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Scientists say Apple AirPods and other wireless headphones may be linked to cancer


Apple sold more than 28 million pairs last year

Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

Apple's wireless AirPods may cause cancer, according to hundreds of scientists from all over the world.

More than 250 scientists have signed a petition urging the United Nations and World Health Organization to develop stronger guidelines regarding the potential cancer risk and other health effects caused by non-ionizing electromagnetic fields, or EMFs.

Last year, Apple sold more than 28 million pairs of AirPods and more than 16 million the year prior, according to the Daily Mail. The popular AirPods connect wirelessly to a user's phone or computer via Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth technology uses low-power radio waves.

The petition warns against all types of radio frequency radiation, including WiFi, cellular data, and Bluetooth devices.

What's the story?

Some animal studies have suggested there is a link between radio frequency radiation and cancer.

"Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines," according to the petition.

Some experts believe that AirPods may be especially dangerous since the devices sit deep inside the ear canal where they emit radiation to fragile parts of the ear.

The scientists also noted other possible health hazards, including an increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, and neurological disorders.

Do other researchers disagree?

Some researchers disagree with the authors of the petition.

Bluetooth technology communicates to a cellular device that's usually not more than a few feet away, which means that,"it's transmitting at quite a low power level," University of Pennsylvania bioengineering professor Kenneth Foster told the Los Angeles Times in a 2016 interview about wireless headphones.

A person's exposure to EMF radiation is "absolutely minimal – smaller by a huge amount that the exposure of putting a phone to your ear," Foster said.

One of the greatest risks may be hearing loss from listening to music too loudly on your headphones, but many experts agree that the technology doesn't increase one's risk of developing cancer, according to the report.

What else?

In 2002 and 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified EMF and ELF (extremely low frequency) fields as possibly carcinogenic.

The scientists are calling for greater oversight and additional warnings for all types of technology that emit radio waves.

"The various agencies setting safety standards have failed to impose sufficient guidelines to protect the general public, particularly children who are more vulnerable to the effects of EMF," the petition said. "By not taking action, the WHO is failing to fulfill its role as the preeminent international public health agency."

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