Toasters have been an incredibly convenient appliance to use for decades. With what is probably millions of daily toasted slices of bread worldwide, it has saved us an ample amount of time and made our breakfasts more delicious. However, with the rise of medical hazards and other concerns, we often wonder about the risk hazards associated with toasters. Do they also produce radiation like microwaves or use electricity and heat to heat our bread slices to a perfect crisp?
The first-ever electric toaster was invented in 1893 by Alan MacMasters, who lived in Scotland. He gave it a rather peculiar name: “Eclipse Toaster,” which was because it used to burn one side of the bread instead of both at the same time. It was manufactured in Britain by Crompton Company, and it toasted one side of the bread at a time; you had to manually flip it to the other side once it reaches your ideal crunch.
Nowadays, what is most common is the electric toaster and different variations on the conventional toaster, including convention toasters and toaster ovens. However, in a statistic collected in 2010, U.S citizens mostly buy traditional toasters compared to convention toasters, with a whopping 67% purchasing conventional toasters.
What Is It Exactly?
In simple terms, radiation occurs when there is a transfer of energy in tiny particles such as atoms and electrons or waves. Now radiation is divided into four different categories. These are electromagnetic (waves such as light, X-Rays, and microwaves), acoustic (waves produced by sound), particle radiation (such as the nuclear accident that occurred in Chernobyl, releasing billions and billions of radionuclides into the environment), and gravitational radiation (due to gravity).
Good news! Toasters do not deal with nuclear explosions (at least not yet), so we can eliminate the possibility of gravitational radiation and particle radiation since toasters work on an electrical principle. As for acoustic radiation, well, the energy from the electricity does transform into sound energy when you hear the ‘pop’ when your slices of bread are ready, but the radiation associated with it is pretty minimal. We have never heard of someone going deaf due to the marvelous sound we anticipate when the toaster finishes its job charring your slices of bread, and hopefully, we never will.
So, the remaining question is, does it have electromagnetic radiation?
Does a Toaster Emit Radiation?
When we all first purchased toasters, our first thoughts were not related to radiation. After all, it isn’t a microwave that seems to operate out of thin air, literally. However, we can observe that the toaster has heat emitted out of it, which you can see from the blazing-red coils inside the toaster when it is on, or by simply placing your hand over the toaster when you’re heating your slices.
Now, the metallic coils we see inside the toaster are the source of the heat, and it has a high electrical resistance, which means that electricity finds it difficult and has to produce a lot of heat and work to be able to pass through it. Electricity is precisely why our toasters work in the first place; the coils inside produce a tremendous amount of heat simply because it makes it difficult for electricity to pass through. The heat emitted is a form of electromagnetic waves, known explicitly as infrared waves. All waves lying on the electromagnetic spectrum produce radiation.
How Does a Toaster Produce Radiation?
Even though it might sound complicated, the idea of producing infrared radiation to heat a piece of bread up isn’t. Now, the visible source to the eye comes when the coils inside the toaster turn red. That means that the toaster is working, and it is currently producing heat in the form of infrared radiation. This radiation is why toasters work, and they wouldn’t work otherwise.
What is typically used in a toaster to create this radiation is a nichrome wire wrapped around something known as a mica sheet. The Nichrome wire is a mixture of nickel and chromium, which are both excellent metals, hence the excellent conduction of heat.
Is It Harmful?
Do not freak out yet! This infrared radiation is not about to kill you and your loved ones. There was a time when everyone was anxious about their microwaves producing radiation that could harm them, and that was a whole debacle on its own. The microwave gets its name from microwaves, which also belong to the electromagnetic spectrum. However, they do not cause us any harm because, well, we’re not the objects inside the microwave! They only use microwaves to heat the liquid particles present in the food, but once the microwave finishes working, no radiation transmits anymore, and it does not leave traces in your food.
When it comes to toasters, we already established that it produces what is known as infrared radiation, which is not a form of harmful radiation. Let’s think about it in a slightly different manner: light belongs to the electromagnetic spectrum, and we are exposed to it every single day! You don’t see any of us disintegrating or having radioactive bodies, right? X-rays are also part of the spectrum, and here we are, getting X-rays when we break a bone or suffer a severe injury. Prolonged exposure to X-ray is not permitted, as X-rays have higher frequencies than light and infrared radiation.
