Bluetooth headphones - also referred to as headsets - are accessories for mobile phones. They are placed over the ear, allowing the user to hear and talk at the same time, without using his hands. With 4.6 billion cell phone users worldwide as of 2009, it is no surprise that health concerns have arisen at times. However, the medical community's concerns about Bluetooth headphones are minimal. But public safety is another story.
It is common knowledge that driving while talking on a cell phone is dangerous. Bluetooth headphones are no exception. The W.H.O. (World Health Organization) reveals that the risk of vehicle-related injuries increases when distracted by a cell phone, regardless of whether the driver is using a "hands-free" Bluetooth set. In Pennsylvania alone, 367 car accidents were linked to Bluetooth cell phone use between 2002 and 2006. Although this is small compared to the 5,715 car crashes related to hand-held devices during the same time period, it still proves that Bluetooth headphones are distracting. Common sense dictates to completely avoid cell phone use while behind the wheel.
Any potential risks from Bluetooth headsets are directly associated with mobile phones. Cellular devices emit some radio frequency waves. However, W.H.O. explains that this radiation decreases dramatically with distance, so using Bluetooth headphones minimises what little radio waves are present. The biggest short-term effect from radio frequency is minor heating of skin and brain tissues when a mobile phone is placed on the ear. However, since Bluetooth headphones eliminate the need for direct contact with the phone, this effect is even more benign. Furthermore, the W.H.O. assures the public that no adverse short-term effects have been found from cell phone or Bluetooth use.
The W.H.O. studied long-term effects of mobile phone use. So far, their research has not found any connection between radio frequencies and physical effects. However, W.H.O. warns that "...these studies have too many limitations to completely rule out an association." The organisation plans to conduct a more in-depth assessment of this issue by 2012.
The W.H.O. has given particular attention to radio frequency exposure and cancer. The INTERPHONE Project, in association with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, examined cell phone use over ten years from thirteen countries. The results showed no risk of cancers, such as glioma and meningioma. Although there is no conclusive evidence, it is still possible that radio frequencies can cause cancer. Moreover, since Bluetooth use further reduces electromagnetic exposure, it is a help, not a hindrance, to personal health.