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Question 926

I heard recently of someone with a pacemaker who went near a microwave oven and his pacemaker faulted, with him needing urgent medical attention. How did this happen? I also know of someone currently undergoing chemotherapy, who was told by his doctor not to eat food from a microwave oven. Why?
A pacemaker contains electronic circuits and wires that can act as antennas for microwaves. If a pacemaker is exposed to sufficiently intense microwaves, currents will begin to flow in those wires and circuits, and these currents may cause computational errors to occur or they may cause the circuitry to overheat. But while a pacemaker is far more sensitive to microwave radiation than say your hand is, I'm still surprised that enough microwave radiation leaked out of the oven to cause trouble. I'd suspect a real problem with that oven.

As for the chemotherapy question, I can't think of any reason why the doctor would suggest avoiding cooking food in a microwave oven. Unless I hear otherwise, I would suspect ignorance on the part of the doctor. The doctor may not understand the difference between "microwave radiation" and "gamma radiation".


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