“My doctor told me not to get an induction cooktop while I was pregnant,” the panelist told the group. The comment in a closed Zoom kitchen industry conversation, didn’t relate to the focus of the call, but it did fit into wellness design, one of its related themes. It didn’t elicit a response from the other participants on the panel and the conversation moved on.
A web search afterward didn’t turn up major media headlines on induction dangers for pregnant women, as pacemaker risks had when the cooking technology made its reintroduction in the ‘00s.
Induction cooking is based on magnetic conductivity between the burner and a pot or pan, and is considered safer, more energy efficient and faster than gas or electric. With California’s long-term desire to phase out residential gas use by 2045, induction is a likely successor for serious home chefs. Professional chefs already embrace its capabilities, as this piece in Food Service and Hospitality shared.
Induction is also a boon for busy parents who want to get dinner on the table faster during school nights. But is it a risk for expectant moms? Health experts weighed in on the answer – and with an update for pacemaker patients.
“The idea behind a theoretical risk of induction cooktops is that this technology utilizes electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation, similar to that used in microwaves or electric heaters,” explains Dr. Rashmi Kudesia, a reproductive endocrinologist, board-certified Ob/Gyn and a HealthyWomen Women’s Health Advisory Council Member.
“The concern is that electromagnetic waves do spread beyond the cooktop, probably to a radius of a few feet, and therefore a pregnant woman could expose herself and her fetus to this radiation. Particularly as cooktops would hit roughly at abdominal level, it would appear that the pregnant abdomen would typically be within the range of these EMF waves.” This certainly seems to be a possible consideration for the panelist’s physician.
Kudesia adds, “From my perspective, and that of published studies to date, this is a concept that remains in the ‘theoretical risk’ category, meaning one could see how it could have an impact, but it has never been demonstrated to do so.”
Asked if there are known cases of pregnant women or their babies being harmed by induction technology, the doctor replies: “No, there are not such cases, and the published data to date is reassuring, (see: here, here and here).
In response to possible risks of sterilization or other reproductive damage due to induction technology, Kudesia replies, “No, there is no such risk that has been theorized or supported by any scientific observations or societies to date.”
She adds, “I would say that if there is a potential health risk by the EMF waves generated by induction cooktops, then cumulative exposure to the adult over decades would be as great a concern, if not greater, than the gestational timeframe.”
Hugh Taylor, MD, chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine agrees: “All high power electronics create electromagnetic fields. Induction stoves do. But there is no evidence that this is harmful. There is no good evidence to support this.”
When induction cooking made its resurgence in the mid-’00s, there were numerous headlines about its potential risks to users with pacemakers. This concern too was resolved by Tahmeed Contractor, MD, a cardiologist at Loma Linda University International Heart Institute.
As with pregnancy, the risks here are theoretical, he says: “Induction cookers can produce an electromagnetic field, and, in theory, can potentially turn on a ‘magnet response’ that temporarily changes the functionality of these devices.” In his years of practice, he reports, he hasn’t had a single report of pacemaker (or implantable cardioverter defibrillator) interference from his patients, or in any of his professional literature, concerning induction cooking.
“While there have been some reports of interference previously, in a 2005 evaluation from Switzerland, 19 patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators were studied for interference with induction. Despite placing the cooking pot in different positions, increasing cooking levels, and even having the patients touch the pot, there was no evidence of any interference seen on implantable cardioverter defibrillators. This is very reassuring,” he concludes.
The cardiologist also cites medical device companies giving specific recommendations on their websites, including this one: “St. Jude Medical does not anticipate any interference between induction ovens and St. Jude Medical cardiac implants under normal operating conditions. Additionally, patients have used induction ovens with no reported adverse effects.”
Induction technology is not new, (and is, in fact, about half a century ahead of pacemakers). The first patents were issued in the early 1900s and product debuts arrived in the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s from some of the top brands. None really seemed to hit home with buyers. Fast forward to a new millennium and homeowners started getting interested.
Perhaps it relates to a greater comfort with technology, with concerns about sustainability or just the sleek style of these products, but the market has been taking off since then. KBV Research points to smart home adoption as a force behind a 5.1% compound average growth rate in induction sales between 2017 and 2023. “Growing adoption of innovative smart kitchen appliances has been contributing to the growth of household induction cooktops market,” the group declares.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association, one of the leading trade groups in this space, shows induction surpassing electric cooktops in popularity and coming within three percentage points of gas in its 2021 Design Trends report. (California’s plans will probably take induction well past gas in the next two decades, given its market size.)
Do kitchen designers or educators have concerns about induction’s possible fetal risks? “I heard back from two of our faculty members who are certified designers with years of experience, but neither of them knew of any concerns about pregnant women using an induction cooktop,” responded Design Institute of San Diego’s director of academics Natalia Worden. There’s still fretting about pacemaker use among some design pros (as seen in industry conversations online), but that’s often because of lack of access to the latest research.
OB/Gyn Kudesia sums up concern about induction cooking by pregnant women this way: “I would say that, in general, there are far greater risks in the environment that are known to be harmful in pregnancy, some we cannot control, like air pollution, and others we can, like choosing to eating well and exercise. I would generally say that this is an area of theoretical concern that I would not worry about in any significant way.”
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