, and digestive disturbances).

What food should not be microwaved? ›

What foods should not be microwaved?
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs. It's not a good idea to reheat hardboiled eggs (Credit: Alamy/Rachel Husband) ...
  • Frozen Meat. Thawing frozen meat in the microwave can have detrimental side effects (Credit: Alamy/Ekaterina Kolomeets) ...
  • Chicken. ...
  • Seafood. ...
  • Breast Milk. ...
  • Chillies. ...
  • Leafy Greens. ...
  • Bread.

Is it safe to cover food with paper towel in microwave? ›

Most paper towels are microwave-safe. In fact, you can use a paper towel to cover some foods so they don't spit during cooking or reheating. If you do use a paper towel while microwaving, it's best to use shorter intervals so you can check both the food and the paper more frequently.

How do you heat up food without radiation? ›

To warm up leftover food on the stove in a pan or pot add a little water or broth (for soups, stews, beans, pasta sauce, pasta noodles, or rice) and cover with a lid. Use low medium heat (to heat without burning) to create steam to help heat up the food.

What is the safest way to use a microwave? ›

Eight Safety Tips on Using a Microwave Oven
  1. Exercise caution when heating water. ...
  2. Confirm that the door shuts tightly. ...
  3. Never place metal items inside of the oven. ...
  4. Only use suitable ceramic, plastic and glass dishes. ...
  5. Don't place sealed containers in the oven. ...
  6. Never activate this appliance when it's empty.
Jul 17, 2019

What are the most problem with microwave? ›

The most common cause of microwave failure is its magnetron. The magnetron is what produces the microwaves that cook your food, and it's also the part that is most likely to burn out. Symptoms of a faulty or burned-out magnetron include a microwave that doesn't heat food properly or doesn't work.

What are 5 disadvantages of using a microwave oven? ›

The Cons of Microwave Cooking

The cold spots will not taste good, and the hot spots could result in burns to the mouth. If the food that is being microwaved does not have enough water content, there is a risk of it becoming too dry. Only microwave-safe utensils can be used in these ovens.

What percentage of Americans have a microwave? ›

What percentage of american households don't have a microwave oven? 90% of American households now own a microwave, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why don't we use microwave? ›

The taste and texture of the food becomes different.

Unlike conventional ovens or stove tops, microwave ovens do not heat your food evenly. Oftentimes, your meals becomes rubbery or sticky in texture once you heat them up. There are also instances where your food has not heated evenly, and it has hot and cold spots.

Do Italians use microwave ovens? ›

Even in Italy, the microwave is experiencing a revival, after years in which we've seen it relegated to the nobody of household appliances – dusted off only to defrost bread at the last minute, melt chocolate or boil milk for hot drinks.

Are air fryers healthy? ›

Are Air-Fried Foods Better for You? By most measures, air frying is healthier than frying in oil. It cuts calories by 70% to 80% and has a lot less fat. This cooking method might also cut down on some of the other harmful effects of oil frying.

Does microwaving eggs destroy nutrients? ›

Microwaved eggs are just as healthy, if not more so than oven-cooked eggs. Depending on how long you cook them and what you cook them with, you can maximize an egg's nutrition using a microwave. Certified food scientist Guy Crosby, Ph.

Do cell phones put off radiation? ›

Do cell phones give off (emit) radiation? Yes – cell phones and cordless phones use radiofrequency radiation (RF) to send signals. RF is different from other types of radiation (like x-rays) that we know can be harmful. We don't know for sure if RF radiation from cell phones can cause health problems years later.

How much radiation is in a phone? ›

Cell phones emit radiation in the radiofrequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Second-, third-, and fourth-generation cell phones (2G, 3G, 4G) emit radiofrequency in the frequency range of 0.7–2.7 GHz. Fifth-generation (5G) cell phones are anticipated to use the frequency spectrum up to 80 GHz.

Can you cook radiation out of food? ›

When cooking meat or fish, the amount of radioactive materials can be halved by discarding the cooking liquid. It is known that the removal rate is higher when boiling or cooking than grilling them.

Is it OK to open microwave door while running? ›

There are two safety switches that instantly turn the microwave off when the door is opened. It is safe to open the door when it is running as it will turn off.

Should you leave microwave door open after use? ›

Leaving the microwave door open for a short time after use lets the steam trapped inside to evaporate. This prevents condensation from leaving water marks on the oven walls and moisture buildup between the glass door layers. Airing it out for a few minutes also helps eliminate strong food smells.

What would happen if I was in a microwave for 3 seconds? ›

Modern microwave ovens will cause your skin to heat up and your retinas to burn. Your blood will curdle and cause you to cook from the inside out. Finally, you'll get a 100 percent body burn and die from shock. Yikes.

