Talking tech since 2003

There’s a new high-tech clothing concept on the market: radiation-proof boxers.

Shield Apparel — who successfully Kickstarted more than $13,000 for radiation-proof headwear last year — is back at it again. This time, they’re protecting your reproductive capabilities with a snug pair of briefs: peace of mind for the low price of €39, or roughly $43 USD per pair.

You may be thinking this is another scheme intent on selling glorified tinfoil hats to overly concerned consumers with a bit too much disposable income. And you might be right. The clothing markets itself as “signal-proof” — which is a bit unclear, but claims to prevent harmful intrusion from radiation, microwaves and more.

In one featured comment on the site, a user even refers to trading in a tinfoil helmet for something much more stylish, implying some buyers may genuinely be afraid of aliens scrambling their brains.

How It Works

The signal-blocking concept probably comes from a mistaken application of electromagnetic (EM) shielding. EM shielding is typically used for electronic devices and can prevent interference from electromagnetic signals, if used correctly.

Keep in mind that I am not a scientist, and will undoubtedly be oversimplifying the following explanation. Basically, surrounding sensitive electronics with a shield of magnetic metal will draw signals away from the electronics and toward the metal. These transmissions can come from varying sources, including external devices and different components within the device itself. Without metallic shields, the devices may accidentally scramble, or even become targeted by hostile foreign signals.

In high enough doses, most radiation can indeed be harmful: cell phones uniformly contain radiation shields to prevent errant signals. Tinfoil, incidentally, is very good at blocking electromagnetic interference and radiation. That, unfortunately, is where the science ends.

The Research

There are very few cases in which electromagnetic-deflecting headgear would truly make any difference. Instances of narrow-focus deadly radiation do not typically exist in nature — barring some extremely specific scenarios.

If a high-frequency burst of radiation happened to target your skull or nether regions, you would probably be happy you had shelled out that $43. Assuming that same radiation focused anywhere else, or managed to get around the edges of the headgear, you would probably still die or become very, very sick.

Fear of cell phone radiation is another major selling point for this product. Luckily, the likelihood of the radiation shield within your cell phone failing, or of the escaping electromagnetic signals actually having any effect whatsoever, is similarly negligible. Cell phones emit non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which does not significantly increase the risk of cancer and seems to have no other harmful effects.

Finally, it is not clear how much foil coats the inside of the Shield gear, and the site does not help clarify this. Any gaps in the foil coating will obviously impact the performance of the headgear for the few situations it could potentially help.

On the Site

Surprisingly, the FAQ section of Shield’s site was accommodating. In it, Shield asserts that the gear is not merely improved tinfoil. As the site claims — complete with grammatical issues — “Shield is more beautiful, comfortable and sophisticated hat than tinfoil hat.” Thanks for clearing that up.

Also, this section admits Shield products may not actually do anything. Here I directly quote again: “And the truth is that there is no official evidence that signals cause something.” How about that.

The Verdict

Shield’s products seemingly lack any external — or internal — evidence of success or practical application. If you want a stylish hat or pair of undies that can possibly prevent an alien brain-scrambler or a targeted government attack on your genitals, go ahead and shell out for it. Otherwise, don’t bother.

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