My biggest worry is whether a microwave leaks radiation and how dangerous it is to my health.
Well, if we share the same concern, let’s find out if a microwave can leak radiation.
Can microwave leak radiation?
Yes, according to the FDA, it should only leak 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimeter of radiation. An amount that is not harmful to the human body if you keep at least 2 inches away from your microwave each time it runs.
This article focuses on whether a microwave leaks radiation. It also speaks on the amount of radiation a microwave should leak, what happens when a microwaves leaks radiation, the distance you should keep away from the microwave when running and more.
Can Radiation Leak From a Microwave
A specific amount of 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimeter of radiation can leak from a microwave. As long as you stand at least 2 inches away from the microwave while running, you are safe.
However, occasionally, your microwave may leak more than the expected radiation. Often is due to damage to the door, latch or handle.
Other occasions are when you use unsafe containers for cooking, microwaving water, or any other liquid beyond the required boiling points.
I recommend frequent checks on your microwave’s radiation to ensure it is not leaking huge amounts that can harm your well-being. Also, only use containers with microwave-safe labels.
What Causes Microwave to Leak Radiation?
Damage to the door, a rusty inner surface of the microwave, use of unsafe microwave containers, and microwaving liquids beyond boiling points.
1. Damage to the door
Literary any damage to your microwave may lead to leakage of radiation. However, the largest risk occurs when the damage is on the door.
The door may not be able to seal entirely due to a malfunctioning handle or latch. Microwave manufacturers have been instructed to only manufacture microwaves that are only designed to run when the door is completely shut.
If you notice that your microwave has no problem running when the door is open, the microwave is unsafe for your home. It is best to report the issue to the manufacturer or the FDA by filling out and submitting their Accidental Radiation Occurrence Report form.
2. Rusty inner surface
The inner walls of the microwave are designed to seal radiation inside and try as much as possible not to let it out. However, damage to the surfaces may cause the radiation to leak.
Damage to the inner surface of microwaves is often due to the cleaning agent used when washing your microwave. Some cleaning agents have high acidic levels that may make your microwave to look sparkling clean, yet they are highly corrosive.
I prefer mildly scented dishwashing soap, lemon or vinegar, and water when washing my microwave. I also do it as often as possible so I do not feel the need to get stronger cleaning agents to scrub the surfaces.
3. Use of unsafe microwave containers
Unsafe microwave containers may react with microwave radiation to produce radiation that can no longer be contained in sealed microwave doors. For instance, the use of metallic containers in the microwave.
Or the use of containers with traces of metals incorporated. Such containers may even go beyond by sparkling and causing fire.
The mugs and bowls I use are either made of glass or ceramic. When looking for microwavable containers, you can never go wrong with those two types of material.
4. Microwaving liquids beyond boiling points
Most liquids, when microwaved, heat beyond their boiling points. This leads to extreme radiation that can’t be contained in the microwave, especially when microwaving water.
How to Test a Microwave for Radiation Leakage?
You can use a radiation detect or a cell phone if your Wi-Fi operates on a 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band.
Below is how to use the two devices to detect whether your microwave is leaking radiation.
1. Microwave radiation detector
Get a microwave radiation detector and frequently use it to ensure your microwave is always on track. I bought mine at $ 120, and it has been working for almost two years. However, you can get one for as low as $20.
A detector will detect radiation and display readings in milliwatts per square centimetre (mW/cm2). A lesser rate radiation detector only display warning lights or sound whenever the radiation levels are above 5 or 10 mW/cm2.
To use a radiation detector, place a cup of water in the microwave and microwave at high power for a minute. Manually move the detector around the microwave but mostly focus on where the radiation could escape.
My go-to areas are around the edges of the door, seals, and air vents. Depending on the type of detector you have, it will either record or display the highest reading, or it will begin to display or make sounds indicating the radiation being omitted is beyond 5 or 10 mW/cm2.
Suppose you get higher readings than the expected ones or get warning signs, stop your microwave immediately and get a professional to service it and fix the problem. Do not just assume everything is fine after servicing; ensure to retest.
2. Make use of a cell phone and Wi-Fi
Suppose your Wi-Fi operates at 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) band; then it is perfect to be used to figure out if your microwave leaks radiation. This was the method I often used before getting a radiation detector.
The first step is to unplug the microwave; you wouldn’t want to microwave your phone unknowingly. Second, turn off your phone’s cellular data and ensure the Wi-Fi is on.
Put the phone inside the microwave and shut the door. Use another cell phone to call the phone inside the microwave.
Suppose you hear the phone in the microwave ringing, then your microwave is leaking radiation. But if there is no sound coming from the microwave, your microwave is fit, and there is no radiation leakage.
However, this test is only accurate if the Wi-Fi settings are 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) band and the phone’s cellular data is off while the Wi-Fi is on.
Is it Harmful to Stand in front of a Microwave?
Standing in front of a microwave is not harmful as long as it is 2 inches away.
A well-functioning microwave that is not leaking dangerous amounts of radiation should only leak 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimeter. This amount of radiation may only reach you if you are too close to the microwave, hence the 2 inches away requirement.
However, at the same time, when the microwave is leaking excess radiation without your knowledge, standing 2 inches away may not be of much help as the radiation will still get to you.
Therefore make a habit of frequently detecting the amount of radiation leaking from your microwave. Use the two methods highlighted above.
When microwave radiation gets to your body, it will react the same way they do while cooking food. The radiation will cause burns, especially in sensitive areas like your eyes.
Who Regulates Microwave Oven Safety?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates microwave oven safety.
The FDA’s main aim is to protect people’s health by making sure microwave manufacturers make their kitchen appliances as per the FDA requirements.
