There’s a good chance that, right now, you’re not too far away from a Wi-Fi router — or a smartphone. These devices, of course, emit radiation. But are they actually dangerous?
The jury is still out, but many studies and health advisories might be blowing the risks out of proportion, AppleInsider’s Mike Wuerthele contended in a feature story on Monday.
To be clear, wireless devices do put out radio frequency and electromagnetic radiation. This type of radiation can slightly increase the risk of cancer or tumor growth. At high enough levels, this radiation could cause tissue damage such as skin burns.
But the levels required for those types of risks are much, much higher than the levels emitted by smartphones or wireless routers. Health authorities across the globe have already instituted safety standards for all wireless devices — from microwaves to smartphones.
John Moulder, a professor of radiation oncology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, told TIME in 2016 that “the exposure you get from your Wi-Fi router is orders and orders of magnitude below those safety limits.”
The World Health Organization tells a similar story, concluding in a 2006 article that there is “no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”
To be fair, some people might be especially sensitive to this type of electromagnetic radiation. They can come down with minor symptoms — and even then, the WHO says that “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” might only affect a few people out of every million.
If you live in California, you might have seen a health advisory put out by the state health department late last year. The advisory only came about because a University of California researcher sued them.
And there is some preliminary research that suggests negative health effects in animal-based trials. The WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classify smartphones as a “possible carcinogen.” But studies have yet to prove that they are especially hazardous to people — and, as Moulder told TIME, we already have “50 to 60 years of research” into this type of radiation exposure.
The bottom line is that you’re probably okay and have little to fear from your smartphone or Wi-Fi router. If you’re especially concerned, use your device’s speakerphone ability or a hands-free headset — and don’t sleep next to your router.