Many years ago, radiation exposure was forbidden altogether. Before we had the proper scientific knowledge and expertise, people thought that all radiation forms could kill us. However, with time passing by, the maximum permissible level for radiation exposure has been gradually increasing to allow people to get accustomed to everyday life. At first, this allowable radiation was for workers exposed to some level of radiation. Still, with time and science advancement, scientists bent the rules to allow slight exposures at appropriate doses.
Should I Be Worried?
Now, the only time worry arises is when your toaster is faulty or something is broken inside of it. The only way for radiation to affect you, however slightly, is if you touch the heated coiled inside of them, which are the ones that emit radiation. The fear does not come from the radiation possibly affecting you negatively; it mainly is the electric shock you might suffer. In 1987, almost 100 years since the toaster emerged, numerous articles appeared regarding the toaster’s unsafety. However, back then, it was pretty new, and the world knew not much about the consequences of using such appliances.
It is worthy to note that back then, toasters were not as advanced as they are today; they had numerous faulty wires and safety hazards. Articles surfaced discussing how to make toasters more efficient, increase their safety, find the best electrical components to integrate, and research how to add another slot for the bread instead of one (they only had one space for bread).
Moreover, radiation sources are prominent and surround us all the time. Whenever you enter a mall and pass through that metallic gate, some radiation particles are hitting you, which is how it detects any metallic objects present on you. Moreover, satellites and communication towers around might be sources of electromagnetic radiation since they contain electricity, and electrical currents can generate magnetic fields. Potential harmful sources constantly surround us, but the key to not being affected by any of them is safety and awareness.
Are Toasters Better than Microwaves?
We are all looking for the easiest, fastest, most convenient way to heat our food daily. Now with the hectic lives we lead and being increasingly tired and idle when we’re lugging around in our home, we want the best solution to heat and ready our food.
After establishing that they both contain some radiation as a mechanism to heat our food efficiently, which one is better?
Toasters barely emit any infrared radiation, and the tiny amount that the toaster emits does not affect us. Microwaves also use microwave radiation to heat the particles of water inside our food, but the microwave is a closed space. The extra radiation that it emits should not be wary of; walls surround the food you put in the microwave, enclosed behind a solid box, and the radiation stops once the food is ready.
When it comes to preserving the nutrients inside your food during heating, a microwave is better overall. The reason is that microwaves keep more nutrients in your food than other heating methods because it cooks the food faster and does not produce as much heat. The heat is what usually gets rid of the nutrients in your food.
If you are looking for an appliance you can use to brown your food and make it crunchier, go for the toaster. However, if you’re looking for something to reheat your food, go for the microwave. Here, we go back to your preference and what you’re looking for exactly.
Are They Toxic?
There comes another concern with toasters: the possibility of food pieces falling off and being charred to blackness by the heated coils. Bits of food that burn produce a cloud of toxic smoke that can harm your lungs and your breathing, so make sure your toasters are also not broken.
In statistical research conducted in 2021 in the U.S., revenue in the household appliances market is estimated to be $89,715m in 2021. It is expected to grow at a rate of 1.68% every year. More and more people are purchasing toasters, and no fatalities or serious complaints have been received yet.
A researched-study conducted in 2021 left some scientists questioning whether household appliances that work on electricity and power lines, and satellites could induce cancer in people. The research was focused on testing whether the electromagnetic fields generated from these devices were safe or not for their users.
Electromagnetic fields are a combination of electrical and magnetic fields, and numerous studies are undergoing a trial to find evidence towards their conclusive effects. These studies focus specifically on the impact of radiation on cancer since an increase in the number of cancer patients over the years has been recorded by medical staff, with unexclusive data regarding reasons behind it.
These worries came into light with the ever-increasing number of cancer cases, with the USA already logging in 1,898,160 new points by March of 2021, with 32% of these patients already passing away. These numbers are incredibly worrying and alarming, hence the increased interest in finding out all the possible cancer causes.
Recently, it has been found that animals living in close proximities to electromagnetic fields experience an increase in the expression of genes in their cells, which is an indication of possible cancer formation. This whole experiment and research were first developed in 1979 when it was found that children living in households exposed to electromagnetic radiation were at double (or even triple!) the risk of developing cancer.
Now, this is an incredibly controversial topic in the scientific community. The reason being is that some scientists explain that there is not enough evidence and research done regarding these topics, and Researchers and scientists should conduct further research to find exclusive results. However, some scientists strongly believe that there is no correlation, and the studies done so far do not show direct causation factors.
