Have you ever been in an elevator with someone who appears to be having a conversation with themselves? Or in the fresh produce section of the local grocery store and a stranger turns as if they know you and starts yapping away about something you have no clue about? It can be quite alarming until they turn around, and you spot that Bluetooth headset tucked away in their ear.
There’s no doubt that Bluetooth headset technologies have conveniences but are headsets safe to use? No, they are not safe and we will outline the dangers and health risks in this article along with some things you can do to reduce Bluetooth headphone exposure.
What Is Bluetooth?
It is a wireless technology designed to allow individual devices to transmit information and communicate with each other without requiring the internet to do so. Data is transmitted via radio waves over a frequency of around 2.45GHz. This bandwidth has been set aside by the International Agreement for the use of medical, scientific, and industrial devices (ISM).
So baby monitors, cordless phones, wireless headphones, garage door openers, and other devices make use of this frequency band allocation. One crucial element of the design process of these systems involves ensuring that communicating devices steer clear of interference with other existing Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth systems.
They achieve this is through sending out low-powered signals, with the lowest being 1milliWatt (mW). Because of this, the distance of transmission of most Bluetooth enabled devices is limited to 10 meters (32.8 feet). This eliminates any chance of your device interfering with your PC, cell phone, or TV. For perspective, the most powerful mobile phones can transmit signals of up to 3 Watts.
Even with weak signals, the technology can simultaneously connect up to eight wireless devices and doesn’t require line-of-sight between them to enable communication. This means that the walls in your home, office, or public space will not hamper a Bluetooth signal.
How Does Bluetooth Work?
The technology uses a method referred to as spread-spectrum frequency hopping. In this technique, radio signals are transmitted by shifting carriers along numerous channels.
This prevents a single wireless device from simultaneously sending signals on the same frequency. Instead, it randomly chooses between 79 different frequencies and rapidly switches from one to another regularly.
This reduces the likelihood of two or more wireless transmitters using the same frequency at the same time. In the off-chance there is some interference, it is undetectable since it would only last for a fraction of a second.
Any device that has Bluetooth capability has to comply with the requirements and patents of the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group). This organization manages all the 30,000-plus institutions involved in the technology.
Types of Bluetooth
Not all wireless devices work in the same way. They can be categorized into three main groups of transmitters. These depend on their strength and ability to transmit signals over a specified distance.
The lower the class of the device, the more power it has to send signals over a longer distance. Unfortunately, this also means that it emits a higher level of radiation than its counterparts in higher classes.
Class 1 Bluetooth Devices
These are the most powerful of the bunch and can transmit signals over a range of up to 300 feet and have a power of up to 100 mW. You’ll find class 1 transmitters in devices that don’t have any power constraints. These include electronics like desktop PC and laptops.
Class 2 Bluetooth Devices
The majority of devices that have wireless capability often fall into this category. It is common in small portable gadgets like Bluetooth headsets, a phone, computer input devices like mice and keyboards, etc. They are capable of transmitting signals over a distance of between 20 and 30 feet and operate at 2.5 mW of power.
Class 3 Bluetooth Devices
This is arguably the weakest of the bunch operating at a power of 1 mW. They transmit signals over a distance of between 10 and 20 feet. It is quite rare to come across class 3 wireless devices.
Is Bluetooth Dangerous: What You Need to Know
Before answering this question, it is important to state that there is an incredible amount of bias when it comes to EMF-or Bluetooth-related research. The reality of the world we live in is that there are a lot of political and economic interests in the telecommunications sector. Bluetooth manufacturers also fall into this category.
These companies have a lot of resources at their disposal and are not afraid to flex their financial muscles to prove that radiation exposure from Bluetooth and other cell phone devices are “virtually harmless to humans.”
If you think about it, it would be counterintuitive for a wireless device manufacturer to fund research that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a link between the EMF and cell phone radiation emitted by these devices and the prevalence of cancer cases across the globe.
Admitting that the copious amounts of radiation their devices emit cause widespread adverse health effects would be like shooting themselves in the foot. While many governmental regulatory agencies front that the vast majority of wireless devices meet the statutory Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) requirements, many studies disprove this. The experts agree, Bluetooth is indeed dangerous, and you should be concerned.
Bluetooth Radiation and Cancer
One issue that the naysayers tend to harp on is the fact that Bluetooth is a form of non-ionizing radiation. According to them, this makes the technology safe. Here’s a little physics/biology lesson.
Ionizing radiation refers to the waves in the electromagnetic spectrum that have enough energy to dislodge an electron from an atom – ionize. This results in damage to the DNA in cells, which can cause cancer. X-rays and gamma rays provide examples of ionizing radiation.
On the other hand, non-ionizing radiation only has enough energy to move electrons around an atom. It is, however, insufficient to dislodge them. Radiofrequency (RF) waves are an example of non-ionizing radiation, and Bluetooth falls in this category of waves.
