Hundreds of scientists have signed a United Nations and World Health Organization petition to warn against the potential dangers of Apple AirPods.
A Medium article published last week poses the question, “Are AirPods and Other Bluetooth Headphones Safe?” The article quotes Jerry Phillips, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who says he’s concerned about AirPods because “their placement in the ear canal exposes tissues in the head to relatively high levels of radio-frequency radiation.”
The article also points out that Phillips is “not alone” in his concerns about wireless Bluetooth devices, citing a petition addressed to the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The document is signed by 250 researchers from more than 40 countries who caution that using certain devices may increase cancer risk. However, the petition isn’t new — it originated in 2015 — and specifically calls out non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (used in all Bluetooth devices), as well as radiofrequency radiation emitting devices (like cell phones and Wi-Fi) as dangerous.
“Based upon peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices,” the petition reads. “Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.”
Although high levels of EMF can generate heat, cause burns and affect cell growth in humans, scientists have not determined the impact of large amounts of relatively low-level EMF exposure, produced by devices like AirPods.
The petitioners stop short of naming Bluetooth or any particular products, the technology does use radiofrequency radiation, and AirPods in particular also use an electromagnetic field.
“The various agencies setting safety standards have failed to impose sufficient guidelines to protect the general public, particularly children who are more vulnerable to the effects of EMF,” the petition continued. “By not taking action, the WHO is failing to fulfill its role as the preeminent international public health agency.”
So yes, it’s true that wireless Bluetooth headphones emit radiation. It’s also true that Apple sold an estimated 28 million pairs of its iconic AirPods last year — and that there’s not a ton of long-term research on the safety of this type of radiation.