The organization has developed safety performance standards that must be met for microwave manufacturers to have their products certified and safe enough to be placed in the market.
When it comes to microwave radiation, FDA believes that all microwaves that have undergone their inspection, passed, and are certified, are safe from radiation leakage. They require all manufacturers to produce microwaves that can only run when their doors are shut.
Suppose a microwave runs without the door shutting; it is advisable to notify the manufacturer or the FDA through their Accidental Radiation Occurrence Report form.
The organization also recommends frequent radiation detection of your microwave. a microwave may be in good shape when you buy it from the store.
However, after using it for a few years, certain changes or damages cause radiation leakage. Ask for professional help immediately if you notice a high radiation leak from your microwave.
What Happens if Your Microwave Leaks Radiation?
When a microwave leaks radiation, the radiation gains access to your body and heats the body tissues the same way it heats food.
Microwave radiation is not harmful to your body tissues if only a small amount of 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimeter is leaked. And even at this rate, you have to be at least 2 inches away from a running microwave.
The radiations become harmful when they are leaked above the estimated amount. When this happens, the body tissues from your most sensitive parts will be the first to suffer painful burns.
The eyes and the testes are believed to suffer the most when you get in contact with high amounts of microwave radiation. The two body parts have tiny vessels that can’t carry away excess microwave radiation energy.
However, harm brought about by microwave radiation is rare. This is because all microwaves have to undergo FDA safety scrutiny before being put up for sale.
Each manufacturer must follow the rules and regulations of manufacturing a microwave according to the laws, or they will suffer losses since their products will not be allowed into the market.
The only known common harm brought about by microwaves is burns caused by handling hot containers from the microwave or eating hot meals you finished microwaving.
How Much Radiation Does the Average Microwave Oven Leak?
An average microwave should leak 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimeter.
A microwave should be installed with independent interlock systems to stop the formation of radiation immediately after the latch is released or the door is opened. It should also shut down when both of them stop working simultaneously.
Furthermore, I recommend you get a microwave that has a clear label that clarifies that the manufacturer followed all the FDA requirements when manufacturing the kitchen appliance. It only means that the microwave already went through the FDA’s manufacturers’ radiation and quality control testing and programs.
Tips on Safe Microwave Oven Use
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, use microwavable cookware, avoid operating a microwave when the door is open, avoid microwaving liquids for longer clean the edges of the microwave regularly, and do not run a microwave when empty.
Below are detailed explanations of why the above tips are safe when using a microwave.
1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions
All new microwaves have user manuals that should be taken seriously. Take time and review the manual to ensure you are using your microwave the way it should be.
Although my new microwave is similar to the old one, some minor changes may have been upgraded to the new device. Learning the new features and how to use them appropriately is wise.
2. Use microwavable cookware
Microwave-safe cookware is often made of ceramic and glass materials. However, recently, even plastic containers can be microwaved.
To be on the safe side, ensure all the cookware you place in the microwave has a microwave-safe symbol.
Avoid placing metallic substances in the microwave; they can explode and even cause damage by causing a fire.
3. Avoid operating a microwave when the door is open
It is dangerous to try and operate a microwave when the door is open. Even though most microwaves are designed only to work when the door is closed, there are occasions when a minor malfunction may cause it to run,
When that happens, you stand a chance to be highly affected by the strong microwave radiation that will come from the microwave. The radiation will react with your body tissues the same way it reacts with food.
Your body tissues will be heated and suffer severe burns, especially the eyes.
4. Clean the edges of the microwave regularly
Food particles that may dry up on the edges of the microwave may prevent the door from sealing properly. An unsealed microwave door may cause your microwave to shut off or lead to radiation leakage.
How to Report Microwave Oven Radiation Safety Problems
Report Microwave Oven Radiation Safety Problems to the manufacturer or the FDA.
All appliance manufacturers have their details well illustrated on the appliance. If you notice a malfunction brought about by microwave radiation, immediately alert the manufacturer.
Secondly, you may consider getting in touch with FDA via their website. There is an Accidental Radiation Occurrence Report form that can be filled out and mailed back to them.
Involving FDA is the best solution, especially if you have already filed a report to a manufacturer that did not take your complaint seriously.
Faqs on Can Microwave Leak Radiation
1. Can a microwave leak radiation when off?
No, a microwave cannot leak radiation when off; it has to be plugged in and operating for radiation to be produced.
2. Can microwaves cause radiation sickness?
Yes, microwaves can cause radiation sickness, especially if one is exposed to huge amounts of them.
High levels of microwave radiation will cause painful burns in most sensitive areas of your body, like the eyes and testes.
3. How do I protect my house from microwave radiation?
Conduct frequent microwave radiation detection. Get a radiation detector or use the cellphone/ Wi-Fi method, as explained above.
Suppose your home has huge amounts of microwave radiation; shut off the microwave immediately and seek professional assistance.
4. How far should you stand from a microwave?
For an average microwaving that is not leaking more than 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimeter, stand at least 2 inches away from it when running.
5. Can microwave radiation penetrate walls?
Yes, microwave radiation can penetrate walls unless your walls have been insulated with aluminum foil.
6. Does a rusty microwave leak radiation?
Yes, especially if the rust is inside the microwave. However, outside rust may not really pose a microwave radiation threat. Make a habit of checking the inner surfaces of your microwave as often as possible so as not to miss rust traces.
An average microwave has a limited amount of microwave radiation that leaks. Standing a few inches away from it will not cause harm to your body.
However, it is advisable to test the radiation as often as possible so that it does not reach a point where it is harmful without your knowledge.