Microwaves ovens remain one of the most utilized appliances both in the home and the workplace. For many it would be hard to imagine life without the convenience of microwave ovens for heating and cooking food. But what exactly are the dangers of microwaves? According to manufacturer instructions microwave ovens are safe for use. However, precautions must be taken to avoid potential exposure to microwave radiation leakage.

So what is microwave radiation and what are the health risks? 

Microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum which broadly spans from very long radio waves to very short gamma rays. The frequency of microwave energy can range from 300 Mhz to 300 GHz. Microwaves, along with radios waves, mobile phones signals and wi-fi, are all forms of non-ionizing radiation (Figure 1). This type of radiation is less powerful than ionising radiation and does not usually pose a threat to human health, unless at very high doses which can cause the skin to burn.

It is widely known microwave ovens have the ability to heat biological tissue and does so by directing microwave energy to the source. However, this excessive tissue heating can have detrimental effects in the human body.  A microwave oven heats food at a frequency of 2.45GHz with the microwave radiation penetrating about 3cm into the food. The design of a microwave oven ensures the microwave radiation is contained within the oven and is only present once it is switched on. An interlock is also in place which shuts down the microwave oven once the door is opened.

Microwave radiation leakage can be an issue if there is damage to the casing and sealant of the oven door. Long term exposure due to electromagnetic radiation can cause major health issues including burns, weakened immune system and cancer. It is therefore important that microwave ovens are kept well maintained and inspected regularly in the workplace. Microwave Radiation leakage involves the measurement of radiation levels using a microwave emissions leakage sensor device. According to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the European Directive 2004/40/EC, the microwave radiation levels should not exceed a power density of 5mW/cm2. The leakage sensing device can accurately detect if exposure is above this permitted safe level.

Although the adverse health effects of microwave radiation remains low, employers should consider microwave leakage testing as part of their health and safety inspection in the workplace. Microwave Radiation Leakage Testing can be carried out in conjunction with an Electromagnetic Field (EMF) risk assessment. This assessment ensures employers meets the requirements of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Electromagnetic Fields) Regulations 2016 to reduce the exposure of workers to the risks arising from EMF’s.

CMSE Consultancy is a leading provider of Electromagnetic Fields consultancy support to clients nationally. Our specialists provide practical advice, undertake risk assessment and training of staff to support your particular needs. Our team work to ensure legislative requirements are met and benchmark results against industry best practice. We can specifically assist you in ensuring compliance with the Electromagnetic Fields (General Applications) Regulations, 2016. The CMSE approach towards Electromagnetic Fields safety is comprehensive, thorough and based on best industrial practices. 

If you require further information or assistance please contact us via email at info@cmse.ie, by phone at 021 497 8100 or start an instant chat with us via the chat box in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.