PHOENIX - Of all the urban myths out there, we found this one the most intriquing: can a cell phone tell you if your microwave leaks radiation?
We'll put it to the test, but first we should know about the boxy gadget in your kitchen.
The microwave is a product of World War Two research into RADAR, a system that uses microwave radiation to detect and track aircraft. The RADAR generates microwaves which are transmitted toward an aircraft. The waves are reflected off the aircraft and some hit the RADAR antenna. The system then uses a mathematical formula to deduce distance, speed and altitude of the aricraft.
Pretty fancy eh?
The microwave oven we use to "nuke" our boxed meals and vegetables uses radio frequencies similar to those used in RADAR systems to vibrate water molecules in your food or beverages. The molecules begin moving rapidly which generates the heat which cooks your food.
In fact the first commercially produced microwave oven was called the Radarange!
The question is whether that radiation can "leak" from your microwave and harm you.
Some say your cell phone can tell you.
Simply turn your cell phone on and place in the microwave oven. Shut the door and do not turn the oven on.
Once the door is shut, call your cell phone. Some say the phone will not receive the signal if the microwave is properly shielded. If your phone begins to ring, you may have a leaky microwave.
We tried it in our studio and sure enough, the cell phone inside the microwave did not ring.
Is it a scientific test? Absolutely not, but it's an interesting demonstration nonetheless.
Now for some truth.
The Food and Drug Administration sets strict limits on all microwaves sold in the United States. FDA officials say the machines can emit no more that 5 milliwatts of radiation per centimeter over the course of their lifetime. That is well below the limits of acceptable exposure. In fact, scientists say you are bombarded with more microwave energy when you venture outside.
Most scientists agree that while your microwave oven may expose you to extremely small amounts of radiation, it's not something that can cause you harm.
After all cell phones, computers and wireless internet routers expose you radio frequency energy. Even television and radio station use radio frequencies to beam pictures and sound to your home.
What do you think? Do you buy the urban legend or is all simple tom foolery? Let us know.
If you'd like more information on the history of microwave ovens, visit this website .
For a look at the Food and Drug Administration's findings on microwaves, click here .
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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