The thing about wireless technology (and that includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) is that it’s only been in existence for a little over 20 years. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were invented around 1994 – 1997. This is to say that there hasn’t really been enough time to study their long term effects on people.
Are there some preliminary studies to suggest that this wireless technology on which the world depends so much could be dangerous to our own health? Yes, there are several, in fact. Is there definitive proof?
There just hasn’t been enough time to conclusively determine that but judging from the number of health issues associated with EMF (Electromagnetic radiation), you can conclude that wireless technology, in some cases and situations, can be dangerous to our health.
Bluetooth radiation isn’t as widely studied as it’s close cousin, EMF. The truth is that the notion that Bluetooth radiation isn’t dangerous could simply stem from the fact that there just isn’t enough research to suggest otherwise. That doesn’t mean that it’s safe, and neither does it mean that it’s dangerous.
Let’s take a quick look at Bluetooth radiation, how it affects our lives and what possible dangers it might hold to our health.
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What is Bluetooth and How Does It Work?
Bluetooth technology was conceived and invented by Nils Rydbeck, Jaap Haartsen, TordWingren, and Sven Mattison of Ericsson mobile. Initially referred to as “short-link” radio technology, Bluetooth is a form of wireless technology that enables rapid transmission of data over relatively short distances using short-wavelength radio waves.
Typically, Bluetooth operates in the 2.4 and 2.48 Mhz. Data transmission via Bluetooth is done in small packets and numerous hops (up to 800 hops per second). The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has patented the technology and placed upon its standards that must be met by any device claiming to be a “Bluetooth Device.” SIG manages about 30,000 companies that all participate in Bluetooth technology.
How Do Bluetooth Devices Work?
There are three main classes of Bluetooth transmitters under which most Bluetooth devices fall. Every one of these transmitter categories has a different power level and data transmission capabilities.
Generally speaking, the lower the transmitter class, the more powerful it’s associated Bluetooth device is, and therefore the higher the radiation levels emitted by that particular device. Here are the different classes of Bluetooth transmitters:
With a range of about 300 feet, these are some of the most powerful Bluetooth devices. Devices that fall under this class have a maximum power of about 100 mW. These devices need a reliable source of power and are therefore found where power isn’t that big of a deal such as laptops and some desktop computers.
This means that the Bluetooth device can use the machine’s processing power and substantial power output to offer quicker data transmissions over longer ranges.
This is by far the most common type of Bluetooth with devices under this class being small portable electronics such as your mobile phone, your mouse, keyboard and headset. Devices in this class operate at around 2.5 mW and can transmit data over a range of 20 – 30 feet.
Class 3 Bluetooth devices tend to be rather weak and are not the kind of things that you would typically interact with on your day to day basis. These devices can only transmit data over 10 – 20 feet and operate at around 1 mW.
Is Bluetooth Radiation Dangerous?
Let’s be clear: Bluetooth radiation, although still radio waves are not as strong as the radiation emitted by your cellphone. While both are non-ionizing radiations (cannot break molecular bonds nor ionize atoms and therefore can’t cause too much damage to your health), cellphone radiations are much stronger compared to Bluetooth radiation.
Because Bluetooth radiations are not as strong, they can’t go through walls and transmit within a given radius; their potential damage is not only limited but, according to many regulatory boards, is not as harmful to human beings.
However, it’s important to remember the statement made earlier that these conclusions are only reached due to the fact that there isn’t enough research into the field. It’s also important to remember that Bluetooth radiation still qualifies as radio waves, and no matter how weak it may be, radio waves still hold some potential dangers and threats to human health.
Will Bluetooth go as far as give you cancer? Not likely. There are, however, a host of related issues that may be caused by prolonged use of Bluetooth devices.
Bluetooth vs Mobile Radiation – Compared
Bluetooth devices and cellphones have one thing in common; they both emit EMF (Electromagnetic radiation), which has been found to be responsible for a number of health issues with prolonged use. The biggest difference between Bluetooth and Mobile Radiation is the range. In reality, Bluetooth Technology uses the same kind of microwave radiation that cellphones use. While cellphones go as far as picking up these signals from antennas and boosters such as satellites and cellphone towers, Bluetooth devices receive and transmit data from other Bluetooth devices that are just a few feet away.
Yes, the radiation emitted from these two devices is not similar as far as strength is concerned, but they do have the same fundamental makeup.
Harmful Effects of Bluetooth Radiation
As things stand today, the levels of radiation that Bluetooth devices typically emit are considered too low to be harmful for human consumption. Regulatory bodies such as the FDA and FCC have all studied Bluetooth devices and concluded that their emissions are below what is considered “safe,” and therefore, technically, Bluetooth devices are not considered harmful to human health.
