Technology is slowly becoming more and more prominent in all aspects of our life, and while there are numerous benefits offered by technology, there are also risks that need to be considered. One area which has been increasing in popularity, primarily due to a worldwide goal of reaching “10,000 steps” a day, is wearable technology—specifically smartwatches such as Fitbit and Apple Watches.
What Do Wearables Do?
Wearable technology, especially those marketed toward the general public, is intended to be worn 24 hours a day, even when sleeping or showering. The goal of this long-term wearing is to monitor movements and specific physiological data for the user, allowing them to obtain a more comprehensive overview of their health.
Some metrics measured by wearable technology include:
- daily step count
- sleep quality
- blood oxygen level estimations
- heart rate
While the data obtained by these technologies is great, their “wow factor” and a general trust in the companies producing the products has led to a lack of investigation into the potentially harmful effects of wearing this technology 24/7.
Even more than that, the very first models only acted as movement trackers, whereas newer models perform certain physiological measurements while also serving as a secondary cell phone, allowing users to read and send text messages and make phone calls all from their wrist. While the convenience offered by this is obvious, adding all this functionality also adds additional risky components.
Of course, any device intended for medical purposes must be proven to cause no immediate harm in order to be approved by the FDA, but this only applies to certain wearables, such as those giving an ECG reading. Most wearables are not overseen by the FDA, and many forms of wearable technology have not been evaluated for long-term health effects, so little exists regarding how damaging this consistent contact with a device can be to our health.
The Dangers of Wearable Technology
Many devices, such as your cell phone, release a form of radiation called electromagnetic frequency (EMF), something which has been cited as a type of carcinogen. Wearables still emit this type of radiation, but the difference is that with wearables, the radiation exposure is much closer to the body.
One study on mice found that those exposed to EMF radiation were much more susceptible to cancer, further proving the dangerous effect EMF radiation can have on our cells. Children, in particular, are at an increased risk of EMF radiation, despite some wearables being marketed to them.
A significant area of concern with EMF-radiating devices, wearables included, is their close proximity to the brain or reproductive organs, as it can cause considerable problems. Because of this, wearing these devices at night, a factor that they are marketed for, can be concerning since when sleeping, the device may be near the head.
Some symptoms which EMF radiation can cause include:
- chronic headaches
- tingling skin sensation
- ringing ears
- a static feeling in the brain
- weakened immunity
- excessive fatigue
- unexplained hives
- body pain
Skin Irritation or Rash
There have been multiple documented cases of skin irritation or rashes from wearable technology, in some cases resulting in a complete recall of a specific model.
Some of these rashes are due to the material of the device, particularly if it contains nickel, a common allergen in contact dermatitis.
However, in other cases, these companies explain away cases of irritation by stating that it only occurs if the device sits on wet or sweaty skin. The problem, though, is that these are two conditions that are common, and so they should be considered when creating these products if they are truly meant to be worn 24/7. Not only that, but some wearable devices are purposefully marketed as fitness watches, further increasing their need to handle interactions with sweat without causing a skin reaction.
The good thing about rashes, though, is that in most cases, discontinuing wearing the wearable technology, thus removing the source of irritation, is often enough to let the rash clear on its own. Compared to the other effects of wearables, this is one that is unlikely to cause long-term damage, so long as the use of the wearable is discontinued.
Wi-Fi has become a constant in our lives, with a need to stay connected for work, social activity, and relaxing. However, there have been multiple cases of adverse health effects resulting from close Wi-Fi proximity.
In 2011 wireless Wi-Fi radiation was categorized as a Group 2B Possible Carcinogen, and in 2012 researchers found that exposure to sources of Wi-Fi radiation disrupts the Blood-Brain Barrier and causes it to leak. This means that the device you wear directly on your body at all times of the day could create long-lasting health problems.
What Should You Do?
When it comes to devices that can emit EMF radiation (i.e., most smart devices), the best practice is to utilize protective, silver-lined accessories that help limit your exposure to the radiation.
Unfortunately, for wearables to work as directed, they typically need to maintain contact with the skin, meaning using accessories to minimize contact makes them essentially ineffective.
Because of the health risks posed by wearables, both immediately with potential skin irritation and long-term with exposure to EMF radiation and Wi-Fi radiation, it is not advised to use wearable devices 24/7, and especially not when sleeping, working out, or swimming.
Until more studies on the long-term health effects of wearables have been completed, it is wisest to avoid these devices. This is especially true since most current studies examining longer-term effects list EMF- and Wi-Fi- radiation as a carcinogen, which can have drastic health effects that don’t appear until years down the line. So, what you wear now in the hope of better managing your health may be altering your cells and causing problems that will be significant in a few years.
The best way to protect yourself from these devices is to avoid wearing them, no matter how tempting their features may be. And to fully protect yourself from the hidden dangers of technology, be sure to give Spero Protective Gear a try and see how much better you feel when you are no longer consistently exposed to EMF radiation.