The Unknown Health Risks of Wireless Charging

Intel Wireless Charging at CES 2015

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas featured many new products that are part of what’s called the ‘Internet of Things’. Each of these represents a new source of EMF radiation in the home. But none are more concerning than wireless charging— the ability to charge your devices without cords.

An Intel Wireless Charger installed in a DuPont tabletop
An Intel Wireless Charger installed in a DuPont tabletop

There are several companies that promoted solutions for wireless charging at CES 2015.

Intel (which had a huge and impressive presence at the conference) was one of the largest firms to demonstrate their wireless charging solution. Intel is a member of the Association for Wireless Power (whose members also include Qualcomm, Samsung, Sharp, Sandisk, and many other firms) which is promoting a specific protocol for wireless charging, based on Rezence technology, which has posted their specification.

First, you need a tabletop with an inducer embedded in the surface. Since the inducer is beneath the surface, so you don’t actually see the charging device (which needs to be plugged into a power outlet). The tabletop can be made of any non-conductive surface, though all of Intel’s demos featured tables made with DuPont Corian (apparently DuPont and Intel have a marketing partnership to promote this technology once it is made available to the public).

Then, as long as you have a device with a Rezence-enabled case, simply place your device on the part of the table surface that has the inducer, and— voila!— your device is charging (as you can see in this photo of a laptop charging on a Rezence surface).

An Intel Presenter Demoing a Wireless Charging Laptop
An Intel Presenter Demoing a Wireless Charging Laptop

When I asked an representative from Intel what the EMF emissions from a Rezence tabletop were, he explained he did not know, but that I could find that information in the tech spec posted online (I was unable to locate any information on emissions).

He then added that “these are just magnetic fields— they’re not going to make you sterile” (unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of science demonstrating evidence to the contrary)— that’s not unusual, as many in the wireless industry are not aware of (and do not wish to be made aware of) the increasingly large body of science demonstrating health risks from their technology.

I noted that all of the Intel demo installations of wireless charging included this warning, apparently mandated by the FCC.

An FCC Warning posted at Intel's Wireless Charging Exhibit
An FCC Warning posted at Intel’s Wireless Charging Exhibit

While the FCC is tasked with regulating all devices that emit wireless radiation, their primary concern is to prevent interference with other radio signals (such as cell networks and broadcast transmissions)— the FCC is largely unconcerned with protecting human health. Still, I believe it is noteworthy that Intel was demonstrating technology they are not yet legally allowed to sell because of its EMF emissions.

I wish I’d’ve brought my gaussmeter and power density meter with me so that I could have measured the ELF and RF/MW emissions myself. I’ll have to make of point of doing that the next time I have the opportunity to see this technology in action.

This year’s CES featured many consumer products that are part of the increasingly large ‘internet of things’ (or IoT). In this new IoT world, essentially everything in your home is becoming a source of EMF emissions— I even saw WiFi enabled kitchen countertops at the conference. Still, as I said above, I believe that wireless charging is the most concerning technology I saw at the conference— the effects on human health are entirely untested.

Even so, Intel’s demonstration of wireless charging was not the most worrisome type of this new technology previewed at CES.

The solution demonstrated by Intel requires that your devices be in contact with the charging surface (as does a competing solution demonstrated by BroadCom and one from iNPOFi, whose wireless charging solution was named an “Best of Innovation Award Honoree” at the conference). This requirement that the charger and the device must be in contact with each other, means that it is possible for you to stay away from the charger when it is in use, and the ambient emissions should be relatively low (though, again, I would like to see any of these manufacturers post information on the EMF emissions from their devices).

Much more concerning is the WattUp technology demonstrated by Energous and the offerings from startup WiTricity— as well as the fact that the Rezence specification was recently updated to accommodate charging over distance. These technologies allow for devices to be charged wirelessly, without making any contact, over a distance of 20′. As Engadget reports:

Energous’ system is called WattUp, and it works using a mix of RF, Bluetooth and a lot of patent-pending technology. The transmitter is where most of the magic happens. It communicates with and locates compatible devices using low-energy Bluetooth. Once they’ve established contact with a device, they send out focused RF signals on the same bands as WiFi that are then absorbed and converted into DC power by a tiny chip embedded in the device. These transmitters can be built into household appliances, TVs, speakers and standalone “energy routers.”

