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September 29, 2010

Some people think microwave ovens and cell phones are dangerous, but their fears are not backed up by science.


Are microwaves a menace? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s time for another episode of our feature Reality Check, where we investigate paranormal claims and science folklore. Today, Microwaves: Friend of Foe. Many people hear the word “microwave” especially paired with “radiation,” and think it sounds scary. According to physicist Betsy Pugel, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, that could be because most of us misunderstand the word “radiation.”

BETSY PUGEL (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center):
At the nuclear towers, the output from that is very energetic, things that can really do damage to your DNA.

Microwave radiation is too low in energy to affect DNA, especially at the power levels used in cell phones. Most studies show no correlation between cell phone use and cancer. And, perhaps most persuasive is this statistic from the National Cancer Institute: over the past two decades, while cell phone use has gone way up, incidence of brain cancer has gone down. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.