Are Smart Watches Safe?

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As an EMF Consultant, one of the questions I get asked a lot is:

Are smart watches safe?

So instead of continuing to respond to a lot of emails one at a time, I thought it’d help to write a post about it.

Let’s take a look…

How Does a Smartwatch Work?

In a nutshell, smartwatches are basically small computers that you can wear on your wrist. 

They work by syncing with a smartphone and connecting with an Android Operating System or Apple’s iOS. Most of them can connect to the internet and pair with bluetooth-enabled devices. 


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Smart watches can also be used to access apps, track events and activities, access your media, send and receive messages, and even track your vital signs. 

Smartwatch Radiation: What You Need to Know

Smartwatches are definitely tempting to have because of their convenience and style. 

I mean, even my 8 year old has asked for one! *umm, no*

But wireless gadgets like these are sources of radio frequency radiation that can have dangerous effects on the body. 

Our bodies absorb that radiation, and over a long period of time, it can start having a biological impact.

The scary part about smartwatches, in my humble opinion, is that they’re designed and marketed to be worn all day, every day. 

And even when the watches aren’t actively in use, as long as they have bluetooth enabled, they still emit RF radiation. 

The proximity of the radiation source and the duration of gadget use – combined – is what alarms me.

Science has proven the obvious –  the closer you are to a radiation source, the more hazardous the effects are. 

Some smartwatch side effects that have already been reported include mood swings, headaches, and disrupted sleeping patterns. 

However, severe effects have been linked to RF, including reproductive issues.

More than that, wearing smartwatches can open up a can of worms in people with pacemakers, as the gadget might interfere with how they function.

If you read the fine print in the owner’s manual for devices like these, you’ll see warnings about possible interference with medical implants. 

To me, that’s a blatant admission that the frequencies such gadgets operate on are a little more “impactful” than they’d have us believe.

Other Disadvantages of Smart Watches

1. Privacy Concerns

As mentioned earlier, smartwatches use wireless networks to transmit information to different devices. 

This feature is a matter of concern because the safety of transferred data from a smartwatch to a phone may not be as secure. This is especially alarming for people who use smartwatches to pay digitally.

There’s always a possibility for information that’s transmitted wirelessly to be hacked in several different ways. 

For one, hackers could get your personal information, especially if it isn’t encrypted, by intercepting the signal then stealing data.

2. Health Issues 

Several health issues may arise from exposure to radiation. For instance, a number of individuals have reported experiencing intense headaches and nausea, especially when wearing the smartwatch for a long time. 

Another symptom may be issues regarding sleeping patterns and memory gaps. 

Other users have complained about their inability to fall asleep and their struggle to establish a new sleeping pattern after wearing the watch for a while.

Memory issues can occur too, especially since tech in general can lead to an overall lack of concentration. But mainly, problems with memory are connected to the lack of sleep. 

Proper sleep is so essential to a healthy functioning body, but the blue light emitted by smartphones and watches keeps our brain awake by disrupting our sleep hormone, melatonin.

Other Not-So-Great “Features” 

Apart from privacy issues and concerns regarding your health, smartwatches have their limitations. 

First of all, the data it gathers can be false due to its sensors and steps calculator being inaccurate at times. 

And the small screen of a smartwatch can be a problem especially for those with eye problems. Even those with “perfect” vision can experience eye strain or eye fatigue. 

A Closer Look at Specific Watches

Garmin Watch Radiation

Users of the Garmin watch have expressed concerns over possible skin problems. Prolonged, direct exposure to Garmin watch can lead to rashes that look like mild burns. 

Although the cause of such burns may be due to other factors, it’s suspected that the radiation from the device is a contributing factor. 

Apple Watch Radiation

Apple watches are especially concerning because Apple has proven with past products (like AirPods) that they don’t place much emphasis on safety or trying to keep a low SAR value. 

Check out my complete evaluation of Apple watch radiation here.

Like Garmin, people have also expressed concerns regarding radiation burns, but there hasn’t been “sufficient evidence” to link the two so far. 

While past tests showed that mice grew tumors upon long exposure to smartphones, tests using smartwatches didn’t yield the same alarming results. 

Still, many are not convinced of their safety since they use similar technology.

