Is the red light from infrared cookers bad for my eyes?
September 23, 2019 10:43 PM   Subscribe

Will the red light from the infrared cooker hurt my eyes? Are there any negative health effects from infrared cooking?

My mother just bought an infrared cooker which she likes and is trying to make me use for all cooking because she claims it is more energy efficient than cooking with gas. The problem is I have pots which are either clear glass or too small to cover the red ring, meaning that I can see the red light.

Will this be bad for my eyes? I can't seem to get a straight answer from google. Any other health effects? Will it degrade nutrition in food?
posted by whitelotus to Science & Nature (7 answers total)
No. Infrared light has less energy (per photon) than visible light. It is less effective at breaking down chemicals or damaging RNA than visible light. Ultraviolet light, which is higher energy, per photon, than visible light is the one that can harm your eyes and cause cancer and so on. The infrared cooker is basically the same thing as radiant heat. Hot coals will put out a lot of infrared light; as far as your eyes' health is concerned, it's like gazing into a campfire, but without the smoke. It will not have any different effect on food nutrition than any other kind of heating.
posted by aubilenon at 11:49 PM on September 23, 2019 [15 favorites]

Oh, and the biggest concern I think is applicable about not fully covering the red ring is you may be losing efficiency, because some of the heat is escaping into the house instead of just going into your food.
posted by aubilenon at 11:51 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Glass blowers do tend to get cataracts from long term exposure to high levels of IR, as do enamel artists, but I think the risk from cooking elements is low.

There are indium-doped IR blocking glasses however, but I've never heard of cooks using them.

Per watt, as I understand it, gas is cheaper than electricity in most parts of the US, and if you really don't want to use the IR cooker, your local gas company might offer some comparisons to help convince your mother.
posted by jamjam at 1:50 AM on September 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I thought that the issue with Glassblowers getting cataracts was due to the excitation band of the sodium present in the glass. Sodium will emit a yellow emission band and the next higher energy emission is in the UV range. That is why glassblowers have special safety glasses that have a blue tint to them, to block the small amount of UV light that the hot sodium will produce. Indeed from the paper you've linked when talking about Infrared light they conclude:

Thus despite a radiant exposure dose of more than two orders of magnitude higher than that claimed to be the threshold dose for photo-chemical damage by Wolbarsht(24) and Pitts and Cullen(25) there was no sign of cataract. It was concluded that there is no experimental evidence for a photo-chemical effect at 1090 nm and that the cataract observed by Wolbarsht(24) and Pitts and Cullen(25) was probably because of heating of the iris. However, before a photo-chemical effect can be safely ignored, other wavelengths should be investigated.

If you look at the dose response graph for UV there is a strong response seen with additional UV light, but the IR light doesn't have such a trend. They conclude that the cataracts observed in the rats exposed to IR light were due to thermal damage from the super intense light causing an increase in temperature of approximately 10C. That would be extremely painful to have your eye increased in temp by 10C so I'm going to assume that isn't happening and therefore the IR light is safe as although it has enough energy to cook things is lacks the energy to break apart atoms in molecules and can't cause the radicals that are the ultimate source of the cataracts that are observed via the UV light irradiation.
posted by koolkat at 6:13 AM on September 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

I had a feeling that the whole "painful to increase eye temperature by 10C" angle, while obvious, might not actually be true.
So I went digging a bit, and it looks like, as seen in figure 3 in this article, it would be about as painful as rubbing your eye after eating some spicy chilis. Pretty painful!

I only thought to ask after asking myself on my bike ride this morning: have my eyeballs ever actually been cold or hot? And I couldn't remember.
posted by Acari at 12:11 PM on September 24, 2019

I can confirm being careful of UV light lest you wake up in bed screaming because your eyes are burning and end up wearing bandages for a couple of weeks wondering if you'll see again. Trust me, it hurts.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2019

Thank you all who answered. It seems that the consensus is that the red light is harmless. However, to be safe, I will try sticking to gas.
posted by whitelotus at 8:49 PM on September 28, 2019

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