Are Infrared Thermometers Safe?
Following the surge in contactless thermometer use, some people have taken to social media to state their belief that infrared thermometers can be harmful to the people they are pointed at. One video post on Facebook depicts a conversation between a mother and dental receptionist where the mother raises concerns about what the laser thermometer will do to her children, in particular, the pineal glands in their brains.
In fact, there’s nothing dangerous about using an infrared (IR) thermometer at all, as debunked by Full Fact. We’ll explain why infrared thermometers aren’t dangerous in this article.
Do infrared thermometers emit radiation?
The main concern of people who don’t know how IR thermometers work is potential exposure to infrared radiation. When you know how infrared thermometers work it makes it easier to understand that they pose no risk.
Infrared radiation is emitted by all objects and living things and is experienced by humans as heat. Even very cold objects like ice cubes emit a level of IR radiation. The hotter something is, the more IR radiation is emitted. Exposure to radiation has negative effects on humans. For example, exposure to the sun, one of the strongest sources of radiation, can lead to sunburn, skin cancer, and eye damage.
But infrared thermometers don’t emit IR radiation, they only measure it. By measuring the amount of radiation coming off of an object, an infrared thermometer can gauge its temperature within a certain range. This range is usually quite small, meaning laser thermometers are highly accurate. The Berrcom Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer is accurate to +/- 0.2°C, for example.
Infrared thermometer risks are generally related to their correct use and accuracy. For example, radiation can be reflected off of one object from another, meaning that it’s possible to pick up the temperature of a different heat source when using a contactless thermometer. So, it’s important to make sure that you always hold an IR thermometer at arm’s length when using it, and that the subject isn’t tightly crowded by other people.
What does the laser in a thermometer do?
Another issue raised in the Facebook video post was the way a laser thermometer looks and is used. The laser function of an infrared thermometer isn’t in fact the part that reads IR radiation, this is carried out through a lens that directs infrared light onto a detector called a thermophile in the machine. The purpose of the laser is to help the user accurately point the thermometer. The actual area being measured is greater than the spot the laser is pointed at.
Why are infrared thermometers good?
Infrared thermometers have been adopted by many businesses as part of an infection control plan. They are also used in industries like construction and engineering to carry out work more safely and efficiently.
Infrared thermometers are contactless and use a distance of 3–5cm to detect someone’s temperature. This makes them much more hygienic when compared with an oral or axillary thermometer, or a strip. There is no need to disinfect an infrared thermometer between uses meaning workflows are made more efficient and quick.
When working in a busy environment, a digital infrared thermometer is incredibly helpful. Digital thermometers detect and display temperatures more quickly than analogue thermometers. They are also easy to use and read, meaning that very little training is needed to use one. The Berrcom Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer shows a temperature reading in just one second on an LED screen accompanied by a colour to tell the user if a temperature is healthy or too high.
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