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Microwave Radiation Dangers

Microwave Radiation Dangers

Urban legends about microwave radiation dangers have been making the rounds of the Internet and social grapevines since a long time now. How factual are they? Read ahead to find out.
Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Before we even touch along the lines of discussing the subject of microwave radiation dangers, let's get to know what microwaves are from a closer perspective. Microwaves are electromagnetic waves that have a relatively short wavelength which can range anywhere between 1 meter and 1 millimeter with a frequency range extending from UHF (ultra high frequency range of 300 MHz to 3 GHz) to SHF (super high frequency range of 3 GHz to 30 GHz) to EHF (extremely high frequency range of 30 GHz to 300 GHz).
Most microwave radiations fall within the frequency range of SHF. In other words, microwaves are electromagnetic radiations that have very short wavelengths with significantly high frequencies. These radiations are generated when vacuum tube devices set clumps of electrons on ballistic motion in a density modulated mode.
Microwaves and microwave technology is used in a lot of areas of our daily lives such as communication and data transfer (Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11 specified WLANs, IEEE 802.16 specified MANs, IEEE 802.20 specified MBWAs, GSM mobile phone networks, etc.) and power (microwaves, semiconductors, stellarators, etc.) while such other niche areas as radio astronomy, air traffic control (radar) and satellite navigation systems also make extensive use of microwave radiations.
Before you jump to any sort of conclusions, keep one fact in mind - the wavelengths and frequencies vary over the different uses and the applications and technologies used by laymen on a daily basis use very low frequencies of microwaves compared to the technologies mentioned under niche areas. That being said, let's proceed forward and take a quick look at some practical and possible dangers of microwave radiation, especially with reference to health and nutrition.
Health Effects of Microwave Radiation
Here, our discussion regarding the various dangers of microwave radiation won't be restricted to the radiations emanating from microwave ovens alone. Applications and technologies such as cell phones, Bluetooth and Wireless LANs are also included within the ambit of this discussion. That being said, following are some of the most significant and potential health hazards that long-term exposure to microwaves can result in:-
  • Frequent and long-term exposure to microwave radiations can cause a lot of serious health problems such as various cancers, birth defects in fetuses, impaired fertility (especially in men), lowered immunity and fatal disorders of the brain and other soft tissues in the form of malignant tumors. You see, these radiations have the potential of altering certain areas of our DNA, leading to harmful mutations. This increases the body's vulnerability to cancers and tumors which are, more often than not, caused by genetic mutations or damage to the DNA.
  • As much as people may tell you about the microwave radiation dangers in your home owing to using microwave ovens, this is not completely true. The real danger of cooking food in microwave ovens does not come from the microwave radiations themselves. Rather, certain unsuitable cookware such as plastics, pizza boxes, cooking bags, plastic wraps, etc. cause the actual mischief when certain harmful chemicals such as BPA (which is an artificial chemical that mimics estrogen) leak into the food when exposed to microwave radiations. Using appropriate cookware, therefore, is extremely important when cooking food in a microwave oven.
  • Cooking food or heating/thawing organic items any which way is bound to alter its chemical structure to a certain extent and nutrition stripping is also inevitable. This is especially true in case of thawing blood for transfusion. You see, before transfusion, preserved blood is often warmed slightly and if this is done in a microwave environment, the molecular structure can get altered so drastically that such blood can cause death in the patient receiving transfusion! The case of Norma Levitt which took place 1991 and resulted in a lawsuit holds testament to this fact.
  • More than microwave ovens, it is the radiation from cell phones that we need to worry about the most as these radiations affect us on a more frequent basis and from a closer range in our daily lives. Long term exposure to the radiations of cell phone signals have the potential of stripping the brain surface of essential calcium, making it susceptible to cancerous growths.
  • Not only this, constant exposure to radiations from cell phones and other regular communication technologies such as WLANs and Bluetooth lead to overall weakening of the immune system and evidences of this can be seen in the form of digestive issues, joint and endocrine problems, metabolic abnormalities that lead to increased cholesterol levels, vision impairment, etc.
In case you're wondering why I skipped the part about altered states of dietary nutrition when food is cooked in microwave ovens, here's the naked truth. A surprising fact that most microwave naysayers choose to very conveniently ignore is the fact that food loses less nutrition if cooked in a microwave oven as compared to when it is cooked over open flame. However, studies and experiments have proved beyond doubt that food loses less nutritional value when cooked in a microwave oven than when cooked on stove or open flame.
If only you are to use microwave-appropriate cookware, you can derive more health benefits from your food without suffering any of the undesirable side effects that stem from leaking of chemicals into food from inappropriate cookware. As far as microwave leaks from viewing glass is concerned, the quantities are too insignificant to cause any noticeable harm.
Not being around the microwave oven while cooking or heating food in it is a good way to avoid exposure to even those insignificant amounts of radiation. As far as serious health hazards are concerned, more than the ovens, you need to be wary of cell phones and other such wireless communication applications.