Does a Microwave Oven Emit Radiation?

Does a Microwave Oven Emit Radiation?

There have been growing concerns recently that microwaves may negatively affect health.

Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to heat the water molecules in your food, thus, heat your food. However, there is significant evidence that long-term exposure to microwave radiation can lead to serious health problems such as cancer and brain tumors.

While microwave ovens provide several advantages in our modern life, they also come with several consequences.

Below you will find an analysis of how microwaves work, their impacts on our health, and some tips to protect you from microwave radiation. Let’s get started!

Nature Of Microwaves

Microwaves are natural waves found in the environment. When we yank on a tightrope held at one end, we can see a form in the form of a wave moving along the rope. All these are examples of waves.

To understand the true nature of a microwave, you must know several technical terms.

The most important terms are:

  • The wavelength, given the symbol ???? and which represents a distance equivalent to one cycle.
  • The frequency, which represents the number of cycles that can be generated in a time of one second. It is given the symbol ????. Frequencies are measured in a unit called the hertz, Hz. One hertz would be one cycle generated per second.

Microwaves form part of the electromagnetic spectrum, also known as EMF radiation. All the components of the electromagnetic spectrum give out energy and can travel in space.

Microwaves have wavelengths in the region of 3 cm – 30 cm. Typical frequencies 10 000 000 Hz to 1 000 000 Hz.

The lower frequencies microwaves are used primarily for domestic uses such as in microwave ovens whereas the high-frequency microwaves are used in satellite communication and mobile phone networks.

Lower frequency microwaves are absorbed by water molecules and the latter heat up whereas high-frequency microwaves are not.

You should note that the greater the wavelength of a component of the electromagnetic spectrum, the less the energy associated with a wave.

There is a rule of thumb stating that lower frequency waves have longer wavelengths. Therefore, low-frequency microwaves that are used to heat your food have less energy.

However, some studies have shown that prolonged exposure to low-frequency microwaves could lead to serious health consequences.

How does microwave emit radiation?

Microwaves move in all direction and since it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, it carries energy. The amount of energy carried by each cycle of microwave is low but if you combine it with a high-power source, some serious amounts of energy can be involved.

Common microwave ovens have up to 1200 W power, meaning that a big amount of energy can be conveyed to food items in one second.

All food contains water molecule, whether it is a piece of chicken or a soup. The low-frequency microwaves are absorbed by water molecules and are converted into heat, which in turn heats up your food.

In contrast, high-frequency microwaves are not absorbed by water, thus, have no heating effects on food. Such waves are used in satellite communication where microwaves are not blocked by water vapour in the atmosphere.

Impact on health according to research

There have been concerns about microwaves affecting human health. Low frequency (high wavelength) microwaves are the ones that represent a risk factor, given that the human body is made up of about 70 % water.

Therefore, our body can absorb a significant amount of microwaves when standing next to a microwave oven. In 2013, Bhargavi K, et al proposed an investigation of whether mobile phone radiation affects human health.

It should be noted that microwave radiation and mobile phone radiation have similar frequencies and wavelengths. In the study, an electroencephalogram machine was used to determine the brain operation in three conditions.

After analysing the results, they arrived at the conclusion that microwaves can have serious consequences on the functions of the human brain.

In 2011, Adam Santorelli, simulated energy absorbed in microwave breast imaging: 3-D safety assessment with plane-wave illumination.

They noted that the amount of energy absorbed by the breast during microwave imaging techniques has a detrimental effect on health unless low-energy microwaves are used.

Additionally, the International Journal Of Cancer and Clinical Research published an article on the effects of microwave exposure and cancer risk.

In this article, the authors analysed 57 studies, published through 30 years (1982 – 2012) and determined the association of the cancer hazards with exposure to the (microwave) MW/RF radiation.

They concluded that exposure to MW/RF radiation increased the risk of morbidity, including lymphoma, melanoma, brain/CNS cancers, and leukaemia.

These findings were similar to another research from Research Gate that studied the biological effects of EMF radiation, including microwave radiation. The research stated that the risk of brain cancer increased significantly during long-term exposure to EMF radiation.

What can be done to reduce radiation?

Keep your distance

If you are further away from a microwave oven, you are less exposed to microwave radiation. Keep a distance of about 1 m from your microwave when you are heating up your food to minimize your exposure. Your body is less likely to absorb microwave radiation due to the 1 m distance.

Decrease the time settings

Your food absorbs more microwave radiation when you increase the time settings of your microwave oven. Depending on the power of your microwave and your preferences, you can reduce the time taken by up to 1 minute

Do not use the microwave oven frequently

It is better to use the stove instead of a microwave oven when possible. For example, melt your chocolate in a double boiler than in the microwave. Even if it takes longer, you are limiting your exposure to microwave radiation, thus preventing any serious health issues down the line.

Use of EMF blocking devices

If your microwave is indispensable for your lifestyle, you can buy innovative EMF clothes that were designed to block up to 99% EMF radiation. Check out DefenderShield if you are interested. They offer a large selection of EMF apparel, from beanies to blankets.


While microwaves are helpful appliances for our busy lifestyle, it is recommended that you are cautious when using them.