Fact Check: Are Infrared Thermometers Harmful?

Fact Check: Are Infrared Thermometers Harmful?

The Logical Indian Fact Check team investigates the claim that Infrared thermometer when pointed at one's forehead can harm the brain especially the pineal gland.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on across the globe, governments have issued guidelines to follow for citizens as they go about their daily life. One such guideline says that regular temperature checks using contactless infrared thermal scanners at every point of a facility is essential.

In light of this, a piece of news is doing the rounds which says that infrared thermometer when pointed at one's forehead can harm the brain especially the pineal gland.

Similar claims about the Infrared thermometer is being shared on social media platforms in different languages.



The Logical Indian received a request to verify the claim.


Claim:

Infrared thermometer when pointed at one's forehead can harm the brain especially the pineal gland.

Fact Check:

The claim is false.

The claim has been rubbished by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia (Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia) on their official Facebook account.

"Non-contact infrared thermometer is not a shooting device emitting radiation. It is designed to detect and absorb heat in the form of infrared rays emitted from the human body and converts it into electricity," reads the post.

Responding to the viral social media posts, Malaysian Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah informed that the non-contact infrared thermometer was not a shooting device emitting radiation.

"It is designed to detect and absorb heat in the form of infrared rays emitted from human body and converts it into electricity. The electronic circuit within the thermometer processes the electrical signal to determine the temperature and display the reading on a screen. Since infrared thermometers do not emit harmful radiations, it is safe to use," he was quoted as saying.

No such scientific evidence was found which proves that Infrared Thermometers can harm one's brain.

According to the FDA, the federal agency that regulates drugs in the United States, the significance of non-contact infrared thermometers (NCITs) is that they reduce cross-contamination risk and minimize the risk of spreading disease.

However, the association does mention that the NCITs have certain limitations when it comes to accuracy.

Below are the limitations as listed on the FDA website:

  • (1) How and where the NCIT is used may affect the measurement (for example, head covers, environment, positioning on forehead).

  • (2) The close distance required to properly take a person's temperature represents a risk of spreading disease between the person using the device and the person being evaluated.

Antonio Estay, an assistant professor at the University of Chile in the Department of Medical Technology, told AFP that NCIT thermometers "are used to measure body temperature with an infrared sensor" and not with a laser emitter.

"Infrared radiation can cause damage to many tissues, but this is not the case with thermometers," he said when asked if these thermometers are harmful since NCITs do not emit energy.

According to him, the sensor of the thermometer only measures electromagnetic radiation emitted by the user, it does not generate it.

Further, the Puerto Rican Society of Ophthalmology took to Facebook to debunk these claim and quoted ophthalmologist Vanessa López as saying that, "Are the infrared thermometers we are using to measure temperature dangerous for vision? The answer is NO. The thermometers to which we are exposed in different locations work as a sensor that reads the infrared waves that all humans naturally emit. The thermometer uses light, not a laser, which points the direction of the sensor where the temperature measurement will be taken."


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