While that is enough to make the general population feel safe, the truth is that there just isn’t enough research into this field to arrive at such a definitive conclusion.
There are concerns that even though Bluetooth radiation is both non-ionizing and non-thermal, the radio frequency part of it all still makes it a concern that warrants some merit.
Since Bluetooth is a form of wireless radiofrequency (known as microwave radiation), it means that their frequencies have a short wavelength coupled with a rapid oscillation rate. This is why they can successfully travel relatively long distances while carrying transmitted data without needing containment within wires.
It is also this short-wavelength coupled with a rapid oscillation rate that gives them the ability to penetrate living tissue, even to the cellular level. And therein lies the problem!
Possible Health Hazards Caused by Bluetooth Radiation
There is a very good reason why this matter of “whether Bluetooth radiations are harmful to human beings” hasn’t been settled to date. That is mostly because there are several contradicting studies carried out between the technology industry and telecom-funded studies and independent research.
What is clear is that Bluetooth is a form of short wave radio frequency with the ability to penetrate living tissue and in some cases, manipulate that tissue. And these one-way cancerous cells are formed.
No one is saying that your Bluetooth device is plotting to give you cancer, but there is a distinct possibility that the RF used by these devices could be one of the many contributing factors.
Here are some possible health issues that could come about from Bluetooth use:
Reduced Fertility and Sperm Quality
There is a study that found that the use of Bluetooth headsets, while your cellphone is in your pocket, could lead to reduced fertility and low sperm quality as well as quantity. This is mostly because the amount of radiation given off by both devices is extremely high and could be harmful.
The very same study found that the close proximity with EMF emitting devices could also cause considerable damage to your DNA.
Increases the Risk of Cancer
No one wants to hear that their Bluetooth devices, including those beautiful earbuds, could be linked to an increased risk of developing any kind of cancer. The truth, however, is that there is a possibility, albeit remote.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published a document classifying EMF radiation emitted by various sources, including Bluetooth devices, as “possibly carcinogenic.” The studies cited within this document showed that prolonged and continuous use of devices giving off radio frequency greatly increased the risk of several brain cancers such as acoustic neuroma and glioma.
In some cases, this risk was increased by as much as 40% in the heaviest of Bluetooth users. To be fair, the document does mention that studies into this field are still on-going, and that is why it’s way too early to definitively state that Bluetooth devices are absolutely not harmful to human health as is the case and stance from most regulatory bodies.
There is yet another, not so common, problem that could come about as a result of being around EMF transmitting devices such as Bluetooth earphones or cell phones. The World Health Organization has acknowledged that there are a few select individuals who have a natural aversion to EMF and this makes them extremely sensitive to devices that emit such radiations.
People with this kind of hypersensitivity tend to suffer from severe headaches and even nausea whenever they are around Bluetooth devices or around electromagnetic fields in general. This makes their lives particularly difficult, considering the fact that practically the whole world is covered by some kind of EMF radiation.
On the other end of things, there are studies that have looked into the effects of Bluetooth on human beings and concluded that there is no definitive evidence that Bluetooth radiations were linked to any kind of human health issues.
A good example would be a study published in The Laryngoscope Journal back in 2014. This study looked into the link between the use of Bluetooth devices and the reduction of auditory nerve function in human beings and conclusively found that, unlike the cellphone radiation, there was no association between Bluetooth radiation and any auditory issues in people.
As you can see, there are many contradicting studies out there, which makes this matter difficult to conclusively state!
What you need to bear in mind is that the effects of Bluetooth radiation aren’t acute but rather cumulative. This means that they will probably affect you over time and continued use.
Bluetooth is a type of non-ionizing EMF radiation, after all. That means that its makeup and, therefore, hazards are very similar to holding your cellphone to your head continuously.
Tips on How to Minimize the Harmful Effects of Bluetooth Radiation
Protecting yourself from the kind of radiations emitted by Bluetooth devices involves looking for and finding alternative ways to do what your Bluetooth devices do for you. Here are some tips on how to go about that:
Tip 1: Start By Testing All Your Bluetooth Devices with a Meter
You are only going to be able to protect yourself from the dangers that you can actually identify. Technology today is making great use of Bluetooth from air pods to speakers, tablets and general computers.
There are more and more devices that you can link to via Bluetooth and all these devices emit different levels of RF (radio frequency). As such, it’s important to test your electronic devices, so you know which ones are emitting the highest levels and determine how to protect yourself from those devices.
