Wireless headphones and mobile phones are some of the main Bluetooth radiation-emitting devices that we usually use in our day today.
Due to the proximity of this source of radiation to the head, a great controversy has arisen in recent years about the influence the use of these devices could have on the appearance of cases of cancer.
In case you are worried about the use of your wireless headphones or if you are thinking of buying a Bluetooth headset and you have doubts about whether this technology can be dangerous, do not miss any of the points that we analyze below, starting with a complete explanation of the operation of Bluetooth technology.
What is Bluetooth radiation?
First of all, surely you have always wondered what Bluetooth is and how it works. So to begin with, we analyze in a simple way how this type of radiation works.
The radiation used for all wireless communications, like sunlight, is electromagnetic radiation. Although the nature of the waves is the same, due to the properties of those used in telecommunication, our vision is not able to perceive them.
The information is encoded in these waves so that when it reaches the receiving device, it is able to decode it and for example play the music in case of headphones or play a movie in the case of televisions.
All telecommunications are made using the same type of waves so that there is no interference between them. Each type of communication has a different type of electromagnetic wave associated with it. In this way, there is a group of waves that are only used for wifi, another for Bluetooth, another for DTT, and another for mobile communication.
Bluetooth radiation has associated a type of electromagnetic waves within the so-called RAP (Personal Area Network) that are only capable of transmitting information at small distances and therefore Bluetooth devices usually have a maximum range of 10 meters.
Now, if Bluetooth radiation is similar to solar radiation and the sun can cause skin cancer, should you worry about wearing your Bluetooth headphones on your head for a long time? To answer this question, in the next point we analyze in depth the danger of Bluetooth in terms of cancer.
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Is Bluetooth carcinogenic?
As we mentioned before, Bluetooth radiation is electromagnetic radiation so the doubt arises when we think that for example, X-rays and ultraviolet radiation, which are so famous as carcinogens, are also electromagnetic radiation. So, what conditions must be given for electromagnetic radiation to be carcinogenic?
To begin with, let’s analyze how electromagnetic waves are classified. The most common classification is made depending on the energy of the radiation. One way to measure the energy that waves have is by their frequency. In this way the greater the frequency, the greater the energy.
To give an example, radio waves that are used for large distances and that are those that have less energy than those that are used for telecommunications, have a frequency of between 3 and 3000 Hertz (Hz). However, carcinogenic electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, have a frequency of 30x10e15 Hz, or what is the same, X-rays have 1000 billion times more energy than long radio waves.
Bluetooth radiation has an energy higher than that of radio and millions of times lower than that of X-rays. To get an idea, this type of radiation has about 1000 times less energy than the light we can see from the sun.
Since the advent of mobile phones, hundreds of studies have been conducted on the ability of these devices to cause cancer. Let’s see the results obtained in them and whether they are conclusive or not.
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Scientific studies on cancer and Bluetooth
There are two international studies that have attempted to establish a link between cancer and electromagnetic radiation from telecommunications. Let’s see what they consisted of and their conclusions.
International Cancer Agency Study
In 2011 in Lyon, France, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) held a congress in which 30 scientists from 14 different countries met to determine the ability of electromagnetic radio frequencies to cause cancer.
During this congress, the most relevant and extensive studies that had been carried out to date on the relationship between the radiation emitted by mobile phones and the appearance of different types of cancer in the populations studied were analyzed.
The conclusion that was obtained through this congress is that the results that were obtained were not solid enough to consider electromagnetic radio frequencies as carcinogenic since these results suggest influences too low to be conclusive.
We can apply the results of these studies to the case of the use of Bluetooth since the frequencies at which both mobile phones work with their 2G, 3G and 4G connections are very similar to those of Bluetooth and therefore also have similar energy.
Australian Public School of Health Study
Another interesting study is the one that was carried out in Australia for 29 years since 1990 and that was published in 2016.
This study analyzed more than 30,000 cases of brain cancer and used official data from the Australian Ministry of Health to analyze whether the use of mobile phones had influenced the occurrence of brain cancer cases.
This study concludes that there is no clear evidence to indicate that mobile phone use has increased the number of brain cancer cases in the Australian population. This study is one of the most extensive that have been carried out both by a number of people who participated in it and the period of time during which it has been carried out.
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Studies by Jerry Philips, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Colorado
In mid-March 2019, Jerry L. Phillips, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Colorado (UCCS), revealed that Apple’s AirPods devices, which use Bluetooth technology, could be linked to the appearance of cancer cells. “My concern about AirPods is that their placement in the ear canal exposes the tissues of the head to relatively high levels of radiofrequency radiation.” This prolonged exposure, according to his words, could have to do with the alteration of cellular behavior, ultimately generating cancerous tumors.
Actually, Phillips is not alone. Some 250 experts and university professors asked the United Nations in August 2017 to thoroughly investigate the impact of the use of devices that emit non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation.