What does EMF do to the brain? ›

A number of studies have reported that RF-EMF exposure of animal models increases blood-brain barrier permeability, impairs intracellular calcium homeostasis, alters neurotransmitters, and increases neuronal loss and damage in brain tissue4,5,6,7,8.

What are the effects of EMF on the body? ›

Effects on general health

Reported symptoms include headaches, anxiety, suicide and depression, nausea, fatigue and loss of libido. To date, scientific evidence does not support a link between these symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Are air fryers cancerous? ›

Air frying equipment is not known to cause cancer, but the process of air frying does result in the formation of certain compounds, like acrylamide, which are linked to cancer development. Acrylamides are chemicals that are classified as probable human carcinogens.

Why should you let food stand after microwaving? ›

Microwave and food manufacturers often recommend leaving food to stand for a few minutes after cooking or defrosting. This is important for safety as it helps to even out the temperatures and eliminate hot spots. A good rule of thumb is to leave food to stand for roughly half the microwaving time.

How high should a microwave be off the floor? ›

The National Kitchen and Bath Association says that the bottom of the microwave to be no higher than 54 inches off the floor.

How can I tell if my microwave is leaking radiation? ›

Call the phone inside the microwave.

If you hear a ring, your microwave is leaking radiation, assuming the settings on your phone are correct. It's highly unlikely that your leaking microwave is a danger to your health. All microwaves are FDA approved and emit tiny amounts of radiation.

Do modern microwaves leak radiation? ›

Can microwaves leak radiation? Health Canada states that "some microwave energy may leak from your oven while you are using it, but this would pose no known health risks, as long as the oven is properly maintained." Old or faulty door seals are the most common causes of microwave radiation leakage.

What happens if microwave radiation leaks? ›

Microwave leakage

Some microwave energy may leak from your oven while you are using it, but this would pose no known health risks, as long as the oven is properly maintained.

Do air fryers emit radiation? ›

Unlike the other ovens such as microwaves which use electromagnetic radiation, air fryers do not give off radiation and work by circulating the hot air around the food.

Is it safe to have a microwave in your bedroom? ›

“People tend to be more worried about man-made types of radiation rather than cosmic radiation from space or radon from the soil,” Jorgensen said. However, “microwaves don't have enough energy to cause biological damage as we think x-rays do.”

How long does it take microwave radiation to dissipate? ›

The moment you keep microwave oven off (or the time setting is over) the radiation (microwaves) is stopped. The field decay time ( the time in which all radiation is decayed off from the cavity-oven box) is 5 nano seconds [2], that is 1/1000000000 th of a second.

Which is better air fryer or microwave oven? ›

Health. The air fryer uses minimal to no oil to cook food, whereas a microwave oven requires more oil to cook food. So, food cooked in an air fryer is more nutritious than in a microwave oven.

Does ice emit radiation? ›

Since the primary source of infrared radiation is heat or thermal radiation, any object which has a temperature radiates in the infrared. Even objects that we think of as being very cold, such as an ice cube, emit infrared.

Do toaster ovens use radiation? ›

Cooking Process

Toaster ovens cook foods using infrared radiation produced by coils with an electric current.

What is a safe distance from a microwave? ›

General Recommendations for Safe Use of Microwave Ovens

Keep at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) away from your microwave oven while it is in use. Where you have a choice, and time permits, rather use conventional cooking methods, to reduce your exposure to microwave and low-frequency EMF.

Do microwave oven doors block radiation? ›

Microwave ovens, like cell phones, emit radiation in a specific band of EM frequencies -- specifically radio waves. All things being equal, you should expect that by placing your phone inside a microwave and closing the door the signal would be blocked by the shell of the microwave oven.

What are the long term effects of microwave radiation? ›

The damaging effects of MW radiation on the brain include brain dysfunction and brain structural damage. An epidemiological survey found that MW radiation caused human fatigue, headache, excitement, dreams, memory loss and other symptoms of neurasthenia [20].

What happens if a microwave runs with nothing in it? ›

When the oven is empty none, or almost none of the microwaves are absorbed. A large amount of energy reflects around the oven chamber resulting in large standing waves that can damage the unit.

Why is my microwave always wet inside? ›

It is normal for condensation to form on the inside of the microwave, especially when you are cooking food with a high water content. This includes condensation that forms between the glass panes. The condensation will dissipate in time. You can also leave the door open to help it dissipate faster.

What happens if you open a microwave before it's done? ›

Also, a properly functioning microwave oven automatically turns off the moment you open the door. The last bit of microwaves emitted by the oven bounce around inside and are absorbed within microseconds, long before you have even finished opening the door.


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