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Do wireless headphones really increase cancer risk? 250 doctors warn United Nations

Will Your Cellphone Give You Cancer?

Recent research has been interpreted as suggesting that cellphones cause cancer. But Gina Kolata explains that the overwhelming evidence suggests that there is no link between the devices and the disease.
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Recent research has been interpreted as suggesting that cellphones cause cancer. But Gina Kolata explains that the overwhelming evidence suggests that there is no link between the devices and the disease.

Are you exposed to an electromagnetic field right now?

Are you aware of the extent to which you expose yourself to them throughout an average day?

Well, even though this petition signed by 250 doctors from around the world was directed to the United Nations, consider it a personal warning, if you have a close relationship with your cell phone, a baby monitor or a microwave.

“Based upon peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to [non-ionizing electromagnetic fields] generated by electric and wireless devices,” the petition states. “Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.”

Their central argument is couched within the second part of that quote — that national and international standards for what is considered safe levels of exposure to EMF should be lowered.

The doctors list several items in particular that generate EMFs, including “radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitting devices, such as cellular and cordless phones and their base stations, Wi-Fi, broadcast antennas, smart meters, and baby monitors as well as electric devices and infra-structures used in the delivery of electricity that generate extremely-low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF).”

The list is as notable for what’s on it as what isn’t on it, though. In the wake of the petition, media outlets around the world began classifying another product as a possible cancer risk: Apple’s wireless headphones called AirPods, and other wireless headphones like them.

Neither Apple’s AirPods nor any other wireless headphone product was mentioned in the petition, and one researcher says riling people up with scary headlines doesn’t do any good.

“If you also use a cell phone on a daily basis, it’s bizarre to worry about the hazards of these earphones,” Ken Foster, a bioengineering professor at University of Pennsylvania, told Health.com. “I can’t say there’s absolutely no problem with these devices, because people can always argue that there’s no proof they’re 100% safe.

“And I can’t tell people what to worry about,” he continued, “but personally, I have no concern.”

Jerry Phillips, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, made the contrary connection in a recent article for Medium, when he said, “my concern for AirPods is that their placement in the ear canal exposes tissues in the head to relatively high levels of radio-frequency radiation.”

Wireless headphones establish a connection between content on your phone or streaming content and your ears using bluetooth, which is a radio frequency, in the same frequency range as microwaves, WiFi, cell phones and other electronic devices, according to the University of California. These devices do emit radiation, but it’s not the kind of direct, DNA-damaging radiation people associate with nuclear fallout.

That’s why these fields are dubbed “extremely low frequency,” or sometimes “very low frequency” ELFs.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2011 categorized radio frequencies like bluetooth as a “possible human carcinogen.”

“Apple products are always designed and tested to meet or exceed all safety requirements,” Apple spokesman Alex Kirschner told the University of California in 2016 when the AirPods were first announced.

So, will your fancy new AirPods increase your risk for cancer? While researchers gather data behind the pace of innovation in the telecommunications industry, “it’s possible” is about as certain as anyone can be.

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