No evidence radiation from AirPods is causing brain tumours

1 December 2022
What was claimed

AirPods are directing radiation and Bluetooth signals directly into the brain, and you shouldn’t wear them if you don’t want a brain tumour.

Our verdict

AirPods, as well as other mobile and wireless devices, emit low-level radiation. But there’s no evidence that using them is causing people to develop brain tumours or that radiation is being “directed” into the brain.

A Facebook post claims that Apple AirPods are “directing radiation & Bluetooth signals directly into the brain”, and encourages people to get rid of the in-ear headphones “unless you want a brain tumour”.

The post doesn’t cite its evidence for this claim, but various media outlets have also carried stories questioning the safety of wireless devices like AirPods.

Many of these reports are based on a petition to the UN and World Health Organisation (WHO) signed by 250 scientists and other signatories expressing “serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF [non-ionising electromagnetic fields] generated by electric and wireless devices.”

However this petition was originally published in May 2015, more than a year before Apple first launched its AirPods, and did not mention wireless headphones specifically.

It’s true that Bluetooth wireless headphones, such as Apple AirPods, emit low-level radiation (known as non-ionizing radiation) in the form of electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RF) energy. This kind of radiation is also emitted by mobile phones and other wireless devices.

The American Cancer Society says: “Although RF radiation is not thought to cause cancer by damaging the DNA in cells the way ionising radiation does, there has been concern that in some circumstances, some forms of non-ionizing radiation might still have other effects on cells that might somehow lead to cancer.”

However, Full Fact could not find any evidence that wearing AirPods has been shown to cause health issues like brain tumours because of this radiation, or that wireless headphones emit radiation “directly into the brain”.

Other fact checking organisations have also found no evidence that AirPods are causing cancers or harming your brain.

The World Health Organisation previously told Reuters: “There is currently no established evidence that the expected low-level electromagnetic fields used in Apple AirPods would cause cancer.”

Kenneth Foster, a professor emeritus of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, told Politifact in August: “There have been arguments — and overheated statements by activists — for many years about possible hazards of cell phones.

“But health agencies have repeatedly reviewed the scientific literature and found no clear evidence for hazards from RF exposures from cell phones, and, by extension, Apple AirPods.”

Cancer Research UK, responding to the petition mentioned above in 2019, said: “There isn’t good evidence that the electromagnetic fields produced by these devices cause cancer, and studies involving large groups of people haven’t found any increase in cancer risk from being exposed to this type of radiation.”

We’ve contacted Apple and the UK Health Security Agency for comment. 

Responding to similar claims last year Apple told Reuters: “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.”

Image courtesy of Ayotunde Ojo

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