Maybe you’ve seen them before: bracelets, usually made out of a flexible material like silicon, marketed as a kind of supplement you can wear. They’re supposed to improve your immune system, fight off disease, help the body function better, and help you “achieve balance.” All due to the claim that the product emits negative ions.
If this sounds like BS, that’s because it most likely is.
Today, Canadian scientist Justin Atkin, who runs the science YouTube channel The Thought Emporium, posted a 20-minute video in which he and his colleague Adam McCombs test these products using a mix of DIY, purchased, and full-on lab equipment.
In a number of words, what they found was pretty bad, and should give anyone who currently wears these products some degree of pause. Broadly, Atkin found:
- One popular negative ion product sold on Amazon produced about the equivalent radiation (5.6 microsieverts an hour) of getting a dental x-ray every two hours.
- The radioactivity is produced by thorium dioxide powder, which can shed from the bracelet, and you can end up breathing or ingesting it.
- This product doesn’t even emit negative ions. In fact, it emits alpha particles, which are positively charged. It emits positive ions.
It’s common knowledge that lots of things we use every day emit radioactive particles. So what’s the difference with these bracelets, then?
“For short exposures,” Atkin explains, “this would actually be a totally safe amount to handle… but this product is meant to be worn 24/7, year-round. So if we scale that dose to a year-long equivalent, that works out to 49 millisevierts per year.”
Atkin points out that the lowest radiation dose linked to cancer is about 100 millisevierts in a year.
“Think of radiation dose as a sort of yearly budget,” Atkin says. “If you’re burning three quarters or more of that budget wearing a stupid bracelet, it’s not that hard to push yourself over the limit and be exposed to risk.” In other words, “if you need a CAT scan or other medical scan, or even if you just fly in a lot of planes, all the sudden your yearly dose can be over the [100 millisevierts] threshold, and you’re exposing yourself to significant unnecessary risk.”
By wearing negative ion bracelets that you can buy on Amazon, you’re potentially increasing your ‘base level’ of radiation exposure. In turn, this makes other ‘normal’ radiation exposure events like flying in an airplane a riskier proposition. All for benefits that these bracelets propose to offer, but actually don’t.
So why wear them?
Watch the video here: