This Video Explains How Microwaves Are Safe (Even When Running)

We’ve all heard the tales of our cancer-causing cooking boxes we keep in the kitchen, but they really aren’t dangerous to be around when they’re running. Craig Benzine from the Mental Floss YouTube channel takes a look at the classic myth in this video.

While it’s true that microwave ovens use microwave radiation to cook your food, there’s no evidence that any dangerous levels of radiation escape. See that layer of mesh on the glass? That keeps the microwaves from escaping. When it comes to what should or shouldn’t be microwaved, however, that’s a completely different story.

Is it Unhealthy to Stand in Front of a Microwave While it is Cooking? [YouTube]


  • To expand on mental floss’s explanation – I’d say that people fear standing in front of a microwave is dangerous because microwaves are “radiation”, just like the “radiation” that was carried by the wind after Chernobyl – which killed lots of people and gave them cancer. Most microwaves have a fan that blows hot air out the bottom of them and onto you if you stand in front of them, so this must be dangerous microwave air.

    The reason it is _NOT UNSAFE_ to stand in front of a microwave is that unlike radioactive dust particles, microwaves are not carried by the wind. In the same way that magnetism or light is not carried by the wind. Just because the air travels through the box full of microwaves, and the water in that air is heated by these microwaves, that air is not carrying any microwaves.

    The wire mesh in your microwave stops nearly 100% of the microwaves escaping thanks to physics – a microwave is more than 25mm high ( hence the spinning dish in your microwave. If you don’t move your food in the microwave box the length of the wave (wavelength) means you get hot and cold bits in your food. ) … So the wire mesh with 2mm holes in it isn’t big enough for the microwaves to escape.

    It’s like getting worried about golf balls escaping from a fly-wire net.

  • Also, a standard boring old oven, also cooks via radiation, light bulbs light up our rooms via radiation etc.
    People confuse microwaves with ‘nuclear’ radioactivity, and think it is a bad way to cook food.
    It actually is pretty much the heathiest way, in most cases it retains more nutrients than other forms of cooking.

  • Microwaves are not safe while running. You reach the end of the power cable very quickly and drop it on your foot. It hurts quite a bit when you do that. I recommend against running while microwaving.

  • I don’t know which actually results in the least nutrient loss, steaming vegetables or microwaving them. Though I know that I get much better and tastier results with steaming. Tasty vegetables are no doubt healthier since you are more likely to eat them than not. So I will continue to steam my vegetables rather than cook them in the microwave.

  • in a sharehouse I lived in, during a cards night taking place in the kitchen, one of our guests was microwaving himself some dinner. looking up someone saw our friend was absently watching his pie heat up from less than a metre away…with the door open (that old microwave was happy to run door ajar!)

    ah our friend Pickles – he was always making us laugh, but not in a way he would have preferred.

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