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The Effects of Microwave Radiation

author image Heather Vale
Heather Vale is a writer, interviewer and seasoned journalist. She has authored news, entertainment and informational programming in TV, radio, print and online media. She is also a certified childhood fitness and nutrition specialist with a background in mind-body-spirit health, self-help, business, technology and pet breeding. Vale holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts from York University.
The Effects of Microwave Radiation
Microwave Photo Credit SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images


Microwave radiation is electromagnetic radiation that’s a specific type of radiofrequency radiation found in the high frequency of the scale: 300 MHz to 300 GHz. Various types of electromagnetic radiation have been studied and scrutinized for effects on human health. The MW radiation from microwave ovens, radios, cell phones and other electronic equipment may cause problems in several areas.


There has been some debate over whether cellphones, which operate within the microwave frequency, can cause brain tumors. While the International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes these low-frequency radio waves as being possibly carcinogenic, the National Cancer Institute says that only some of the numerous studies conducted have suggested an increased risk for certain types of brain tumors. These studies include one by lead researcher M.J. Schoemaker and team, published in the “British Journal of Cancer” in 2005, which showed that people who used cell phones for 10 years or more had an increased risk of a tumor on the same side of the head that they regularly held the phone. Another, carried out by M. Hours and associates and published in France’s “Revue d'Epidemiologie et de Sante Publique” in 2007, confirmed those findings. Both studies were part of a 13-country investigation by the Interphone Study Group, which published the results in May 2010 in the “International Journal of Epidemiology” and concluded that users with high exposure may face an increased risk of cancer. On the other hand, mobile phone manufacturers like Motorola have funded some studies which focused on short-term users, and therefore found no increased risk. While Interphone says more research into long-term effects is required, it certainly couldn’t hurt to exercise caution. Danger can be reduced by using a headset or speaker phone so the phone is not held next to your head.

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Parts of the body that are sensitive to heat can be damaged by microwave radiation of a sufficient power level, says Dr. Ali Khounsary of the Argonne National Laboratory on the Department of Energy’s website. This includes the testes, which is the reason microwave radiation may affect the reproductive ability of men, even causing infertility in some.


People working directly within microwave fields have claimed a variety of symptoms, including eyestrain, headaches, fatigue and sleep disturbance. These effects are due to the fields of microwave radiation interacting with the body’s central nervous system, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). This type of radiation is usually from pulse-modulated fields, not the constant wave field given off by microwave ovens; however, Khounsary adds that studies have shown microwave ovens can affect the behavior of animals. Other possible risks of microwave radiation that have been published include memory loss, learning disabilities, and ADHD. And while microwave ovens are much safer than they used to be, even one that’s working correctly is likely to produce significantly higher microwave levels in the kitchen than a nearby cellular phone base-station would, says UK-based non-profit organization Powerwatch. Exposure can be reduced by ensuring the seal is clean and unbroken, and keeping your face away from the glass door during operation.

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