Hands-Free Devices

Wireless Hands-Free Devices

Hands-free kits can be used with cell phones for convenience, comfort, and improved safety. These systems reduce the absorption of RF radiation in the head because the phone’s antenna, which is the source of the radiation, is not near the head. On the other hand, if the phone is mounted on a belt or other part of the body during use, then that part of the body will absorb more RF radiation. However, cell phones marketed in the U.S. are required to meet safety requirements regardless of whether they are used against the head or against other parts of the body. All possible configurations should result in compliance with the safety limit.

Bluetooth Headsets

Bluetooth is the name of a wireless technology standard for connecting data or voice devices thus replacing cords, wires, and cables. It uses RF radiation to transmit information over short distances of generally 10 meters or less. By embedding a Bluetooth chip and receiver into products, wires that would normally carry the data or voice signal can be eliminated. In the case of cell phone headsets, the voice signal is transmitted by RF radiation from the Bluetooth device in the cell phone to a receiver/headset.

Bluetooth headset antennas emit at much lower power levels than the cell phones themselves so the RF radiation added by a Bluetooth headset is insignificant by comparison.For example, a typical Ericsson Bluetooth headset generates an SAR of just 0.001 W/kg, far below that emitted by the cell phone antenna (as mentioned previously, it can be as high as 1.6 W/kg).

Thus, if you are concerned about the health effects of RF radiation, keep in mind that the cell phone is a much greater source of radiation than a Bluetooth headset.

Corded Earbuds

Corded earbud devices also reduce the RF radiation exposure to the head since the cell phone is not adjacent to the head during use. The voice signal is sent electronically to the earbud directly from the phone in a similar manner to when an earbud device is plugged into a radio. Of course, it is not advisable to place the cell phone on your lap when earbuds are used – the farther away from you the cell phone itself is, the lower will be your radiation exposure.

Air Tube Systems

The air tube hands-free headset keeps RF radiation away from the head by using a hollow “air tube” to transmit sound from the cell phone speaker through a tube containing air to an earpiece. The tube and earpiece contain no metal conductors, hence virtually eliminating any radiation otherwise present in conventional hands-free devices. The voice information is transmitted by sound waves in a plastic tube, not via RF radiation. The sound quality might not be as clear as with other hands-free options, so it would be best to test one before purchasing it or get a recommendation from an acquaintance who has one.

Cell Phone Shields

Since cell phones are so prevalent, it is not surprising that promoters have marketed RF “shields” as protection against the RF radiation the phones emit. But the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says that manufacturer claims regarding these “shields” are mostly baseless.

According to the FTC, there is no scientific proof that the so-called “shields” significantly reduce RF radiation exposure from cell phones.In fact, says the agency, products which block only the earpiece or another small portion of the cell phone are totally ineffective because the entire phone emits radiation. What’s more, these shields can interfere with the phone’s voice signal, causing it to draw even more power to communicate effectively with the base station, and possibly emitting even more radiation.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent and deceptive business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid scams. If you believe that you have been cheated by purchasing a cell phone “shield”, you can file a complaint or obtain free information on consumer issues by visiting www.ftc.gov or calling toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

This information is provided by UCI’s EH&S Department.