Bioeffects of microwave--a brief review

Bioresour Technol. 2003 Apr;87(2):155-9. doi: 10.1016/s0960-8524(02)00169-4.


Since the 18th century scientists have been intrigued by the interaction of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and various life processes. Attention has been focussed on EMFs in different frequency ranges, of which microwave frequency range forms an important part. Microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are considered to be that radiation ranging in frequency from 300 million cycles per second (300 MHz) to 300 billion cycles per second (300 GHz), which correspond to a wavelength range of 1 m down to 1 mm. This nonionising electromagnetic radiation is absorbed at molecular level and manifests as changes in vibrational energy of the molecules or heat (Microwaves irradiating the community, Hidden hazards, Bantan Books publisher, Australia, 1991). Identifying and evaluating the biological effects of microwaves have been complex and controversial. Because of the paucity of information on the mechanism of interaction between microwave and biological systems, there has been a persistent view in physical and engineering sciences, that microwave fields are incapable of inducing bioeffects other than by heating (Health Physics 61 (1991) 3). Of late, the nonthermal effects of microwaves on tissue responses are being documented (Physiol. Rev. 61 (1981) 435; Annals of New York Acad. Sci. 247 (1975) 232; J. Microwave Power 14 (1979) 351; Bioelectromagnetics 7 (1986a) 45; Bioelectromagnetics 7 (1986b) 315; Biologic Effects and Health Hazards of Microwave Radiation, Warsaw, Polish Medical Publication (1974) 289; Biologic Effects and Health hazards of the microwave Radiation, Warsaw, Polish Medical Publication (1974) 22; Multidisciplinory perspectives in event-related brain potential research, Washington DC, US Environmental Protection Agency, (1978) 444). The present article is an attempt to familiarise the reader with pertinent information regarding the effects, mainly athermal, of microwave irradiation on biologic systems, especially microorganisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Biotechnology
  • Cell Division / radiation effects*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Microwaves / adverse effects*
  • Microwaves / therapeutic use