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Is It Dangerous to Stand in Front of the Microwave While It is on?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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If you stand in front of the microwave while it's on, many people say it won't be that harmful to you if the door is latched. But of course most of us don't like to take chances with our health. Microwaves are a fairly low frequency form of radiation and that means their affect on the body, if any, would be less dangerous than higher frequency forms. Still, many people argue that this radiation can affect us, even though microwave doors are designed to keep it in.

Microwaves could leak out from the spaces in the oven near the door. It's very important to keep the microwave oven clean as dirty ovens are more likely to leak than clean ones. The door must absolutely latch and create a seal when closed. Never use a microwave with a faulty door.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has regulations for maximum radiation levels that microwave oven manufacturers must follow. The lining material in the door also helps keep in harmful microwaves. When these ovens were being invented and tested, early researchers damaged their kidneys because they would stand in front of ones without doors or with the doors open. Small amounts of microwaves can still leak through the cracks in the door opening, so these could reach you if you stand in front of the oven while it is on.

Some people note that even if the amount of radiation is small, it is harmful to stand in front of the microwave while it is cooking food. Studies have been unable to prove this conclusively. The amount of radiation emitted by cell phones is higher than that produced by a microwave oven and some researchers noted that continued cell phone use could lead to cancer, while nothing conclusive has been found.

The radiation emitted by x-rays and gamma rays is called ionized radiation, while that produced by microwaves as well as radio waves is non-ionized radiation. The difference between ionized and non-ionized radiation is that they have different frequencies, or the amount of vibrations they produce each second. The higher frequency, or ionized, radiation has been show to cause cancer in some cases. Microwave ovens use a low frequency, or non-ionized, form of radiation but there is still much controversy as to whether it is completely safe to stand in front of one while it's on.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1002196 — On Sep 27, 2019

Unless the microwave is damaged or the door doesn't latch like it's supposed to, it's not fricking dangerous. Stop parroting old wives' tales.

By anon942708 — On Mar 28, 2014

I was told that standing near one was dangerous, but I was never really sure. What other evidences are there?

By anon316592 — On Jan 29, 2013

Just leave the room when the microwave is on.

By anon312566 — On Jan 08, 2013

Better safe than sorry, my grandma used to say.

By anon299084 — On Oct 23, 2012

We have a leaking microwave at work that I am very concerned about. It is at eye level and is used often. Management doesn't seem to be to concerned. I am concerned about being poisoned.

By anon285990 — On Aug 18, 2012

The term is non-ionizing radiation, *not* non-ionized radiation. It refers to the effect on the matter being irradiated (and either ionized or not), not to the radiation itself.

By anon173535 — On May 07, 2011

RE: A kiln electric oven for firing ceramic -- is it harmful for health or not? This has been my work for two years already. I'm still operating this machine until now.

every time i turn on this kiln i fell dizzy because i can smell and breath the heat that coming out through the oven. What do you think? it can cause cancer?

By anon164515 — On Apr 01, 2011

I can't afford a new microwave, but still use mine frequently, even though it's very old and noticed a few weeks ago that it had rust and now a quarter sized hole in the left rear corner on the bottom all the way through. Is this dangerous? Not sure what to do, need to use the microwave, but am looking for work and am on food stamps. Thanks for any advice.

By anon116172 — On Oct 05, 2010

The big word here is "ionizing." You have the military testing microwave weapons and the police forces of the world testing microwave based non-lethal weapons.

Microwaves, like radio waves, are different from ionizing radiation, as is cell phones.

It is a known fact that Ionizing radiation causes cancer. Could lower energy radiation cause cancer? I won't say for sure they could not, but we have lived with radio waves for nearly a hundred years now or longer. We have lived with the wide distribution of microwaves for 50 years.

Finally, we have lived with wide distribution of cell phones for 20 years. How are the cancer rate statistics over that time frame? I'm willing to bet they're pretty much consistent and unchanging.

Could some people, based on genetic make up, be more prone to low energy radiation cancer than most folks? I suppose so, but I believe for the most part we have nothing to fear from low energy radiation. As long as it's not ionizing I think we're fine.

So why waste your money on gimmicks people sell? For example, home inspections to test for microwave leakage or hand held microwave leak detectors. Give me a break. If you fall for these kind of shenanigans then you're making somebody a lot of money and getting very little, if any benefit from such devices and services.

So live, cook your food, talk on your cell phone, in moderation if you choose, but by all means enjoy life. In the end something is going to get you and statistics say it won't be cancer. Good Day, Joe.

By anon98327 — On Jul 22, 2010

If I drill holes into the door, can I microwave foods if I aim the microwave towards it?

By anon83511 — On May 11, 2010

I have a microwave with a crack in the door on the outside. is it safe to use?

By anon65509 — On Feb 14, 2010

There is a fan hidden on the right side of the oven (looking at the front) that is there to cool the magnetron - the air is then directed into the oven to control the humidity created by the food. The other "fan" that is located at the top of the inside metal box (the cavity) is called a "mode mixer" and is used to promote uniformity. If you have a glass turntable there will not be a mode mixer. No, you can't be hurt by any leaking microwaves; they have less energy than a light bulb.

By anon37706 — On Jul 21, 2009

My microwave has a large crack in the back lining. Is it safe for me to use?

By Marknelson — On Apr 28, 2008

No, most microwave ovens DO has fans in them for various reasons (i.e. Cooling the inside from the heat produced, scattering the microwaves...) there should be no danger by standing in front of a microwave oven. but you should still keep it clean.

By anon11823 — On Apr 23, 2008

Is it normal to have air coming from the bottom front of the microwave? It's as if a fan is on. Has this exposed me to any danger?

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