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Cell phones, microwaves safe for use

Radiation exposure fears unwarranted

By Mark Berry



guy talkin gon cell phone
Photo by April M. Blackmon.


Some people worry that radiation from cell phones, microwave ovens and power lines can cause health problems like cancer. But research has shown them to be safe, according to Ruth Douglas-Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Kansas State University.

Douglas-Miller is the chair for COMAR, the Committee on Man and Radiation, which is part of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The committee provides information on health and safety issues related to electromagnetic fields.

"Microwave ovens were met with fear when they were introduced, but they are not dangerous," Douglas-Miller said. "We have not seen cancer develop from microwaves and there is no measurable leakage from microwave ovens. Digital cell phones operate on close to the same frequency as microwave ovens and there is no health concern with cell phones, either."

Microwaves, Douglass-Miller said, only have enough energy to heat molecules, while cell phones do not broadcast enough power to heat hands, heads, or anything else significantly.

The same goes for electrical power lines because their frequency is too low. No study has shown a consistant causal link between electric or magnetic fields from power lines.

In fact, Douglas-Miller said, microwaves are being considered for medical imaging of human tissue, much as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging are used in hospitals now. X-rays can cause cancerous mutations, and MRI is expensive. If scientists can figure out a way to focus microwave radiation patterns, it could become an inexpensive imaging tool, she said.

Fall 2002