Are Wireless Headphones safe for your Health?
iPhone has proudly ditched headphones to embrace the more convenient wireless headphones for its recent iPhone 7. There has been a lot of excitement around this new breed of sleek and trendy headsets.
However, what CEO Tim Cook referred to as “Wireless Future”, soon became a subject of debate amongst public health experts.
While a professor from UC Berkely School of Public Health said that “We are playing with fire here”– referring to the new Apple headphones, the latter’s engineers and marketing directors argue that the microwave radiations emitted are well within the FCC guidelines. The irony here is, more than 200 scientists who have studied the effects of electromagnetic fields are of the opinion that FCC guidelines are inadequate to determine what is good for health, and what is not.
It is clear that, globally people are attracted to the concept of wireless technology, especially when it means that they can do away with the hassle of a wired accessory, which they need to keep with themselves all the time, and which seems to tangle – no matter what. The fact that wireless headsets accounted for 17% of the total headphone sales in 2016, speaks volumes.
But again, authorities across the world have taken tangible steps to reduce wireless radiations in schools to keep children away from these ‘harmful’ radiations.
Laws are already beginning to become stringent in many nations. Canada’s new proposal for wireless radiation safety warnings and France’s banning Wi-Fi in daycare centers are both good examples where Government has supported wireless radiation warnings.
So, what are we missing here? And what really is the dynamics of these Wireless Headphones?
Cell phone radiations have been extensively studied.
While your wireless headphones keep your phones away from your head (read brain), they are typically just about replacing one radio-transmitting device with another.
In 2011, the World Health Organization indicated that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are carcinogenic in nature – increasing the risk for glioma, a malignant brain cancer, linked to wireless phones.
Also, the radiofrequency (RF) of any wireless device emits non-ionizing radiation. Although, these are not as dangerous as those that emit ionizing radiation, (like X-ray machines),it remains a cause of concern.
Now, the biggest challenge is that most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before they start showing consequences.
As of now, we know that Bluetooth radiation emitted from all Bluetooth Headsets and Technologies is a type of wireless radio wave frequency (RF), known as microwave radiation. What these microwave radiation does, over time, is similar to what happens to food in microwaves.
Hence, apart from cancers and tumors, there could be a whole lot of other health effects, like cognitive memory dysfunction, since we hold our cell phones close to the memory temporal lobes.
Although, microwave ovens use much higher levels of power, power levels are not the concern here. It’s the rate of change of the EMFs and the pulsing, that causes most of the physiological damage. As per these studies, Bluetooth radiation is dangerous. And wireless Bluetooth headsets are especially dangerous because, they are held within centimeters of the brain and are used along with the cell phone, doubling your exposure to the radiation.
On the contrary, Center for Disease Control and Prevention says, –
“To reduce radio frequency radiation near your body: Get a hands-free headset that connects directly to your phone.”
If we have to decode the above, unlike cell phones, Bluetooth or wireless headsets only need to reach the phone in your pocket to transmit/ receive a signal. These Bluetooth headsets mostly have a range of only 30 feet. Hence, coming to think of it, they emit far less radiation than cell phones. And to be a little more precise, One thousand times less.
The problem however, arises when you use a Bluetooth headset and the transmission strength from the cell phone itself is not reduced.
In this context, it also might be interesting to note that, Bluetooth devices that fit in or around the ear typically have a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of 0.23 watts per kilogram (W/Kg). If you compare this SAR level to some mobile phone SAR levels, you will be surprised to know that it is worse than some cell phones. But, there is absolutely NO evidence that reducing SAR levels will reduce health risks.
“Complicating matters even further, lower doses were often found to be more effective tumor promoters than higher levels; in effect, turning the conventional concept of a linear dose-response on its head.” – Alex Lerchl
According to traditionally accepted scientific principles, our bodies communicate bio-electrically before they do biochemically. Dr. Becker, A researcher in electromagnetic emissions pointed out that exposure to any abnormal electromagnetic field produces a stress response. These artificially-induced stress responses can be compared to an attack on our immune system – a lot similar to a chemical exposure.
How can you play it safe?
Debates are endless and so are opinions. Finding a middle ground amidst the controversy of what is good for our health and what is not, seems to be a viable option after all. While most of the science and technology jargons are difficult to understand for the common man, there is something we could still do. We can look for the manufacturer’s specifications on the wireless headphones pack.
Basically, there are three power classes, and understanding these three classifications of Bluetooth radiation are key to minimize your exposure to Bluetooth radiation. Class 3 transmitters are the least powerful or the weakest; and operate in a range of less than 10 meters, having a peak transmission power of 1 mW. These emit the lowest level of Bluetooth radiation.
Studies have asked millions of people about their health and mobile phone use and other wireless communication devices, and have found no clear association between cancer and cell phone use.
Being a curious bunch, and not knowing in which direction to swing yet, nothing prevents us from being a little careful when it comes to our health and wellbeing. Use these Wireless Headphones in moderation. And unplug and go offline some times.