Every wireless device, including a smartwatch, emits radiofrequency energy, a type of electromagnetic radiation.
However, the electromagnetic spectrum is made of other radiations as well. Some are dangerous like gamma and UV light which can cause cancer.
But is smartwatch radiation harmful?
Smartwatch radiation is not harmful because the microwave and visible light emitted have long wavelengths. Additionally, smartwatches are a fairly recent technology that has not been around long enough to conclude that their radiation has an impact on human tissues.
Image source: FDA
Why Do Smartwatches Emit Radiation?
There are two major reasons why smartwatches emit radiation. First, smartwatch processors operate at high frequencies – several Mhz to a few GHz – even when the smartwatch is idle. Electromagnetic fields are thus created within the smartwatch, making them a constant source of radiation.
Secondly, a smartwatch is continually communicating with the nearest wireless antennas through WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G, etc, to keep you online. For your connection to remain sustainable, a smartwatch emits radiation in the form of electromagnetic waves.
That is why your smartwatch discharges even when you are not using it.
The good news however is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts the amount of radiation emitted by smartwatches.
Federal governments also regulate radiation emission levels for wearable devices.
If you are using the Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, or Samsung smartwatch, the radiation they all emit has already passed the FDA’s general requirements found in 21CFR 1000-1005.
Is it Safe to Wear a Smartwatch?
As we have seen, there is nothing to worry about. Take the Apple Watch for example. The smartwatch is designed to emit 4 watts per kilogram of microwave radiation, averaged over 10 grams of tissue. That is more than seven times below the radiation threshold stipulated by the FDA.
Note that the closer a person moves toward a radiation source, the higher they are exposed. Thus, having a smartwatch on your wrist means you are as close as possible to the electromagnetic field, meaning higher exposure.
Nevertheless, devices that emit ionizing radiation are the ones that increase a person’s risk of cancer. The ionizing radiation is strong enough to split the atoms in your tissue atoms and can cause severe health complications.
On the contrary, smartwatches emit microwaves and visible light, neither of which are ionizing forms of radiation. Unlike gamma rays and UV light that have shorter wavelengths capable of causing mutations in tissues, microwaves have long wavelengths.
Therefore, although a smartwatch emits and you absorb absolute amounts of radiation from it, the chances of you getting cancer are minimal.
How Harmful is Smartwatch Radiation?
Concerning radiation, a smartwatch is safe. Several pieces of research and articles claiming otherwise fail to mention that no proof exists yet.
However, a smartwatch can still be unsafe in other areas.
1. A Smartwatch May Not Work Well With Implanted Medical Devices
The FDA reports that experiments show a relationship between wearable devices like smartwatches and implanted medical devices. Smartwatches, they say, have high field strength magnets, which can alter the functioning of medical devices.
When the network is poor, the magnetic field of a smartwatch becomes stronger and can switch pacemakers to a “magnet mode.” According to medical specialists, this process should only be initiated during operations and MRI scans.
So close to a smartwatch and your pacemaker or defibrillator will enter into a “magnet mode” and fail to detect your medical state. For instance, a defibrillator can stop detecting tachycardia and pacemakers can stop regulating the heart rhythm.
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2. Smartwatch Notifications May Result in an Accident
However, there are other ways that a smartwatch can prove dangerous too. Especially when you are driving. Note that a smartwatch provides you notifications, which may be inappropriate to look at while on the steering wheel.
For instance, you can receive a troubling message from your loved ones, or from your boss, which may attract your attention to a smartwatch. When at high speeds, say 80mph, glancing at the wearable device out of reflex can result in an accident.
Secondly, the determination to achieve fitness goals from a smartwatch can expose you to external hazards. For example, not achieving your daily step count may keep you out even when it’s raining, or when people are asleep.
In that case, you can get knocked down by speeding vehicles or get robbed, making you a victim of smartwatch technology.
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3. Smartwatch Privacy Protection May be Lacking
Finally, a smartwatch can also be unsafe with regard to how the manufacturers approach user privacy and protection. Gadgets like the Apple Watch and Samsung smartwatch encrypt and defend user information.
However, modest conventional wearables can be substantially less secure. So you must investigate smartwatch reviews before wearing one.
Although smartwatch radiation is not a threat to your health, radiation is radiation, and the compounding effect may be significant. How can you protect yourself against smartwatch radiation?
How to Reduce Exposure to Harmful Smartwatch Radiation
There are several ways to protect yourself against smartwatch radiation. First, you can choose not to use a smartwatch at all. Second, you can keep the smartwatch at least 6 inches from your body. Lastly, do your research to ascertain the radiation levels of the smartwatch you intend to buy.
As technology improves, smartwatch manufacturers reduce radiation emissions to insignificant levels. Although you can choose to abstain from smartwatches, you risk missing out on essential and convenient smartwatch updates like the Apple Watch SE.
- Keep Distance
However, if you have an implanted medical device in your body, I recommend that you do not carry your smartwatch in a pocket over the device. You should keep it 6 inches away from the implanted gadget. But on your wrist, no separation is required.
- Investigate Harmful Smartwatch Radiation Emission Levels
Thirdly, do your investigations into the smartwatch brand that emits low EM waves. But most importantly, consult with your doctor for recommendations on what amounts of radiation your body can allow without disastrous side effects.
As long as a smartwatch is switched on, it produces microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation. That is because the processors are active and the smartwatch seeks to maintain radiofrequency connectivity.
However, microwave radiation from a smartwatch has longer wavelengths and does not penetrate human tissues. In other words, they can not ionize your DNA to cause mutations and cancer.
Besides, the FDA plays a key role in ensuring that wearable technologies like smartwatches adhere to the safe limits of radiation emissions.
Nevertheless, critical care and consideration must be taken when one is using implanted medical devices. Also when driving, you must not use your smartwatch.
You can always pull the car along the road to reply to notifications or to take calls on a smartwatch. Apart from these and the privacy and protection concerns, smartwatch radiation is not a risk factor for cancer.
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