Microwave ovens have become some of the most pervasive kitchen appliances in residential homes, chiefly due to their ease, convenience and quick cooking times. Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to accelerate the water molecules inside food and therefore are designed to contain the radiation inside the microwave while in use. While under normal conditions, microwaves are not dangerous in the least, using damaged microwaves requires extra caution.
Microwave Radiation Cooking
A common misconception concerning microwaves is that microwaves do not actually cook food; microwave radiation is accelerated toward the food with a fan and the radiation speeds up the motion of water molecules inside the food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), microwave radiation occurs on a wavelength similar to that of electric razors, television, radar and radio waves, and is orders of magnitude weaker than X-rays, nuclear radiation or other, more harmful forms of radiation.
Even given the weakness of microwave radiation as compared to other forms of radiation, federal regulations require microwave oven manufacturers to construct microwaves in a manner that contains radiation completely inside the oven. When a part of a microwave oven is cracked or damaged, radiation can potentially leak out. Still, a microwave would have to sustain substantial damage in order to leak enough radiation to present a health risk to humans.
The easiest and most important way to avoid putting your family at risk is to never use a microwave that is damaged in any way. Regularly inspect your microwave for any punctures in the window and door of the microwave. Also inspect door seals to make sure that they are in good working order. Microwaves are also equipped with an interlock switch that deactivates the radiation-producing magnetron anytime the door is opened; test the interlock switch by opening the microwave's door while it is running to make sure cooking stops immediately.
Years ago, some experts became concerned that radiation emissions from microwave emissions could interfere with the operation of cardiac pacemakers. Microwave ovens sold during this time even included labels that warned against those with pacemakers using microwaves, though these labels have since been removed since pacemaker interference is no longer considered a major safety concern. Again, the best way to avoid any potential dangers to members of your family that use a pacemaker is to never use a microwave oven that has been damaged in any way.