However, other experts such as Kenneth Foster, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, say these concerns are unfounded. According to Foster, who has studied the effects of radiation on human health for years, there are hundreds of investigations that show that there is no clear evidence that these radiations are dangerous if kept below the limits established in international law.
Taking into account these conclusions, below we analyze the real risks posed by the use of devices that use Bluetooth radiation.
What is the risk of cancer due to Bluetooth emissions?
Through the study carried out in 2011 on the danger of radiation from mobile phones, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the radiation emitted by mobile phones including Bluetooth radiation as “Possible carcinogenic for humans” which corresponds to group 2B of the following table.
Therefore, according to the WHO, it cannot be ruled out that radiation from mobile devices such as Bluetooth can cause cancer. Most studies show that the chances of radiofrequency producing cancer are very low or none, but for now it cannot be said categorically that there is no danger.
There are countless devices that use Bluetooth technology for the transfer of information and most go unnoticed. Do not miss the next point in which we review the devices that use Bluetooth.
Which devices emit Bluetooth radiation?
Bluetooth is a type of radiation that is used in what is known as a Personal Area Network which usually has a maximum range of 10 meters away although some devices can even reach 100 meters in ideal conditions.
Due to this small range area that Bluetooth has, it is used for communication between nearby devices such as:
- Electronic devices: Computers, Printers, televisions, wireless mice, keyboards, cordless phones, stereos… etc.
- Wearables: smartwatches, exercise monitoring wristbands, wireless headphones… etc
- Other devices: Remote controls, garage controls, intercoms, cars… etc.
Now that we know most devices that use Bluetooth, let’s solve some of the most frequent doubts about the risk of cancer from the use of these devices.
What are the risks of cancer from using Bluetooth headphones?
Many studies agree that the risks increase with the time of exposure to electromagnetic radiation such as Bluetooth and decrease with the distance at which we are from the origin of the radiation.
The risks of cancer from the use of Bluetooth devices such as wireless headphones are currently considered to be very low even for long periods of exposure.
This is mainly due to the low energy that these devices emit which is insufficient to affect the proper functioning of our cells.
The mobile phone is another device that we usually use to transmit information through Bluetooth and therefore below we analyze the danger that its use can pose.
What are the risks of cancer due to the use of Bluetooth on my mobile?
The communication between Bluetooth devices and the mobile is always carried out with the same type of electromagnetic radiation, varying the type of encoding that is used with each device to avoid interference.
Therefore, the danger that a mobile phone can pose with respect to cancer is the same as that of any device with which it communicates by Bluetooth.
As we analyzed in the previous point about the danger of using Bluetooth headphones and in the analysis of the danger of Bluetooth radiation itself, the capacity to cause cancer of this technology is practically nil. This analysis can be applied to mobile phones and affirming the risks of suffering from cancer due to the use of Bluetooth in smartphones is very low.
Other devices with which we usually interact for many hours in our day to day and that uses Bluetooth is our laptop, so below we analyze the risks of Bluetooth in laptops.
What are the risks of cancer from using Bluetooth on laptops?
The communication protocol and technology used by all laptops to communicate via Bluetooth is the same as any other device such as mobile phones or wearables.
In this way, the danger to which we are exposed when using the Bluetooth connection of our laptop is very low.
In addition, the influence of Bluetooth radiation decreases with distance to the emitting device. Therefore, when working with our laptop at greater distances than we usually use other devices such as mobile phones or headphones, the effect that Bluetooth radiation could have on our body is even less if it comes from a laptop.
Currently, there is a European regulation that regulates the permissible limits of emissions of electromagnetic radiation by any electronic device. These limits are established to avoid that in any case, the emissions of these devices pose a risk to people. Below we detail the current regulations.
What regulation limits Bluetooth emissions?
Any device that is available for purchase within the European Union is subject to current regulations that are mainly composed of two documents:
- Directive 1999/5/EC establishes the requirements that Bluetooth radiation-emitting equipment must meet in order to be marketed.
- The European standard EN 300 328 V1.8.1 of 2012 establishes the tests that must be carried out on the devices to obtain the corresponding certification to the European Union.
Thanks to this regulatory regulation, it is controlled that the devices comply with all the safety and quality standards existing within the European community.
The appearance of many new portable devices has made Bluetooth technology increasingly present in our lives increasing the exposure we suffer to this type of electromagnetic radiation.
Since the 90s there have been a large number of studies that seek to clarify whether the use of the radiation we use to communicate remotely increases or influences in some way the appearance of cancer in people. In recent years and thanks to the analysis and collection of all the data obtained by these studies, it has been concluded that there is no evidence of a direct relationship between exposure to radio frequencies, including Bluetooth, with the number of cancer cases in the population.
Therefore if you were doubting if buying wireless headphones was a good idea or if you were thinking of stopping using the ones you already have in case they are dangerous do not worry because you do not run any risk when using this type of headphones.
With all this, we hope we have managed to answer almost all the doubts about the danger of this technology, but in case any concept that we have talked about Bluetooth radiation has not been clear to you or you have any other questions about it, do not hesitate to leave us your comment.