You’d notice how the recent greetings have changed. Walk into a store or a supermarket and you’ll come face-to-face with a temperature gun! Like a weapon pointing at your head, the new infrared thermometer does not show any mercy, as it deems you healthy enough to pass by. But recent reports have been suggesting that these infra-red thermometers can be harmful to your pineal gland, with the intensity of the rays.
How do infrared thermometers work
Owing to their capability of measuring temperature from a distance, the infrared thermometers are a saviour in situations when the use of other sorts of thermometers isn’t practical. (Imagine having the regular thermometers being used on you and everyone else at the mart!) These devices work on a phenomenon called black body radiation. Considering you may have passed out in those physics lectures, we’ll break it down for you. In your body, there are billions of molecules that are constantly in motion. As the body temperature increases, in case of fever, these molecules vibrate at a higher frequency and emit radiation, which is below the visible spectrum of light. The hotter it gets in there, the more light they emit and the thermometer detects this light and translates it into a reading, which is essentially your body temperature.
Infrared thermometers harm the pineal gland
A Facebook post from July 25, 2020, and shared more than 2,000 times, written by an unnamed Australian nurse, warns about the purported dangers of the infrared thermometers being directed at one’s forehead.
“Are we being desensitized to be targeted at the head and also causing potential health issues by aiming an infrared ray to the pineal gland?” part of it reads. It adds that as a medical professional, they “refuse to directly target the pineal gland which is located directly in the centre of the forehead, with an infrared ray. However, most people agree to go through this several times a day! Our pineal glands must be protected as it is crucial for our health both now and in the future.”
Several people who resonated the same doubts took to Twitter to express the same.
A certain some urged others to have the infrared thermometer pointed at the wrist instead of the forehead, to avoid it being harmful to the pineal gland.
Other well-informed ones were quick to rubbish claims of the thermometer being harmful to 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. They went on to reiterate why the infrared thermometers are in no way harmful.
The statement reads, “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.”
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 the 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.”
Debunking the myth
According to the FDA, infrared thermometers reduce the risk of cross-contamination and minimize the spread of disease. However, there are certain limitations that one comes across while using these. One is that the measurement of temperature is affected depending on where the thermometer is directed at. The second factor that plays a crucial role is distance. The proximity between the two, the one recording the temperature and the one being recorded, will impact the reading.
Antonio Estay, an assistant professor at the University of Chile in the Department of Medical Technology, says that what is used to record the temperature is an infrared sensor and not a laser emitter. He spoke to AFP and said, “Infrared radiation can cause damage to many tissues, but this is not the case with thermometers, since they do not emit energy.”
Further, the Puerto Rican Society of Ophthalmology took to Facebook to debunk this claim. “Are the infrared thermometers we are using to measure temperature harmful to 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.”
The next time the infrared thermometer is pointed at you, you may be rest assured that it is in no way harmful to the pineal gland. Better cross your fingers you pass the temperature test, anyway!