How far away to stand from the microwave?

My girlfriend and I are having a debate. She thinks that a microwave oven’s effects are threatening enough that one must be nowhere near them when they operate (standing outside the kitchen is her preference). Me, I believe that a meter or two away is fine. Anyone have any info?

Most ovens in good shape have such low leakage, you can stand right up to them with no ill effects, even for extended periods.

However, if a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of your leg reads 160F, then your are standing too close, and you are also done.

“Well done”. :smiley:

Being able to insert the themometer without difficulty or significant sidcomfort may also indicate a problem.

Some consumer safety info.

And for anecdotal information, I’ve never left the room or moved away from any of my microwaves, except when I was doing other things in other parts of the kitchen. It’s been going on for over 25 years, and so far, nothing has fallen off.

In all seriousness cooking yourself is not the major risk of microwave leakage. Depending on the frequency microwaves most often attack small rouns structures like eyes and gonads. When I was in the navy I was told that cataracts are a significant risks of prolinged microwave exposure.

FWIW I’ve heard stories of techs checking the low power radar on A-7 corsairs by placing and hand in front of the dish to see if it gets warm.

A few years back, the American Institute of Physics (AIP), was asked to investigate possible links between power lines and health. As part of their investigation, they looked at electric field strengths outside of home appliances. There actually is a significant electric field (not microwaves) behind an operating microwave. I believe they stated that you can stand as close to the front as you want, but you might consider not standing directly behind one.


But seriously, folks, what’s the average TTL (or DTL) of oven-class microwaves in standard kitchen air?

What is it about the microwave she feels is unsafe? The radio waves or radiation? If it’s the latter, does she it the food that comes out of microwaves? How does she feel about that?

hi, original poster here. to answer the last question, she does not feel that microwaved food is unsafe (at least i don’t think so, and i probably shouldn’t ask). it’s the effects on people in the room when the microwave is running that concerns her. only when the thing is operating.

What radiation? Despite the fact that we generally refer to cooking in a microwave as “nuking” your food, there is no radiation other than the radio waves.

Microwave ovens are not designed with a “danger zone” of any sort. They are designed to be safe wherever you are, so you should be able to stand directly in front of one without any ill effects. If you are the paranoid type, just keep in mind that microwaves (like all electromagnetic radiation) follow the inverse square law. In other words, the level of radio waves that you are exposed to decreases with the square of the distance. If you are 2 feet away, you get 1/4th of the exposure that you would get at 1 foot (not 1/2, as some might guess). If you are 3 feet away, you get 1/9th the exposure you would get at one foot, etc. At 10 feet, you get 1/100th of the exposure of someone 1 foot away. Just backing up away from the thing a little bit decreases your exposure levels dramatically.

The effects of radio waves are hotly debated, but after a couple of decades of research no one has clearly proven that they are dangerous. Occasionally someone releases a study that shows that radio waves cause cancer and all sorts of nasty things, even at low levels, but then a follow up study doesn’t come to the same conclusions and all sorts of bickering goes back and forth between the people who believe they are safe and the people who believe they are deadly. You can take a little comfort in the fact that people who work in the fast food industry, who are exposed to significantly higher levels of microwaves than you are at home, are not dropping like flies. You would see a statistical increase in the number of health related incidents among these workers if there was any danger.

Surely, you meant to add “except at very high levels.” Obviously at high enough power levels, radio waves can be extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, the OP question was referring to leakage radiation, and to that point you were 100% correct.