They are characterized by short wavelengths and high frequencies, which means that they transmit signals in short pulses that occur at very high speeds. This gives them the ability to penetrate human tissue causing widespread damage to cells.
Contrary to popular belief, non-ionizing radiation does have harmful effects on the biological systems of humans and animals. It increases the concentration of free radicals in the body, which increases the risk of developing cancer. It also interferes with the body’s innate ability to neutralize these free radicals.
This 2019 study by one of many experts who studies the health risks of non-ionizing radiation from sources like Bluetooth headphones and cell phone radiation concludes “what has been reported is the tip of the iceberg of the full spectrum of potential adverse effects from wireless radiation.”
Bluetooth Radiation and Male Fertility
It is a well-known fact that male fertility has reduced tremendously over the last 50 years. Sadly, this continues to be the trend which each passing year. This decline in male sperm count can be attributed to changes related to the modern-day environment.
While alcohol consumption, drug use, smoking, and unhealthy food choices play a critical role in this, one commonly overlooked factor is the dangerous effects of EMF-radiation exposure. Wireless devices and their potential health dangers are one of the confirmed culprits in the rising cases of male infertility issues.
In a 2014 research study conducted to investigate the influence of EMF radiation on sperm quality and motility, semen specimens were taken from 32 men healthy men. Each specimen was divided into two separate samples. One batch was placed in a thermostat while the other was placed next to a cell phone in standby/talk mode. The results of the research revealed two things.
First, the semen samples that were placed next to the cell phones showed a decline in sperm motility. Second, there was higher DNA-fragmentation in the aforementioned sample. These findings proved an indisputable link between EMF exposure and the increased DNA fragmentation of sperm cells. According to the experts, it was also responsible for their corresponding decline in motility.
Bluetooth Radiation and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome
Bluetooth has adverse effects on the body’s nervous and biological systems from the brain on down. This usually manifests as a series of symptoms that have collectively been referred to as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS). They are triggered by prolonged exposure to an RF radiating source like Bluetooth and cell phones.
While some countries may prefer turning a blind eye to this very real illness, others are taking active steps to protect their citizens from these radiation allergies. For instance, a 39-year-old woman was awarded damages in a disability grant when she told a French court that she suffers from EHS.
If you’re exposed to wireless radiation on an on-going basis and experience some of the symptoms below, it could be a sign that you suffer from EHS.
- Depressive symptoms
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Constant fatigue
How to Minimize Bluetooth Radiation Exposure
At this point, you’re probably tossing all your Bluetooth devices. Goodbye, Bluetooth headphones!
This might seem like an extreme measure, but if your goal is eliminating your wireless exposure and their potential health risks, this is a great idea. It is entirely likely that if you’re walking around with a Bluetooth gadget, you also have cell phones close by, which is also emitting its fair share of RF radiation.
So, in essence, you have a double exposure situation on your hands. Nonetheless, if you’re not ready to take such drastic measures, there are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure and reduce your risk for cancer and other EMF-associated illnesses.
Use Air Tubes
If you have a wireless headset for hands-free communication with cell phones, there are lots of other safer alternatives you can consider. Think outside the box! Air tube headsets, for instance, are a great option. By the way, these are conventional cabled headsets.
Traditional cables have metallic wires running through them, which makes them excellent radiation conductors. EMF radiation from your cell phone can travel up into your head through the wire. If that’s not enough, these metal wires also act antennae attracting and amplifying all ambient EMFs and directing them towards your head. This increases your brain’s exposure to EMF and raises your risk for developing cancerous tumors in the long run.
Air tube headsets work differently and therefore don’t carry any of the dangerous risks associated with wireless headphones or conventional cables. The cables you would find in traditional headsets are replaced with flexible hollow rubber tubes that transmit sound waves from a source like an mp3 player or a cell phone and directs them to your ear.
Since the tubes are hollow, they contain no metal that could amplify the effects of EMFs. Most air tube manufacturers assert that these products reduce radiation from electromagnetic fields by as much as 98%.
Use Cords to Connect Different Devices
Placing your tablet or phone next to your PC and activating Bluetooth connection may add a “cool” factor. But is it worth the radiation exposure? There’s also the fact that PCs and laptops are Class 1 wireless devices, which means that they have up to 100 mW transmission power and are designed to connect with devices that are as far as 300 feet away. That’s an awful lot of radiation you’re exposing yourself to, especially if you’re close to a transmission source.
Why not simply attach a cord to the different devices and transfer files? Doing this reduces your risk of cancer in the long run.
The same logic applies when connecting different input and output devices on your computer. Use cables to connect your computer mouse, keyboard, and printer instead of needlessly exposing yourself to wireless radiation for the larger part of your day.
For every device that requires Bluetooth, there’s a safer alternative. As it is, you’re already exposed to enough ambient EMFs that you’re powerless over. You don’t have to add Bluetooth headphones in the mix.
Do you have a Fitbit you plan to use? Check out our blog for things you need to know about Fitbit EMF radiation.