There is no established evidence to warrant advising people against using wireless devices like Bluetooth headphones, public health officials and scientists have told Reuters.
The comments contradict a viral TikTok video titled: “Why you MUST throw away your AirPods” (here). The individual said the headphones “literally sit inside your skull” and “cook” your brain because of the low frequency radiation. Another popular Facebook video claimed to measure the radiation emitted by AirPods and warned of a link with cancer (here).
Reuters did not find evidence to support these claims.
WHAT IS RADIATION?
Exposure to electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields, shortened to EMF, come from human-made and natural sources, experts at the Meedan Health Desk said (here).
Scientists divide EMF exposure into low-level and high-level radiation, called non-ionizing and ionizing respectively. X-rays and radioactive materials are examples of ionizing radiation, which can cause cancer and cellular damage with high enough exposure. Sources of non-ionizing radiation include microwaves, WIFI routers, mobile phones, and Bluetooth wireless headphones like AirPods.
IS RADIATION DANGEROUS?
Studies have investigated the potential health risks of EMF exposure, but they are limited due to the ethical issues of exposing humans to radiation. This has caused debate among experts about the safety of non-ionizing radiation.
For instance, more than 200 scientists wrote an appeal to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations in 2015, asking them to impose stricter guidelines limiting EMF exposure from wireless devices (here). The appeal was not targeted at AirPods, which were released by Apple the following year (here).
Research is ongoing to understand the health impacts of lower level exposure, but a 2019 peer-reviewed study found that Bluetooth headphones emitted 10-400 times less radiation than devices like smart phones (here).
Although “lower risk does not mean zero risk,” said Meedan’s researchers, who added that non-ionizing radiation sources were generally considered safer than ionizing radiation sources (here).
They concluded: “There is currently insufficient evidence that wireless headphones pose enough of a health risk to stop using them.”
ARE AIRPODS SAFE?
Apple told Reuters via email: “We take the health and safety of our customers very seriously. We design all our products with care and we test them extensively to ensure they comply with applicable safety requirements.
“AirPods and other wireless devices from Apple meet all applicable radio frequency exposure guidelines and limits. Plus, AirPods and AirPods Pro are more than two times below applicable limits for radio frequency exposure,” they said.
Publicly available evidence backs this up.
The specific absorption rate (SAR) refers to the rate at which the body absorbs radio frequency energy. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires mobile phone manufacturers to demonstrate compliance with the SAR limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram (here).
Apple’s public filings to the FCC, one for each ear bud (here , here), show that AirPods head SAR was measured at 0.071 (here , page 4) and 0.095 (here , page 4) watts per kilogram in 2019, which put together is indeed more than two times below the FCC limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram.
Equally, FCC filings for AirPods Pro (here , here) show a head SAR measurement of 0.097 (here) and 0.072 (here) watts per kilogram.
This also meets the requirements of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a non-profit organisation (www.icnirp.org/), which recommends the public be exposed to no more than 2 watts per kilogram (here , page 492, see end of paragraph sub-titled ‘Head and Torso’).
Indeed, the ICNIRP told Reuters that as long as AirPods complied with their guidelines - and these filings show they do - “no health problems should be expected” because “the latest evaluation of the scientific literature [shows] there is no scientific proof that EMFs cause cancer”.
This position was reiterated by national and international health organisations.
A spokesperson for Public Health England said in an email: “Our position is there is no convincing evidence that exposure to electromagnetic fields has adverse health effects provided exposures are below ICNRP guideline levels.”
The World Health Organisation also told Reuters: “There is currently no established evidence that the expected low-level electromagnetic fields used in Apple AirPods would cause cancer.”
False. While research into non-ionizing radiation emitted by Bluetooth devices is ongoing, scientists and health agencies told Reuters that AirPods meet national and international safety regulations.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.