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Did Russia ban microwave ovens at some point in the past?

13 Jun

 

The Internet is filled with misinformation (especially blogs) about microwaves and microwave ovens. They all seem to direct their focus on the supposed dangers of the ovens, the foods heated in them, the packaging and more. Many are scientifically flawed and generally inaccurate. One such rumor that has been lighting up the internet is the claim that, in the past, Russia had banned microwave ovens. Within IMPI we could not find a source for this assertion, though one of our members, the eminent engineer and scientist Dr. John Osepchuk wrote the rebuttal, below.  — Bob Schiffmann, President R.F. Schiffmann Associates, Inc. and IMPI’s current President

 There Was No Ban on Microwave Ovens in the USSR.

In the last issue, Bob Schiffmann stated that the “Russians did for some short period of time ban the sale of microwave ovens.” I believe this is not true and in the following I present ample evidence supporting my belief. I have been intimately involved with microwave ovens since 1968 and I have in my extensive historical coverage {1,2] of the field cited evidence of development of microwave ovens in the USSR in the 1970’s , including a brochure on “A superhigh-frequency oven” in 1971, an ad for the “Electronika” oven in 1980 and discussions with Soviet scientists on ovens in 1977. But the evidence is even much more extensive and so I present here a record of the many events that support the idea that microwave ovens never were banned in the USSR.

Key events:

1969: Dr Karel Marha, of Czechoslovakia, presents paper at the 1969 Richmond symposium on microwave bioeffects and visits Raytheon Co. He prepared an affidavit that describes how leakage radiation is monitored near microwave ovens in Czechoslovakia, –at a horizontal distance of at least 25 cm. from the oven door and at the height of the head and gonads. He contributes a paper describing safety considerations in “Eastern Europe” for the special issue of the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory & Techniques in 1971 for which I was guest editor. No mention of bans ever came from Dr. Marha.

1973: At the IMPI symposium in Loughborough, in the U.K., there were extensive discussions on the safety of microwave ovens and Dr. P. Czerski, of Poland agreed with me at the podium that the U.S. “emission standard” for microwave ovens was compatible with exposure standards in Eastern Europe, and therefore there was no reason why ovens with leakage limits as in the U.S. would not be acceptable in the Eastern European countries.. These views were also included in a symposium in Poland which Dr. P. Czerski chaired. My contact with Dr. Czerski was extensive including a visit by him to my home with many hours of stimulating discussions.

1976: IMPI symposium in Belgium—no reports of a ban on microwave ovens in the USSR.

1970’s: In the world of international frequency allocations it is known that in the USSR there is the ISM band at 2.375 GHz for microwave ovens. But at the 1979 World Administrative Conference the USSR agreed to move the ISM band to 2.45 GHz making the 2.45 GHz band recognized throughout the world.

1977: At the IMPI symposium (I believe in Minneapolis) I had extensive discussions with Drs. Los and Dumansky from the Ukraine. No mention of any ban on ovens.

1977; 1979; At conferences on microwave bioeffects in Airlie , Virginia and Seattle, WA extensive discussions are held with scientists and engineers from the USSR and no hint of an oven ban is ever mentioned.

~1980: I had extensive discussions with a celebrated engineer, who had defected from the USSR, on microwave technology in the USSR—both at Raytheon and in Washington, D. C. where he lived.—no mention of a ban on ovens.

1980’s  –the present. I attended many meetings of the Bioelectromagnetics Society where scientists from Eastern Europe were often present. Never did I hear about a ban on microwave ovens.2

~1995: At both the IMPI symposium and a conference on crossed-field tubes at the University of Michigan there was evidence of microwave oven development in Russia but no mention of a ban.

—1968 – the present; I have attended almost all of the IMPI symposia. Even though many of the attendees are from Europe—e.g. Per Risman, never have I heard at an IMPI meeting the rumor that ovens were banned in the USSR.

1980’s to the present; Many contacts with representatives of magnetron suppliers in Russia, including Istok/Svetlana; with no mention of an oven ban

In addition to my experience I asked two people who visited the USSR many times in the last 40 years and they both report never hearing of a ban on microwave ovens while in the USSR—cf. Prof. A.W. Guy who made at least 12 trips and Ric Tell (of EPA fame) who made several trips.

As cited above, we in Raytheon were able to procure and test the “Electronika” oven. It operated at 2.45 GHz and showed leakage values between 0.5 and 1.0 mW/cm2—i.e. good enough to pass the FDA emission standard even though never legally processed for imports. It is interesting to read the ad (translation) for this oven in the Russian “Economic News” in the Spring of 1980.

Microwave Electric-Oven “Elektronika

Latest development in consumer cooking technology

It is very convenient to prepare food in this oven—no necessity to use pots or pans. One can warm up and prepare food fast right on the platter on which the food will be served.

In the “Electronika” oven, products don’t dry out or boil away as much.

Time of preparation is significantly reduced. For example, lamb is ready in 9 minutes; baked peroshki in 30 seconds.

Time settings free one from the necessity of constantly watching over the cooking process. The “Elecktronika” is compact and contemporarily styled. It will grace the kitchen with its appearance.

It operates at 220 Volts, with a maximum usable power of 1.65 kilowatts, dimensions 610x485x306 mm.; weight 45 kg. Price 297 rubles.

Available at Stores of “Electroconsumer-Agency” (“Electrobitorga”) Telepress-agency-ad.

In sum, the extensive experience of some of my colleagues and myself over the last 45 years shows no evidence of a ban of microwave ovens in the USSR.

It is true that there have been great differences in exposure standards between the USSR and the U.S. but even those differences may be explained away [3[

We conclude that the rumors about a ban on microwave ovens as well as the rumor that the Nazis invented the microwave oven are false and it appears these reports on the Internet originate with sources that have a goal of damning microwave ovens as unsafe both from the concerns about “radiation” as well as alleged deleterious effects on food

References:

1.J.M.Osepchuk, “A history of microwave heating applications,”IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory & Techniques, vol. MTT-32, pp. 1200 – 1224, September, 1984

2. J. M. Osepchuk, “The History of the Microwave Oven: A Critical Review”, Digest IEEE  Int. Microwave Symposium. pp. 1397 – 1400, 2009

3. J. M. Osepchuk, “Environmental Standards: the New Concept and Key to International Harmonization of Safety Standards for the Safe Use of Electromagnetic Energy.” Digest IEEE Int. Symposium on Technology  and Society (ISTAS04), pp. 165 – 173, 2004.

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