And just as an aside, fitness trackers like the FitBit emit radiation as well.

My #1 Concern: No Long-Term Data

Smartwatches are somewhat “new” – a fad perhaps.

They just haven’t been around long enough, and therefore haven’t had sufficient studies to prove or disprove long-term effects of wearing them. 

And when it comes to EMF and RF, long term is the name of the game. It’s the most important aspect to study because it’s the low and slow, cumulative effects that are concerning.

We do have an idea of the effect of radiation in the short-term, but more studies are needed to confirm what can come of our exposure after years of use. 

The best we can do now is to take precautions and be careful that we don’t abuse our gadgets.

So with that said, let’s turn our attention to how we can do that.

Is There Such a Thing as a Smartwatch Radiation Shield?

Due to concerns surrounding EMF radiation from smartwatches, there’s now a demand for shielding products. 

Some of the front-runners include the Memonizer Smartwatch and the BloxShield. They’re referred to as “harmonizers”, which claim to lessen the impact of this type of radiation on your body.

But the question is, do these harmonizers work? I don’t really think so. 

Smartwatches can’t function without radiation. So if it’s still connected to your phone, guess what? It’s still emitting RF radiation. 

Even if the shielding works by using some sort of reflective material (which I usually recommend), it would typically be placed between your skin and the bottom of the watch…which is good. 

But think about what position you hold your hand in when actively using the watch – in front of your face, maybe a foot away. So yeah, the shielding material is deflecting RF away from your wrist, but now it’s directed at your face. 

I’m afraid such shielding products lull you into a false sense of security, when in fact you’re still being exposed to radiation. 

This may even be worse because you’ll let your guard down, possibly causing you to overuse your gadgets and end up absorbing higher amounts of EMF. 

So What Can You Do About Smartwatch Radiation?

Consider these tips:

1. Go Back to Old School Watches

Old-school watches may not be the cool kid on the block, but at least they don’t pose a risk to your wellbeing!

These watches have served us just fine for decades.

Before purchasing a smartwatch, you might want to carefully think if you really need those high-tech features or if they’re something you can live without.

Is it the “wellness optimization” data you’re after? Maybe a fitness tracker without bluetooth is the better option.

Or perhaps the apps or data you need to access can be done from your phone and laptop? Yes, they’re RF sources to, but they can be hardwired and they’re not worn in direct contact with your skin 24/7.  

If it turns out that telling time is your priority, then you might want to stick to a regular ole watch.

2. Use It Safer (Airplane Mode Is Your Best Friend Here)

Another option is to switch your smartwatch to airplane mode, which disables wireless connections such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular data. 

Even in airplane mode, there are still several features and apps that you can access. And music and such can be downloaded in full, then enjoyed in airplane mode.

3. Don’t Wear It While You Sleep

Whatever you do, don’t wear a smartwatch while you sleep. While some are marketed to help ‘optimize’ sleep, it does the exact opposite.

And since most of us sleep 7-8 hours per night, that’d be 7-8 hours straight of EMF exposure. It’s just not worth it.

Bottom Line: Are Smartwatches Dangerous?

As of now, there isn’t a definitive answer as to whether smartwatches are safe or not. 

On one hand, some researchers claim there is nothing to worry about. However, many studies have been conducted on electromagnetic and radio frequency radiation that have shown a negative impact. 

While the FCC is firm in their belief that EMF radiation isn’t a concern, the studies (not funded by big tech) say otherwise.

So what do we do about such contradicting claims? Probably wait for further research, but I don’t really want to be blasting myself with EMF in the meantime, do you? 

At the very least, we should use them “smartly” – as in not as often and taking full advantage of the airplane mode feature. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do smartwatches cause cancer?

That has yet to be proven. While there are studies that indicate radio frequency is a carcinogen, smartwatches themselves have not been linked to cancer.

Do they emit radiation all the time?

As long as they are synced with a smartphone, then yes. However, if the watch is in airplane mode, it won’t emit radiation.

19 thoughts on “Are Smart Watches Safe?”

  1. My fitibit has no airplane mode/no way to turn off Bluetooth directly on the watch. Am I stopping radiation exposure if I turn off my phone’s Bluetooth during the day then turn it on only when i need to sync my fitbit?