That means that the environment around these types of wireless chargers is literally filled with free flowing power— much more than standard WiFi or cordless phones would create. Indeed, one article about wireless charging tech from CES had an unusually honest quote from an anonymous executive of a major hardware company:

“I don’t think I would want to be in a room with free moving power signals,” an executive with a leading hardware technology company said on the condition of anonymity.

We are increasingly surrounded by radiation from wireless devices everywhere we go, and at every moment in our lives. That’s a trend that keeps on continuing, and has already led many (including the World Health Organization) to issue warnings about the risks to human health.

The shift to wireless power, however, represents an order-of-magnitude leap in the amount of EMF radiation that inundates our bodies.

Wireless charging is already being rolled out to specific Starbucks locations in the US and McDonald’s restaurants in the UK, as well as certain models of new Toyotas and Cadillac vehicles. Verizon is already selling phones with integrated support for wireless charging.

It’s yet another EMF-emitting technology being released on the market without any testing whatsoever on its real risks to human health. As Engadget recently wrote in an article about how Haier plans to incorporate wireless charging into home appliances like dish washers:

“Wireless charging is a little bit more convenient than plugging your device in, but was picking up a microUSB lead ever that much of a chore in the first place?…Then there’s the question of if it wouldn’t be damaging to health in the same way that people have raised concerns about living next to electrical substations?”

Seems like the type of question that manufacturers should be forced to answer before releasing wireless charging to consumers worldwide.

16 thoughts on “The Unknown Health Risks of Wireless Charging

  1. Thank you for this well-written, factual warning about yet another hazardous source of xenobiotic (never before seen on Earth) electrosmog, of the unnatural type now causing illness worldwide. Let us not fall victim to the false and misleading assurances of our dishonest government and Industry “authorities” which are compromised by the vast profits from this most powerful business sector ever. The only acknowledged mechanism of harm by those who profit from unregulated, unmonitored proliferation of dangerous EM radiation is the long-discredited factor of tissue heating whereby if microwave radiation doesn’t heat you, it doesn’t hurt you. Yet thousands of studies – notably as reported in – show harm at levels thousands of times lower than the unprotective, unmonitored guideleines used in developed countries that have been established by Industry Military for their convenience at our peril..

  2. One of the lesser known effects of microwaves on the human body is extremely counter-intuitive. In certain circumstances, a lower power density has a much greater negative effect on health. This is opposite to the previously unviolated dose response of a human being exposed to a toxin, i.e., the dose makes the poison. With RF, it can actually be inverted, and there’s more than one study that demonstrates this. Here’s a discussion of one that was repeated by a famous skeptic for the very purpose of discrediting the original study. Instead, the skeptic reluctantly reported that he confirmed the study:

    By analogy, we are in the 1950s of the tobacco industry, with ads extolling doctors’ recommendation of which brand to smoke. Due to the trillions of dollars of profit from the microwave RF industry, we are likely to follow a similar path before it’s widely accepted that wireless kills.

  3. There is a lot of development on fast-charging buses, using wireless inductive tech. Shouldn´t this be even more problematic, as the power-levels to deliver large quantities of energy in a short time must be very high indeed. However, I am uncertain how this is different from riding in a train powered by overhead conductive powerlines. How much is an acceptable gaussmeter?

    1. Thank you for your comment. You are correct that the faster the charge occurs, and the longer the distance over which the energy must travel, the higher the power required for the wireless charge. And, in general, it is assumed that the higher the power level, the more health risk that is incurred. But it is difficult to estimate the risk for each of these scenarios, because of the relative lack of regulation on wireless charging, and the lack of published data for these technologies. As for an acceptable gaussmeter, this is one I frequently recommend, since it is relatively inexpensive, and doubles as a power density meter:

  4. If you are going to invoke “the increasingly large body of science demonstrating health risks” in an article entitled “The Unknown Health Risks of Wireless Charging” then you have a responsibility to provide it. As it stands, you have shown no factual evidence (or links to such evidence) that support the claim. This is especially important to reconcile because you take a potentially biased viewpoint, considering the purpose of this website is to market and sell “EMF shielding” products.

