Induction cooking is rivalled only by the microwave when it comes to heating food without actually using heat. Instead, induction cooktops use an electromagnetic field that, when it comes in contact with a magnetic cooking pot, heats the food without heating the hob itself. Although the induction cooktop has some safety advantages over gas and electric stoves, other safety issues, real and potential, exist.
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Surface and Hot Foods
The cooking surface of an induction oven stays cool, so there is no risk of burning yourself on the cooktop. The cooking vessels do get hot, and of course, the food or liquid in the pots become just as hot as they would if cooked on a gas or electric hob. The same safety rules for handing hot pots and pans apply to induction cooking, and the handles of hot pots should be safely out of reach of children, just as with a conventional hob.
Metal Utensil Hazards
When using an induction cooktop, you can create a safety hazard by leaving metal utensils and lids on the surface. Such items could heat up, even if they're not directly on the "burner" area of the cooktop. Some models of induction cooktops will beep to alert the cook that an object other than the cooking pot is on the surface and shut off automatically, while others detect the size of the object and won't react with a smaller object such as a spoon. To be safe, use a potholder to remove all metal objects from the cooktop.
The electromagnetic field created by induction cooking should not be hazardous to the average cooktop user; however, according to a study by the European Society of Cardiology in 2006, the electromagnetic field can affect pacemakers when they're in close proximity to an induction cooktop. In some cases, voltage levels approached dangerous levels in tests. Pacemakers on the left side seem to be the most sensitive. However, these reactions happen with prolonged contact with the pot, not merely by standing near the cooktop. The same study found that a distance of 35 centimetres from the cooktop is safe for people with pacemakers.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator Risk
The Division of Cardiology at University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, did a study on the effects of an induction cooktop on patients with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, or ICD, in 2005. In this study, patients were monitored while using an induction cooktop, leaning over it and holding the magnetic pots. They detected no irregularities in the function of the ICDs, and induction cooktops were concluded to be safe for such patients.
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- "EP-Europace": Do induction cooktops interfere with cardiac pacemakers?; Werner Irnich et al.; February 2006
- "Illinois Country Living": Induction Cooktops are Safe, Efficient and Really Cool; James Dulley; March 2002
- Utah State University Cooperative Extension; Cooktops and Cookware; Dr. Leona K. Hawks
- "The Journal Cardiovascular Electrophysiology": Induction ovens and electromagnetic interference: what is the risk for patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators?; C. Binggeli et al.; April 16, 2005
- Purcell Murray: Induction Cooktops