AirPods and other Bluetooth devices have made headlines recently – and it wasn’t because of a new product launch.
On March 7th, an article titled “Are AirPods and Other Bluetooth Headphones Safe?” was published on the blogging platform Medium.com. And it went viral.
I’ve written about the possible health effects of EMF radiation from cell phones in my article EMF Radiation? Should You Really Be Concerned? But we haven’t discussed radiation from Bluetooth devices yet.
So let’s get right to it: Do AirPods and other Bluetooth devices pose health risks like cancer? Where’s the evidence? Read on to find out!
In the article, author Markham Heid reported that 250 scientists from 40 countries signed a petition in 2015 to the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the petition, the scientists called for “an independent multidisciplinary committee to explore the pros and cons of alternatives” to electric and wireless devices that emit electromagnetic fields (EMF).
Heid quoted one of the signers of the petition, Dr. Jerry Phillips of University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who stated, “My concern for AirPods is that their placement in the ear canal exposes tissues in the head to relatively high levels of radio-frequency radiation…[evidence] indicates potential concerns for human health and development from all technologies that operate at radio frequencies.”
Simply put, Heid wrote that there is no evidence that Bluetooth devices are safe, and that this should be of a bigger issue due to the growing use of this technology.
Cell Phone Radiation Has Been Shown to Cause Cancer in Animals
Cell phones use non-ionizing forms of radiation. Non-ionizing radiation refers to any type of low-energy electromagnetic radiation that does not have enough energy to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Unlike ionizing radiation used by X-rays and CT scans, non-ionizing radiation is only capable of heating and excitation, or causing the electron to move to a higher energy state. Examples of non-ionizing radiation include:
- UV light
- Visible light
- Infrared light
- Radio waves
- Very low frequency (VLF), i.e., radio frequencies in the range of 3 to 30 kHz
- Extremely low frequency (ELF), i.e., radio frequencies in the range of 300 Hz to 3 kHz
Non-ionizing radiation was also initially thought to be unable to cause direct damage to your DNA.
But this has been a topic of ongoing debate. There is growing evidence that EMF can negatively affect living organisms, even at frequencies below international and national guidelines. In 2011, an international study showed increased risk of glioma, an often malignant brain tumor, among heavy cell phone users, prompting the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify radiofrequency EMF as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
Then, in 2018, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) released the much-anticipated, peer-reviewed findings of a pair of studies that examined the effects of cell phone radiation on mice and rats.
The NTP studies, which lasted for two years, exposed rats and mice to radiation replicating signal strengths of 2G and 3G technology. The studies showed evidence of different levels of carcinogenic activity:
- Clear evidence of carcinogenic activity
- Dose-related increase in incidences of malignant masses, such as schwannoma in the heart
- Some evidence of carcinogenic activity considered to be related to cell phone radio frequency radiation (RFR) exposure
- Incidences of malignant glioma in the brain
- Incidences of pheochromocytoma (benign, malignant, or combined) in the adrenal medulla
- Equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity that may have been related to cell phone RFR exposure
- Incidences of adenoma or carcinoma (combined) in the prostate gland
- Incidences of benign or malignant granular cell tumors in the brain
- Incidences of adenoma in the pars distalis of the pituitary gland
- Incidences of pancreatic islet cell adenoma or carcinoma (combined)
- Incidences of adenoma or carcinoma (combined) of the liver
The researchers also found that the exposure increased the risk of heart conditions, DNA damage, and changes to the reproductive system resulting in lower birth weights in baby rats born during the trials.
Keep in mind that these studies did not test the effects of 4G or 5G. Some of the attendees of the NTP Technical Reports Peer Review Panel Presentations expressed concerns that the addition of 5G high-frequency transmission on top of 3G and 4G will result in more disease, essentially “microwaving” the U.S. population.
Furthermore, the NTP studies were not lifetime studies. Since 60% of all cancers in humans occur after age 60, there is concern that the 2-year cutoff would have missed a dramatic increase in incidences of cancer.
Animal models are often poor predictors of human reactions, and it has been difficult to gather reliable conclusive evidence in human studies. In other words, we need more data on how the relatively new phenomenon of widespread cell phone use affects human health. Nevertheless, the findings were significant enough to raise skepticism about the harmlessness of cell phones.
What Does This Have to Do with AirPods and Other Wireless Devices?
First things first, the article written by Markham Heid is misleading. No, 250 scientists did not sign a petition warning that AirPods and other Bluetooth headphones cause cancer. The petition was created in 2015, and AirPods weren’t introduced to the public until 2016.
Still, AirPods and other wireless headphones use Bluetooth technology, which uses non-ionizing RFR like cell phones do. And just as we don’t have conclusive evidence that cell phone radiation poses a threat to human health, we have even less evidence about the safety or risk Bluetooth radiation.
But let’s look at some of the facts. Bluetooth delivers a much lower dose of radiation than cell phones and even visible light. When you use your cell phone, it needs to send and receives signals from a fixed cell tower, likely some distance away. But the distance traveled by signals from Bluetooth and other WiFi devices are much shorter (from your head to the cell phone, for example). This means that a Bluetooth radiofrequency requires much lower power to function than a cell phone does, which may translate into a reduced effect on your body.
