Are Apple’s AirPods and other bluetooth headphones safe?

“Apple made waves in 2016 when it announced the newest iPhones wouldn’t have headphone ports,” Markham Heid writes for Medium. “Most of Apple’s competitors — including Google and Samsung — have since followed suit.”

“You might assume, based on these industry moves, that the safety of Bluetooth was established long ago. That assumption is incorrect. Some experts who study wireless technologies have concerns about their health effects,” Heid writes. “‘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,’ says Jerry Phillips, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He mentions tumors and other conditions associated with abnormal cell functioning as some of the potential risks. These risks are not restricted to AirPods. Existing evidence ‘indicates potential concerns for human health and development from all technologies that operate at radio frequencies,’ he says.”

“Phillips is not alone. Roughly 250 researchers from more than 40 countries have signed a petition to the United Nations and the World Health Organization expressing ‘serious concern’ about the non-ionizing electromagnetic field (EMF), which is the kind of radiation emitted by wireless devices, including Bluetooth technologies,” Heid writes. “Other experts disagree and say that when all the research on EMF is pooled and analyzed, the data clearly indicate an absence of harm.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Seems like more study in this area is required before the safety question can be answered conclusively.

14 Comments

    1. Its been more than 10-40 years since the era of when the RF spectrum got into “ionizing” and “non ionizing”.

      And while we can never say ‘no’, from a Pareto principle perspective, the knowledge of the relevant (and real) risks is already at 99% fidelity levels.

      YMMV, but I’ve had to dive deep into the worldwide safety standard on this topic … for those so inclined to read up on the topic, it is IEEE C95.1

      And do note that the safety standards are typically set in the context of occupational hazard probabilities – – i.e., 2000+ hours exposure per year times 40 years – – before a safety factor is multiplied on, because the data often becomes sparse for shorter-than-lifetime exposures. There’s been a spat over the past decade of researchers who publish flashy claims, who then have their papers torn apart in peer review.

      -hh

  1. They’ve been saying things like this about cell phones for a long time, and last I checked, there was no conclusive evidence that they were a health concern, Now the same crowd more than likely, begging for someone elses money to study it, is saying the same about Bluetooth…

    1. First – using something until there is what you consider conclusive proof of serious harm is backwards. They should need to prove harmlessness. There is considerably more evidence than there was when the Surgeon General ordered the cigarette package warnings.

      A few example, from back when I was looking at cell phones…

      Insurance
      Two of the worlds largest insurance companies, Lloyds of London and Swiss Re, won’t insure the cell industry and have recommended to other insurance companies to write in exclusion clauses against paying compensation for illnesses caused by continuous long-term low-level radiation.

      Dr Neil Cherry, May 2000, Presentation to the New Zealand Parliament, to Italy, Austria, Ireland and the European Parliament in Brussels. This paper has 122 references representing approximately 1,000 – 1,500 person-years of scientific research.
      “Effects of microwave radiation documented as caused by long-term low level electromagnetic radiation are: Heart problems; Blood problems; Interference with bone marrow; Tumours; Calcium interference; 46% reduction in night-time melatonin; Increased arthritis; Skin problems; Ear problems; Risk to leukaemia; Childhood cancer; Sleep problems; Depression; Memory loss; Difficulty in concentrating; Mental conditions; Neurological illnesses; Headaches; Dizzyness; Fatigue; Miscarriage; and Infertility.”

      French Health General Directorate, January 2001.
      They state “a variety of biological effects occur at energy levels that do not cause any rise in local temperature”. The group ask “is it possible to state that there are no health risks?” and they reply “No”.

      The Lancet Nov. 25, 2000 (probably the single most prestigious and respected medical journal)
      “There is a growing body of scientific research linking microwave radiation to conditions ranging from sleep disorders, memory loss and suppression of immune response to leukemia and other forms of cancer. These studies also suggest that those with developing or weakened immune systems, such as children, the elderly and the ill, are particularly at risk.”

      Salford and Persson, 1992
      Increases in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier of rats could be effected at extremely low levels of microwave radiation of around 915 megahertz (around the frequencies used by cellular phones and cellular-phone antennae).

      Michael Repaacholi, 1997
      “…significant increase in B-cell lymphomas in mice exposed to long-term low-level frequencies in the cellular, PCS range. This has implications for those living near transmitter sites, as changes in B-cells are implicated in 85 percent of all cancers.” “… lymphoma cancer rate was 2.43 times normal with two-hours per day of cell phone exposure.”

      Dr. David Carpenter, Dean at the School of Public Health, State University of New York
      “This is really harming people, the association between residential exposure to EMF’s and cancer is in my judgment, strong and growing stronger. I believe that 30% of all childhood cancers are associated with EMF exposure.”

