The debate over potential health consequences from wireless device radiation has officially crossed the virtual threshold.
While science remains divided on the health effects of absorbing low-frequency, non-ionizing radiation—like the kind emitted by cell phones and other wireless devices—some virtual reality headsets are well above the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) safety guidelines.
The established FCC-safe absorption rate for radiation from wireless devices is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg).
For perspective, most smartphones are within this range, emitting under 2W/kg. By comparison, an independent analysis of the popular Oculus Quest virtual reality (VR) device revealed the headset emits low-frequency, non-ionizing electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation up to 9W/kg.
The Owo vest, which allows users to feel physical sensations during metaverse experiences such as virtual reality games, including wind, gunfire, or punching, on Jan. 5, 2022. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Concurrently, analysts project the market growth for VR in both the gaming and professional world will top $31 billion in 2023 and is expected to surpass $51 billion by 2027.
Apple is about to join the virtual world and is set to release its first “mixed reality” headset later this year.
But industry fanfare hasn’t stopped researchers and consumer concerns over the possible health consequences of prolonged usage of VR headsets.
It’s an argument that’s been on the table for more than a decade: Do wireless and other low-frequency, non-ionizing EMF devices pose human health risks?
Many scientists say it’s very possible. Especially with a dearth of long-term data on the effects of radiation exposure on device users. However, the results from several studies suggest lengthy exposure to non-ionizing EMF radiation causes trouble regulating body temperature and cellular damage.
One study concluded that non-ionizing radiation interferes with the body’s oxidative repair mechanisms. This results in oxidative stress and damage to cellular components and cellular processes.
The authors noted that spikes in oxidative stress are also associated with an increased presence of cancerous tumors.
Supporting this is a large 2016 study done on rats subjected to lengthy bouts of non-ionizing EMF radiation. The results from hundreds of exposed male rats showed a nearly 3 percent increase in brain tumors. In the control group, no male rats developed cancerous tumors.
A third research group in 2020 released findings on the specific absorption rate of radiation by the human head through VR headsets. The study revealed that radiation can overcome the body’s temperature regulation when the absorption value exceeds 4W/kg.
At that point, cellular tissue will begin to overheat. “It is particularly important to avoid electromagnetic exposure of the head,” the study authors said in the report.
Although the evidence isn’t conclusive, some members of the scientific community urge caution when using VR devices.
Keeping A Distance
Major organizations tiptoe around the topic of wireless radiation’s potential to affect human health.
However, most hold tight to what’s known as the “electron argument.”
It’s the theory that low-frequency, non-ionizing radiation can’t dislodge electrons from an atom or molecule. Lacking that function, adherents suggest there won’t be any direct DNA damage, making …….