One concern is that many people who use Bluetooth headphones wear them for many hours. Concentrated radiation of any form could have dangerous effects. But again, research has yet to reveal the threshold below which radio frequency signals pose no threat.
How Can You Reduce Your Exposure to EMF?
Whether you’re a precautionary type or you simply want to reduce your exposure to EMF, you can follow the tips I outlined in EMF Radiation? Should You Really Be Concerned? Here are additional recommendations:
- Keep cell phones and wireless devices away from your body when not in use. Keeping your cell phone an arm’s length away (especially when the battery is low) can reduce exposure.
- Sleep with cell phones and wireless devices away from the bed.
- Stick with wired headphones.
- Never wear your phone (keep it out of your pocket!)
- Limit children’s use of wireless devices.
- Turn off router at night.
So, Should You Be Concerned?
Because Bluetooth devices are still relatively new, scientists lack data from long-term studies to prove possible relationships between the devices and cancer, or lack thereof. What we do know is that some individuals are much more sensitive to EMFs than others.
In addition to the methods above, consider using wired Internet connection whenever possible. It may be nearly impossible to avoid using cell phones and other wireless devices these days, but these steps may be able to help reduce the amount of radiation exposure.
Now it’s your turn. Are you concerned about the safety of AirPods and other Bluetooth devices? If you are, what steps are you taking to protect yourself and your family? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
I recently purchased some hearing aids that use Bluetooth technology to stream cell phone calls and programs from my iphone directly to my ears. They make phone calls and listening to Youtube much easier for me. Does this also pose a cancer threat?
I wish we knew… I don’t think we have the answers yet but caution is advised.
Those of us with moderate to severe hearing loss are finding greatly enhanced hearing with the newer hearing aid technology that uses Bluetooth – and that means I have Bluetooth-enabled devices behind both ears for up to 18 hours a day – or occasionally longer since I am completely isolated without my aids. There’s very little sound research that I could find to allay my concern about how this could affect my brain health. Any advice?
yes, I have known many patients with hearing loss using similar devices and the problem is we just don’t know. But I do understand using them to aid in hearing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy answers for you…
I am so thankful that you are posting on this. With the 5G rollout already in many cities (5G is a frequency that exposes all of us to higher frequencies (24e70 GHz) of electromagnetic radiation and has no safety studies. None. We are looking at much higher rates of patients who have electrosensitivity and symptoms related to exposure: heart palpitations and arrhythmias, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, anxiety, depression, tinnitus, vertigo, dizziness, indigestion, skin tingling or burning, and chronic pain. Dr. Dominique Belpomme and Dr. Olle Johansson have published many studies in the area of exposure and sensitivity to these frequencies, I am afraid our hearing impaired patients will be exposed to increasing levels of EMRs as a result of current practices of using bluetooth technologies for their devices. I want to invite you and all of our colleagues to a meeting where Drs. Belpomme and Johansson will be presenting their research along with clinicians from the US to teach healthcare providers to assess and treat electrosensitivity. We will also be teaching everyone how to protect themselves and make their homes and offices safe (hardwiring 101 and home remediation). The venue we are having the conference in will be wifi-free probably the first time in the US this has been done. See conference here: emfconference.com Thank you Jill for your hard work and real contribution to real healthcare, Lyn Patrick ND
Thanks for your comments Lyn! I hope to see you and many others at the EMF conference! 😊
I live in Berkeley, and a few months ago almost all of the young people and Cal students I see on the streets here suddenly wearing AirPods. Same old modern story of course: “convenience” and latest groovy tech-widget hankering—but unquestioningly paying two hundred dollars for brain cancer? Why would anyone physically put a small cell tower inside their head? (I mean are they preparing for being chipped, is that what will distinguish the new generation?) That is brain-washing. No, it’s more like brain-flushing. (Sung to old tune from Broadway’s ‘South Pacific’: “Gonna wash that brain right outa my head, and send it on its way…”)
Your comments regarding cell phone safety recommend keeping cell phones “away” from the body.
My wife keeps her’s in her purse.
I do not use a purse, and rely on my good old pants pockets. I don’t commonly use a backpack.
What is a man to do?
Are you aware of any phone “cases” which prevent transmission of EMF to the body?
you might try https://lessemf.com
What happened to the part of your article that talks about Airestech?
What do you mean?
I found it and am glad I still have the email you sent titled, Are your wireless headphone causing cancer? In your email you mentioned Aries Technologies. I researched them a bit and reached out to them with a bunch of questions and decided to buy a couple products from them and so far I do feel a difference. How come you don’t include that in your article? Anyway, thank you for your recommendation.
You’ll find Aires Tech on Products We Love page 😊 or direct link here.
Great article.With all this radiation around many people get paranoid.
So essentially this article can be summed up with ” the headphones listed have great noise cancelling and great sound.” I would have appreciated at least a bit of effort in comparison. The only point of comparison is the price and the seemingly arbitrary and unexplained rating. This article was absolutely no help at all.
Can I use Bluetooth Headphones with my Yamaha Digital Piano All The Earbuds Are Noise Cancelling Buds?