    • Tess,

      I don’t think so because if it’s not turned off on the fitbit itself, it will always be searching for a device to pair with at a moments notice (as soon as one becomes discoverable). It’s always a good thing to turn bluetooth off on your phone, but the fitbit’s bluetooth will still be searching and therefore emitting RF.

  2. I recently bought a smart watch couple days ago and can feel the difference. That green light sensor must be doing something to me, because I was very moody today after wearing it for the whole weekend.

    I usually don’t wear a watch at work. I’ll experiment with airplane mode and lowering the wear time so see a difference.

  3. I think that wearing it with Airplane mode enabled and enable the Bluetooth only and only once a day to sync the data watch phone is a very good idea !

  4. there’s a ton of information here, but no data to back it up. i’m new to this, so i currently don’t have an emf meter to do my own research. it would be nice if someone would actually show the results instead of just talking about it. thx

  5. An article was done 3 or 4 years ago about how smart watches affect motor control. I 100% agree with the article and your article, as I’m a massage practitioner and I see the effects of what these things do to peoples’ motor control.

  6. I’ve owned 3 Garmin watches and the cause of the “Garmin Rash” is due to the silicone band. All you have to do is replace the band with an alternate material.

    • I’ve owned a Garmin watch for several years. I only wear it when I am doing sport because otherwise I get the ”Garmin Rash”. Which appears under the watch base not under the straps.

      I believe its to do with EMF and possibly the Laser.

      I’ve tried both wrists and I get the same probably.

  7. I have been wearing a Garmin and now a Galaxy sport smart watch for years. The most noticable affect is the black “burn” mark where the watch face sits on top of my wrist. I do not wear it to bed. It’s scaring me enough that I will not wear it anymore. Especially after researching possible side effects. Make me wonder what else it has been doing to me over the years that I’m unaware of?

  8. Hello Jordan,
    I hope you can assist with my search. I am looking for an radiation free device for kids which would allow me to track my child while out with friends (my son is currently 10y old). So I am after a GPS tracker. Ideally in combination with a phone where I could reach him.
    A pocket tracker I know he would lose if attached to his pants, t shirt… and its not a phone.
    I thought of an old style, seniors flip phone but is there a possibility of requesting a location of the child? Maybe by sending a sms code?!
    I am convinced that smartphones and smart watches do cause harm to us so I would love my kids to stay away from it.
    Hope you can help and can come up with a device that would be suitable for my child. Thank you

  9. I’ve tried to wear my itouch smartwatch on several occasions. I make sure the band is loose to avoid irritation.
    Within an hour my wrist starts to swell, becomes red and develops hives. Once the watch is removed, it can take anywhere from 1 to 4 days for the swelling to go down.

  10. The reason I searched out this topic is because I woke up in the middle of the night and my arm that I wear my Fitbit on was hurting. All the way up into my armpit. Which really scared me because that is a lymph node area. I have been reluctant to search this because it seems like common sense that it would emit EMF and I was enjoying my Fitbit. Now I think I will find a way to turn off the Bluetooth and just use it during the day to track steps. It kind of makes me sad because it has been very beneficial to have in regards to weight loss.

  11. Thank you Jordan, really appreciate your writing and research here. We finally got Gabb watches for our kids but only allow them to be in use in certain situations we need to keep in communication for, very minimal. We take them off and turn them off immediately when they walk in the door. I’m still opposed to smart watches in general.

  12. Doesn’t the same count though for a phone as well? All that radiation spewing out of our phones! it’s also not good to sleep with your phone next to you in your bed either!!!!

  13. Im new to smartwatches ive had mine for a year i have a friend thats concerned about the amount of radiation going therw my skinn going into my body i for the most part sleep with watch my sleep has been broken up i wake up wee hours in the night cant go back to sleep memory’s gaps also wow glad i looked this up so what should i do im addicted to my watch lol

  14. You can disable (i.e. TURN OFF) both the wifi and Bluetooth signals on a Garmin watch….. so in that mode it should be safe to sleep with it on….. but what is not clear to me is….. will it track my sleeping pattern (temperature, heart rate, SPO2, movement) all night and store it….. until I connect with internet and computer to upload it the next day. Can somebody advise me on this ?


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