In 2019, Apple AirPods generated $8 billion in revenue for the company. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that these earbuds are in just about everyone’s hands these days. If you have an iPhone or iPad, odds are you’ve at least heard of them, if you don’t already own a pair yourself.
With their growing popularity has come inevitable concerns about the safety of this type of headset. There is very little research to suggest whether or not AirPods are safe, in spite of their popularity. In this guide, we’re going to take a look at how these earbuds work, how they differ from other wireless headsets and the potential health risks associated with their usage. We’ll also discuss a few different ways you can keep yourself safe.
How do AirPods work?
Each AirPod is its own Bluetooth receiver. Unlike other wireless headsets, each AirPod maintains its own connection with a base device — there is no wire connecting the two earbuds. AirPods are stored inside a case that doubles as a battery, charging the AirPods when they are not in use. In fact, it’s the case that users charge up, not the AirPods themselves.
Users can use AirPods to skip songs, change volume, answer calls, and more.
AirPods and radiation
AirPods emit a Bluetooth signal. The frequency of Bluetooth is generally between 2.4 and 2.48GHz, meaning it falls on the RF-EMF side of the electromagnetic spectrum. Because each earbud produces its own signal, RF-EMF radiation is generated by both earbuds.
Bluetooth and other forms of RF-EMF radiation have been associated with a number of health risks, which we’ll get into momentarily. First, let’s take a look at a video that helps further illustrate the fact that AirPods produce EMF radiation.
Are Airpods dangerous?
EMF radiation is very proximity-dependent. That means the closer you are to an EMF-producing device, the more radiation you’re exposed to. Likewise, your levels of exposure drop exponentially the further you go away from the source.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how putting AirPods into your ears could be problematic. You are literally blasting your brain with RF-EMF radiation when you are using these devices. And while that may not amount to much if you only wear them infrequently, many people wear their AirPods day in and day out. They are easy to set and forget, at least until you get a phone call. But the very trait that makes them convenient could also make them dangerous.
While there are currently safety regulations surrounding wireless devices, many feel these regulations do not go far enough. They also fail to account for our cumulative exposure. While one device alone may not be cause for concern, the amount of devices we’re around daily helps to skyrocket our exposure levels out of the safety zone.
In 2019, a coalition of over 200 scientists from around the world sent a letter to the World Health Organization, pressing for stricter regulations around wireless devices such as AirPods. Currently, the WHO recognizes RF-EMF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” because of research indicating it causes heart and brain tumors in mice.
AirPod radiation, in particular, may increase the user’s risk of developing glioma, a deadly and rare form of brain cancer. That is again because of the proximity of the device to the wearer’s brain. It’s also possible that children would be at an even higher risk of developing glioma, as their skulls are thinner than an adult’s.
In addition to brain cancer, RF-EMF radiation has also been tied to miscarriages in pregnant women, and problems with sperm motility and mobility in men. While AirPods specifically have not been tied to any of these conditions, that’s not necessarily because there is no connection. They just haven’t been studied.
Now that we know the health risks associated with AirPod usage, let’s take a look at what you can do to protect yourself.
- Limit your exposure. Don’t wear your AirPods all day. If you must wear them, try and restrict yourself to only keeping them in while you are on a call or listening to music. And even then, limit your time. You really shouldn’t wear them for hours on end, so popping them in for a quick “hello” call to mom is okay, but that three-hour vent session with your sister is probably inadvisable.
- Use safer alternatives. Until AirPods have been more extensively studied, this may be your best bet. Safer alternatives to AirPods include any wired headset. The goal is to maximize the distance between you and your phone, without introducing more radiation into the mix. Wired headsets, while not perfect, generate significantly less EMF radiation than their wireless counterparts. For a list of some of the best wired headsets on the market today, check out our guide to the ten best air tube headsets of 2020.
- Take supplements. Supplements are a great way to help protect your body from the damaging effects of EMF radiation. Supplements can help counteract some of the damage done by restoring cells and protecting the body. We won’t go over supplements in too great of depth here because it’s covered pretty thoroughly in our guide to anti-radiation herbs and supplements. But for quick reference, you can’t go wrong with Reishi, Turkey Tail, Ginseng, and several other popular supplements. Each has a different benefit as well as a different effect on your body, however, so always check with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your regimen.
- Reduce your exposure elsewhere. If you can’t ditch the AirPods, at least try and reduce your exposure elsewhere. This can mean many things, depending on your circumstances. You could switch from wireless to wired internet, ridding your home of WiFi. You could install a smart meter guard to help shield against smart meter radiation. You could switch to incandescent light bulbs, invest in a protective bed canopy, and use a protective pad for your laptop. Any of these steps will help reduce your home’s EMF radiation levels, ultimately putting you less at risk of negative health effects.
AirPods may be popular, but that doesn’t make them safe. If you have a pair, take safety precautions to lower your probability of experiencing negative health effects. And if you’re considering purchasing some, you may want to opt for a good wired headset, instead.