Electromagnetic fields are invisible areas of energy, or radiation, that are produced by electricity.
Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer – National Cancer Institute
When we use Bluetooth and wireless headphones — in addition to our computers and cell phones and even microwave ovens — they emit a specific type of nonionizing (or low-level) EMF called radio frequency radiation (RFR).
In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified this type of radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans. This classification was based on an increased risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, related to cell phone use.
Furthermore, in 2018, research from the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found that exposure to high levels of RFR — like what’s used in 2G and 3G cellular phones — could cause cancer in rats.
The biggest questions we now face are how these findings relate to humans and what specific levels of RFR may pose a threat to our health.
In general, the amount of radiation Bluetooth headphones emit is significantly less than what’s generated from a typical cell phone, according to Moskowitz.
However, emissions aren’t the only factor that’s at stake when it comes to breaking down the impact of this sort of radiation. The specific absorption rate (SAR) — or the amount of radiofrequency the human body absorbs from a device — also helps us determine how much radiation actually seeps into our bodies.
While Bluetooth and wireless headphones do emit lower levels of radiation compared to a cell phone, their placement is a big concern to some health experts.
“Because of the proximity of the Bluetooth devices — particularly the wireless headsets or earpieces to the body or the head — the actual exposure to the head is only maybe half as much or a third as much as you might get from your cell phone,” Moskowitz explained.
According to Moskowitz, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently requires the SAR for wireless devices to be 1.6 watts per kilograms or less. This figure was developed in the mid-1990s to protect consumers against short-term heating risks. The SAR for Apple AirPods is about 0.466 watts per kilogram, he adds.
While the AirPod’s SAR is well within the range of permitted amounts, many scientists worry that the current SAR regulations don’t effectively account for the risks potentially associated with prolonged exposure to these lower levels of radiation.
Some experts predict that even at lower SAR levels, prolonged, chronic use of our wireless devices could very well add up over time and hurt our health.
“If one uses the AirPods many hours a day, the cumulative exposure to the brain from this microwave radiation could be substantial,” Moskowitz stated on his website.