Many people have reached out to an accident attorney to ask about the most dangerous appliances and the incidents and accidents they have caused over the years. The results were quite surprising. The estimate that over 700 people worldwide have been killed due to electrocution or hazardous fires caused by toasters. These results could be quite alarming, but put in mind that this is more often than not the fault of the user.
But the good news is, these incidents were not caused by radiation; they were caused by misuse of the toaster. This could be in several different ways, such as electrocution by using a knife or a spoon to wedge something out of the toaster. At the same time, numerous people handle toasters while toasters are still connected to the electrical outlet, which they should never do. It could also be a result of a faulty wire that you either missed or disregarded.
You might be exposed to the infrared radiation that the toaster emits if you do not take safety precautions. If you feel like your toaster is not functioning correctly, stop using it and replace it. After a few years of use, you should always replace those appliances because there is an increased risk of a malfunction in the system. Also, make sure you replace it or fix it if you see any evidence of a faulty wire, and never stick any metal into the toaster no matter what you are doing. You do not want to risk an electric shock from such a careless mistake.
Treat Your Toaster Like a Baby
To make your toaster last longer and perform more efficiently, treat it like a baby. Make sure you conduct regular cleaning sessions, where you unplug your toaster, take the tray out, and brush away the crumbs at the bottom with a wet piece of cloth. Do not use any firm material or rough surface for cleaning since you don’t want tiny amounts of the metallic tray falling into the heated coils. That on itself can cause toxic flames. Hence, wipe it down, dry it, and then replace it safely before plugging it back.
Never Use Water Nearby
Never, no matter what the case is, use water anywhere near your toaster. Spilling water on it or near it might cause the electricity to pass through the water and shock you. This could happen because water is a fantastic conductor of electricity, and you do not want to go to the hospital because of such a simple mistake.
Should I Get Rid of My Toaster?
The process of making your slices of toast brown is known as the Maillard reaction. If you think these chars form because of some dangerous radiation reaction, you cannot be further from the truth. This Millard reaction is a chemical reaction between proteins and carbohydrates that gives the food a distinctive flavor when they’re charred. This also applies to campfire-toasted marshmallows, fried dumplings, biscuits, and whatever you cook to caramelization.
Now, getting rid of an appliance is a personal decision. No one can influence your opinion about whether you should throw your toaster out of the window right now or not. However, you should be aware that no serious incidents have been recorded regarding the harmful radiation in toasters; the incidents recorded were mistakes that the user himself caused. Just like any other electrical device you have around the house, you have to make sure it is at the optimum conditions at all times, cleaned and polished, and no faulty wires are exposed to the air.
Is It Time to Replace Your Toaster?
If you are genuinely concerned about your wellbeing and you’re afraid your toaster has been emitting radiation recently, you might not be completely wrong. The problem with appliances that have been around for years and years is that they eventually have to be replaced. There might be an exposed wire that is leaking radiation and electricity instead of functioning properly, and that might be the reason you’re concerned. If that is the case, you should definitely look into buying a new toaster or replacing it with another appliance.
Higher-price but Family-friendly
A solid piece of advice you should stick to is do not ever go cheap on such appliances. Do not purchase a used electrical product, as you cannot be sure of how effective and sturdy it is.
If you’re specifically looking for a toaster that is of high quality, numerous programs and buttons, and has four slots for bread instead of two, then the Cuisinart CPT-142P1 is for you. It is ideal if you have a big family.
Fancy-looking and Modern
If you are looking for a smoother, more fancy-looking toaster, this is the one for you. The SAVCON toaster comes in two colours, lack and white, that shows you a timer on its digital surface. It also toasts your bread out evenly, so you don’t have to worry about any overheated or underheated parts!
If you are looking for something incredibly new, a fresh look to your kitchen, and you’re a technology fanatic, then this toaster is definitely for you. Despite being on the expensive side, this toaster gives you a menu on its screen to choose from the wide array of different products. You choose whichever baked good you’re about to toast, and it automatically lowers it down and lifts it when it is done. This toaster is ideal for a modern touch and for those of you who have a higher budget to spend on an appliance.
Now we know that toasters do in fact contain radiation, known as infrared radiation. However, it is not as harmful as it might seem to be. It is completely harmless as we are not directly exposed to it. Also, the most hazardous incidents occur due to personal negligence and not the toaster’s fault. If your toaster is out of date, and you’re considering buying a new one, I would opt for as it is incredibly easy to use, cheaper than other toasters, and very family-oriented.
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