Lots of people have commented on the possible increase in EMF exposure from Apple AirPods, but how bad are they? I’ve done some measurements with a field strength meter. Here is a graph to give you an idea.
When you use the new Apple Airpods on a mobile phone call a you are getting approximately 10 times the EMF than if you were just holding the iPhone up to your ear and talking. We already see these levels on wifi devices. The difference is that the Apple AirPods are in your ear, not on the table, and they remain there for long periods of time. They are constantly transmitting at this level – they never turn off.
Here are some video’s showing measurements of EMF levels that I have taken with a field strength meter that you can get a feel for the EMF emitted from the Apple AirPods compared to an iPhone on a mobile call.
Video of EMF exposure from an iPhone on a mobile call.
The levels are under 300mV/m
Video of EMF exposure from Apple AirPods.
The levels are up to 3500mV/m – 10 times the level of a mobile phone call.
Video showing the AirPods turning off when they are put away.
You may not realise that the Apple AirPods are transmitting EMF all the time – even when you are not listening to music! they only turn off when you put them away in the case. Of course you would expect them to transmit Bluetooth EMF when you are speaking on a phone call, but they also transmit non-stop while you are listening to music and even when you are not doing enything.
Distance to user
Take a look at the measurements of the Airport base station in the table at the top of this page. This was measured right on top of the base station – touching the Airport Extreme base station. The AirPods are roughly the same level. No one holds their ear up against an Airport base station or wifi router – you are likely to be sitting 1m or more from your wifi base station. EMF levels drop off with distance so the best way to reduce EMF is to separate yourself from the source. Even over a distance of 1m the EMF level of the Airport base station has dropped from 3500mV/m to 300mV/m. If you are 1m from a wifi base station the EMF is approx 1/10th of the level of the Apple AirPods.
Time of exposure
In terms of time of exposure, the Apple AirPods are constantly transmitting. They never take a break. The only way to turn them off is to put them back in their box and shut the lid. It is quite feasible that you could have the Apple AirPods in your ears for up to 10 hours a day, listening to music and making phone calls. They are so light and comfortable. What you may not realise is they are constantly transmitting, even when you are not on the phone and not listening to any music.
This equates to a massive increase in EMF exposure. In terms of time and distance this would be the equivalent of holding an Airport base station up to each ear for 10 hours a day or sleeping with an airport base station under your pillow.
The AirPods do not have any speech recognition built into them so they need to be constantly transmitting everything you say to your iPhone.
The iPhones are listening to everything and waiting for a ‘hey Siri’ to arrive. There has to be a better way to do this. Apple could to put a chip into the AirPods that recognise â€˜hey Siriâ€™ and then only transmit to the iPhone when you are issuing a command or a phone call. I donâ€™t think the technology is there to do that yet. The other option would be to get rid of voice initiated Siri altogether and put some kind of a button or touch sensor on the AirPods to initiate Siri. I canâ€™t see Apple doing this either. Until a solution is found Apple at least should give the user the option of turning off the ‘hey Siri’ mode on the AirPods like they do on the iPhone, or the option to operate the AirPods in ‘headphone only’ mode where they receive bluetooth data but do not transmit.
Surprisingly, the AirPods are even transmitting EMF when you turn your iPhone to aeroplane mode – the only way to turn them off is to put them back into the charging case.
A case study.
Jim uses his mobile phone by holding it up to his ear for one hour a day, Jim listens to music for three hours a day with his headphones. Jim replaced his old headphones with Apple AirPods. Jim has the new AirPods in his ears for 4 hours a day. Jim now has 80x the level of EMF exposure since he switched to AirPods. (4x the time, 10x the level of a cellular call, 2x earbuds. 4x10x2=80.)
Apple AirPods will be giving us much higher levels of overall EMF exposure than any previous Apple devices. I am not suggesting that you do not use them, but you would be wise to manage the way you use the Apple AirPods to reduce your EMF exposure. The biggest problem is that they are always transmitting.
Apple Airpods may not be the best device to use for general music listening until Apple can address the EMF output issues or provide an option to turn the microphone off and operate just in headphone listening mode. Until then I suggest you use them with caution.
Click here for an article by me about EMF.
Click here to read my review of the Apple Airpods.
Notes from graph: AirPort Extreme measurement taken touching the airport extreme base station. Apple AirPods measurement was taken by touching the AirPod to the field strength meter. iPhone measurement talking was taken withthe field strength meter held against the iPhone. iMac Wi-Fi was taken with the field strength meter at the user’s head position about half a metre from the iMac. The iPhone wired earbuds measurement was taken touching the earbuds to the field strength meter. iPhone hands-free measurement was taken with the field strength meter approximately 40 cm from the iPhone as if you were using it on speakerphone in hands-free mode. They are all real-world usage measurements except for the Airport Extreme base station which I did to get a comparison with the levels from the AirPods