The Science

Here is a quick run down of the basics of how a microwave oven works:

MinutePhysics. “Microwaves explained in 10 seconds”. Filmed [November 2013]. Youtube video, 00:17. Posted [November 2013].


The science of microwave ovens has always provoked some fear about the hazards of microwave heating. The fear began in 1968 when Congress passed the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968. While this act was prompted by the fear of radiation from color televisions, it brought attention to the microwave oven. The Technical Electronic Products Radiation Safety Committee was formed to develop a safe standard of leakage allowed from microwave energy. There was a lot of misinformation in the media about the hazards of microwaves and were therefore greatly exaggerated in the beginning of the microwaves history. [1]

Following this, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated the manufacture of microwave ovens since 1971.” Through the information they released on microwave oven radiation, the FDA has expressed many probable dangers of the microwave that they warned the public about. A few of these dangers are: the super-heating of water in microwaves can lead to serious burns or scalding injuries, certain containers such as glass, paper, ceramic, or plastic can melt due to the heat from the food inside said container. Finally, the FDA mentions that exposure to high levels of microwaves can cause burns. The caution is shown in this following statement; “Two areas of the body, the eyes and the testes, are particularly vulnerable to RF heating because there is relatively little blood flow in them to carry away excess heat.” [2]



[1] Osepchuk, J.M. “A History of Microwave Heating Applications.” Microwave
Theory and Techniques, IEEE Transactions on 32, no. 9 (1984): 1200-224.

[2] Microwave Oven Radiation. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed April 3, 2017.