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#1 mattie



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Posted 23 January 2003 - 07:08 PM

I have been wondering about microwaves and whether the studies that show they can be harmful were done on older microwaves, and if now they are safe?

I have mine right by the dining table and sometimes use it while we are all sitting there. Is there a safe distance? If I move it, is it OK to use--or is the food not healthy to eat? I use it mostly for warming things up. Thank you for doing this. mattie

#2 Margaret Meade Glaser

Margaret Meade Glaser


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Posted 26 January 2003 - 04:59 PM

Mattie, here's the situation with microwave ovens---they are little
shielded boxes in which food is beamed with high-power microwaves, in
the 2.4 to 2.45 GHz frequency range (that's 2,400-2,450 MHz) thus
causing the food to heat or cook. Early models (before 1973) leaked
badly, but even more recent models will leak somewhat. The FCC allows
leakage of 1 mW/cm2 (1 thousandth of a watt absorbed per square
centimeter of body tissue) for those still in the store. Over time,
however, the shielding deteriorates, seals may break down, doors may
sag, etc., and significant leakage can occur while operating.

As an example, my colleague, physicist Dr. Bill Curry, measured radiation from his 10-year-old microwave while it was operating and found that at a 7-inch distance, levels were 30 microwatts (millionths of a watt)/cm2 maximum. Based on the fall-off rate for such radiation, he calculated that at a 36-inch distance, the radiation would drop down to 1.1 microwatts/cm2. He says that whether this amount of radiation encountered on an occasional basis is a health hazard will probably depend on the user's state of health and degree of electrosensitivity.

He has read a report on an old microwave that was so leaky that it measured the same level of radiation at a distance of 9 feet that his measured at 7 inches! Now, that level of radiation is clearly too high for health.

The area of greatest vulnerability to leakage is the door and the edges around it. Sometimes replacing a worn door gasket can make a difference.

As for your dining room location, it is probably best to move it so
it is several feet from where people are sitting or working while it is

Regarding the safety of the microwaved food, I understand it is
better to use microwave ovens for warming food rather than cooking. However, there are studies that suggest it may affect the food at the molecular level in any case, and theoretically the body. The studies are few and used a small number of test subjects. This is a also an area in which more research is needed.
Margaret Meade Glaser
EMR Network, Board of Directors

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