The FCC and other regulatory bodies have placed a number on the levels of RF that are considered safe for humans. That number falls anywhere between 30 – 300 MHZ. That number is in reference to when the whole body of an adult is exposed to these radiations.
Different numbers apply to different devices as most people only expose a specific part of their bodies to concentrated RF emissions.
A high-quality EMF meter is the the only way to really know the levels you and your family are exposed to.
Tip 2: Use Auxiliary Cables and a USB Phone Charger
If you have a vehicle that has a Bluetooth stereo, then you might be exposing yourself to the same RF radiations that your microwave at home uses. Now imagine going on a long road trip while you have your phone connecting to your car stereo via Bluetooth.
There is a very simple solution to this problem: just use an auxiliary cable when listening to music from your phone. You get the same quality sound without all the RF exposure.
There is also another option. If you have a new-age kind of car, then it probably has a USB Phone Charge Cord port. This port allows you to simply plug in your phone and play the music on there through your stereo.
The best thing about this option is that you will be able to control the music selection and volume through your car stereo, as usual, all the while not getting exposed to all that potentially harmful Bluetooth radiation. If, however, you drive a classic (read: older) car then the alternative here is to have a USB Port added to your car stereo.
The other problem that may arise has to do with talking on your phone via Bluetooth. For people who do long commute and simply have to take business calls hands-free on the go, you don’t have to risk your life by actually picking up your phone just to try and save yourself from harmful Bluetooth waves.
You can simply buy a convenient phone mount. This way, you can either put your phone on speaker when driving or use a corded headset to conduct your phone call business as usual.
Tip 3: Use a WaveCage
Now let’s be honest: whether or not you don’t use the Bluetooth on your car stereo, you are still going to get blasted with a bit of RF and EMF from the cellphones within the car anyway, right? So, what’s the point of all this if it’s going to happen anyway?
The simple truth is that your phones don’t emit as much RF unless you are using their Bluetooth or GPS and when receiving phone calls. This means that when your phone isn’t in use, the RF and EMF from it isn’t as bad as opposed to when the Bluetooth is on – it’ll constantly be blasting those waves through the car the whole time.
Either way, there is still a method through which you can protect yourself from those EMF and RF radiations that your idle phone would be emitting. You can use something called a WaveCage. These devices allow you to still receive phone calls and messages all the while reducing your RF exposure by a whopping 95%.
Tip 4: Use Your GPS Sporadically
There is a good chance that you are going to need to use your GPS on a long road trip. So, what do you do in this case? Well, you could choose to use a paper map like the good old days. However, if that is a bit much (not very many Millennials know how to read a paper map anyway) then you could choose to use your GPS sporadically.
Simply turn it on at the beginning of your trip and make a mental note of where you are headed. This is particularly easy to do if you are going to be using the Interstate Highway System.
You can then switch it off, throw the phone in the WaveCage or put it on Airplane mode if you are using it to listen to music. Once you get to the destination town or city, you can turn it back on again to find your way around. This way, you will still get where you are going but limit the amount of exposure to Bluetooth radiation and EMF that you get.
Tip 5: Connect Your Devices Using a Cord or Cable
What about when you want to connect the myriad of devices you have with one another? The simplest solution here, albeit not the “coolest” is to actually use a cord to connect them. Granted, this will be taking you back to the “dark ages,” it’s actually much safer for you.
If you feel like this is a bit much, then the next best thing is to simply turn on the Bluetooth devices when you need to make a transfer and then immediately turn off their Bluetooth signals.
Remember, the effects of these radiations are cumulative as opposed to acute so any measure you take to minimize how long and how often you get exposed is good.
Wrapping it up
Yes, the jury is still out on whether or not Bluetooth radiation is harmful to human beings. What we do know is that it’s not as harmful as a cellphone or mobile radiation. The fact that there are several conflicting studies shows that there are questions that need answering on that front. In the meantime, are you willing to take the risk that Bluetooth radiation might actually pose to your health?
Wondering about the health effects of wearing a Fitbit? Read about it here.
World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. May 31, 2011. IARC CLASSIFIES RADIOFREQUENCY ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS AS POSSIBLY CARCINOGENIC TO HUMANS.
World Health Organization. December 2005. Electromagnetic fields and public health. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
Mandalà, M. , Colletti, V. , Sacchetto, L. , Manganotti, P. , Ramat, S. , Marcocci, A. and Colletti, L. (2014), Effect of bluetooth headset and mobile phone electromagnetic fields on the human auditory nerve. The Laryngoscope, 124: 255-259.