    1. Thank you for your comment. The body of science I reference is the same that World Health Organization has cited when it designated EMF has a Class 2B carcinogen. As well, I have cited numerous peer-reviewed studies in other posts on this blog. For a more thorough and detailed review of the 1000s of peer-reviewed scientific studies on this subject, I would encourage you to review the BioInitiative Report, which was most recently updated in 2012:

  5. Wireless chargers have been on the market for a while now—have you had the chance to measure any?

    1. Hello Frasier:

      Thank you for your question. Yes, I have taken some measurements. I’ve been meaning to write them into a post but just haven’t had time.

      I measured chargers based on the two primary tech standards battling for dominance in the consumer device charging market (e.g., phones, tablets, etc.) where the device is intended to make contact with the charger. I have not had the opportunity to measure emissions from any wireless chargers that are designed to charge at a distance.

      The two technologies I measured are Qi (pronounced ‘chi’) and Rezence. And it turns out that there are massive differences in emissions from these two technologies.

      The wireless chargers I measured based on the Qi standard emitted, at max, 3 mG. And when no phone was touching the charger, the emissions were effectively 0 (meaning, when nothing was being charged, the charger emitted nothing). I measured multiple devices based on the Qi standard, from different manufacturers, and found the same results. And, as expected, the power of those emissions diminished significantly with distance. A few inches away, and you’re already under 1mG.

      In contrast, the chargers I measured based on the Rezence standard were quite different. The Rezence-based chargers I saw were emitting at least 100 mG (see attachment). I say ‘at least’ because 100 mG is the max measurement on the Triflied meter I brought with me. Even more troubling, I measured that same reading whether any devices were charging or not. In other words, the wireless chargers I measured, based on the Rezence standard, were emitting at least 100 mG, all the time, whether or not they were actually charging anything.

      100 mG is 100x the exposure recommended by the BioInitiative Working Group. In other words, Rezence chargers emit 2 *orders of magnitude* above the exposure recommended by this group of international scientists. It really is a massive level of EMF emissions in the ELF (extremely low frequency) range of the spectrum.

      I did reach out to both Qi and Rezence. Rezence had no comment. In contrast, Qi replied that their lower emissions are intentional, the product of their superior engineering, a fact that they attempt to explain in greater detail in this post:

      I hope this helps. Thank you again for your question.


      PS. Here is a photo I took while measuring a Rezence charger:

      1. Thank you for that reply. I found it more useful than the article!

        It sounds like Qi is relatively safe. And it fits my lifestyle – I am considering charging pads in my car, on my bedside table and on my desk at work, so that I don’t need to bother fiddling with little cables just to charge my phone.

        But then, Qi doesn’t seem to offer enough energy to charge a laptop while it’s running. I’m OK with that! I end up connecting/disconnecting laptop cables a couple of times per week, but I probably plug my phone in about 4-5 times a day.

  6. […] CES 2015, I wrote a post, concerned about the increasing prevalence of wireless charging technology, but I didn’t have any measurement tools with me to gauge the actual EMF emissions. CES 2016 […]

  7. I find it hard to believe this is not seriously dangerous to our health.. imagining wireless charging in starbuck with the potential to maybe get cancer.. I can just see the lawsuits flying.. Can someone please test this before it is mainstream cause in my mind, i cannot see how it is safe.

  8. […] The real danger of rezence technology lies in its ability to provide wireless at long distances; much of this technology can connect devices from over 20 feet away. Once these chargers find a connection, they send out radio-frequency signals. The amount of “free-flowing power” produced by tabletop charging is a lot more than regular WiFi, according to some industry insiders. […]

  9. FCC rules are formulated many years ago, when the radio communication was different; since then, for many years dishonest manufacturers learned to fool FCC by going spread-spectrum where possible, to avoid sharp peaks on the analyzer screens. But for a human body, the total radiated power is what makes impact, not the peaks at certain frequencies. As for WattUp, their 4W of radiated power, first, is twice more than the cell phone, and second, the charging process lasts much longer than a phone conversation. What if there are several units charging simultaneously? Being an electronics designer myself, I think it is extremely dangerous to have such device in a house or in the office.

  10. I’ve tried the Samsung QI chargers for iPhone 8 and X. With one on each nightstand both my spouse and I have sleep disturbances. (Headaches & inability to sleep). Both of us have been perfect sleepers for over 34 years and when introduced to QI near the bedside we have decided not to use them ever again. We took a week off of QI charging several times to come to this conclusion. Spouse didn’t even know of the QI charging bedside the first week and he complained of daily headaches on day 1 after waking up.

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