This story was first published on July 13, 2010
Warning message claims that researchers at Princeton University have discovered that electromagnetic radiation from decorative magnets stuck to refrigerator doors “radiated” the food inside thereby massively increasing the probability of cancer in test mice used in the study.
The claims in the warning message have no basis in fact. There are no credible reports about any such study at Princeton University or elsewhere. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that refrigerator magnets could “radiate” food and cause cancer in the way described.
Subject: Decorative Magnets on Refrigerators – DANGER !
A number of researchers at Princeton’s University have discovered something scary!.
For several months, they were feeding two groups of mice: the first group with food kept in a refrigerator, and the second group with food kept in a refrigerator as well but with several decorative magnets on the door.
The objective of this experiment was to see how electromagnetic radiation (that coming out from the decorative magnets on the door) affect food items. Amazingly, rigorous clinical studies stated that the group of mice that consumed the “radiated” food had as much as 87 % higher probability to get cancer than the other group of mice.
Inexplicably no Governments or health associations/institutions have given any statement on this regard. However and just in case, is recommendable to remove any decorative magnet from refrigerators, and put it far away from any food.
Kindly pass this information to your contacts.
According to this widely circulated warning message, researchers at US-based Princeton University have discovered that the ubiquitous decorative magnets that many people stick to their household refrigerator doors can have an adverse effect on the food stored inside and could therefore significantly increase the risk of cancer among householders that use the magnets.
According to the message, “rigorous clinical studies” using two groups of mice showed that the mice who consumed “radiated” food from a refrigerator containing door magnets had up to 87% higher probability of getting cancer than the mice who ate food from a refrigerator without door magnets.
However, I could find no credible evidence whatsoever that confirms the claims in this warning message. There is no record of a study like the one described being conducted at Princeton University. I contacted Princeton University to ask about the supposed study and received the following reply from a university spokesperson:
To confirm, we are not aware of any such research affiliated with anyone at Princeton and unfortunately we do not know where or why this e-mail chain started.
We appreciate you informing your readers that this e-mail is a hoax.
In fact, despite extensive research, I could not find any record of such a study being conducted at any major university.
Moreover, there is not a shred of credible evidence to suggest that the innocuous fridge magnet could possibly have such a detrimental impact on food stored inside a refrigerator. A typical refrigerator magnet is simply a small, low-strength permanent magnet. A permanent magnet is an item made from a magnetized material that creates its own persistent magnetic field. Other types of magnets rely upon electric currents to generate a magnetic field.
Certainly, there has been an ongoing debate about the possible health effects of electromagnetic radiation such as that generated by power lines and mobile phones. However, permanent magnets have been used for a great variety of purposes over many years, and there is no scientific evidence linking them to cancer or other human health problems.
And this absurd warning has other fatal flaws as well. Firstly, the “study” apparently overlooks the fact that refrigerators typically have other built-in components that generate magnetic fields. Many modern fridges are fitted with door seals that contain magnetic strips that help to hold the seal against the fridge cabinet. And the electric motor that powers the majority of refrigerators also generates an electromagnetic field.
The supposed study outlined in the message apparently makes the absurd assumption that while comparatively weak magnetic field sources such as fridge magnets could “radiate” food inside the fridge, other magnetic field sources such as door seal magnets and the electromagnetic field generated by the refrigerator’s motor would have no such effect. Given that door seal magnets are stronger and closer to the food than magnets on the outside of the door and electromagnetic fields are already the subject of health concerns, the failure to include these factors in supposedly “rigorous clinical studies” seems telling indeed.
Ironically, scientists are currently developing an innovative magnetic fridge that would actually use a magnetic field to cool food. These scientists apparently see no inherent health danger in exposing food to a magnetic field.
Secondly, while concerns have been raised that direct exposure to magnetic fields could have implications for human health, I have seen no credible suggestion that such radiation somehow stays in the food and is subsequently passed on to humans (or mice) who consume it.
And, thirdly, if the claims in the message were true, the findings of the supposed study would have been well publicized in various scientific and medical journals and would have also been widely reported in the media. The absence of any such reports is, by itself, enough to identify the warning as spurious. Despite the suggestion in the message, there is nothing “inexplicable” about the fact that the findings of the study have not been reported by “Governments or health associations/institutions”. The study has not been reported because it never took place and the claims in the message are outright lies.
While the claims in the message are unfounded, it should be noted that some types of fridge magnets and decorative jewellery made with neodymium magnets can interfere with pacemakers and other implanted heart devices with possible life-threatening consequences. If a person with one of these heart devices had very close contact with one of these magnets, the device could become unstable and stop working correctly. Of course, this real danger is in no way related to the bogus health warning discussed above.