      Olle Johansson, PhD, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
      “Research show that electromagnetic radiation can affect behaviour, become problematic for short-term memory, cause concentration disturbances and confusion.” “It is a myth that a specific type of radiation or a chemical is harmless just because it happens to be below the official safety level.”

      The U.S. EPA in their draft report on EMFs in 1990
      “There is reason for concern.” “We advise prudent avoidance.”

      Martin Halper, the EPA’s Director of Analysis and Support goes even further.
      “I have never seen a set of epidemiological studies that remotely approached the weight of evidence that we’re seeing with ELF [extremely low frequency] electromagnetic fields. Clearly there is something here”.

      George Carlo, PhD. M.S. J.D.
      This is one of the most damning comments of all. He is the former head (for 6 years) of the cell industry research/PR headquarters in Washington DC!!! He split with the industry as he became convinced of the danger.
      “They cannot guarantee that cell phones are safe. We’ve moved into an area where we now have some direct evidence of harm from cellular phones. The industry said that there were thousands of studies that proved that wireless phones are safe and the fact was there were NO studies that were directly relevant. They have shown total disregard for mobile phone users.”

  2. 5G is what concerning me now, they will need to add many more nodes to get the same coverage as current LTE tech.
    Years ago I used to have a Delkin router using G standard, it sat on a shelf directly behind my chair and I would sit exactly between it and my laptop. I developed cysts on my back once and then again a year later in the same spot. That was enough for me I moved the router and the issue has not returned. We are basically sacks of water that use electrical and chemical signals to control our body and one day some tech is going to hit a sweet spot that will connect with us directly… what frequency will it be??? Lets just stay with better LTE, hell I remember when I used to get 70 MB down on it.

  3. The inventors of electromagnetic radiation emitting gadgets and manufacturers offer no proof that continuous, long-term exposure of low frequency radio wave exposure is safe. It implies that those who enjoy WiFi or Bluetooth devices, which includes children, don’t know what they’re doing. Parents are putting the whole family at risk.

    The offending corporation that likely caused the malady will not provide doctor’s care. That’s why society needs a fair and equitable Single Payer which the corporation should want — it’s in its interest — because socialized medicine administered birth-to-death lets the irresponsible Capitalist corporation off the hook in the area of health compensation.

    1. Yes, single provider is best! So NASA should quit using multiple contractors, like SpaceEx and Blue Horizon. They should go back to a single provider and have just the Space Shuttle, like we did for the 40 years during which there was no progress in space flight. Effing Capitalists! Having a single provider is cheap and effective. Oh wait. I am wrong! Nevermind!

  4. There is a long tradition of adapting and deploying technology before the impact on humans and the environment has fully been examined or understood.

    There was once a time when shoe stores had fluoroscopes, operated unlicensed or regulated, to see how well your shoes fit before leaving the store. These days we in the medical field must record the radiation dose of every exam onto the patient’s chart as we know every exposure translates to increased cancer and other health risks.

    The US pulled DDT to a highly restricted status after it almost drove the Bald Eagle to extinction. The FDA has pulled drugs because- under pressure from big pharma to speed things up- drugs were released before a true understanding of the drug’s impacts on patients was understood.

  5. I’m willing to be educated on this, but I’m skeptical that there is damage from BT head phones.

    Compared to cell phones the EM signal from headphones is much less intense. Also, I suspect that it is less frequent. Maybe someone can enlighten us on this topic. I imagine the headphones need to occasionally send a signal to the iPhone, but most of the time the iPhone is streaming data to the headphones. So overall, I’d say the exposure from headphones is far lower than what you get from holding a cell phone to your ear while talking.

    The original article has the researcher worrying about the placement of the headphone in the ear canal. At least for AirPods, I think the antenna is in the little piece protruding on the outside, it is not located inside your ear.

    It would be good if the people worried about this topic would conduct surveys of the urban landscape to see what we are exposed to even if we don’t use a smartphone. There are all sorts of EM radiators around our towns and homes. If you are anywhere near a lightning strike you get a very brief, but massive pulse of EMR.

    Finally, it would be interesting if the critics could come up with a mechanism for how low intensity, high frequency EMR affects living tissue. Clearly very high intensity electric fields can disrupt large molecules and high intensities can cause heating (like a microwave oven). I’m not aware of mechanism for how low intensity signals can affect tissue. Not that it can’t, I just haven’t seen this topic covered.

    On the flip side, a quick search finds medical applications where radio waves are deliberately applied to patients. A common one now seems to be for improving your facial skin tone. Another is to heat internal tissues to alleviate various kinds of pain.

    1. Well, you know, you should re-read Sean’s comment above so that you can modify your closed-mined comment disguised as skeptically open-minded.

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