French regulators have ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 12, saying it emits electromagnetic radiation that exceeds EU standards for exposure. The company denied the findings and said the device complies with regulations.
The French government agency that manages wireless communications frequencies issued the order after the iPhone 12 recently failed one of two types of tests for electromagnetic waves that can be absorbed by the body.
It's unclear why the phone, which was released in late 2020, failed the agency's final round of tests, and why it was only a specific model.
According to France's digital minister, the iPhone 12's radiation levels are still far below what scientific studies believe could harm users, and the agency itself admits that its tests do not reflect typical phone use.
On Tuesday, the National Frequency Agency called on Apple to “implement all available means to quickly fix this fault” for phones already in use, and said it would monitor device updates. If they don't work, Apple will have to recall the phones already sold.
Normal level when stored in a jacket or bag
The agency recently tested 141 mobile phones and found that when the iPhone 12 is held in the hand or carried in a pocket, its electromagnetic energy absorption level is 5.74 watts per kilogram, which is higher than the EU standard of 4 watts per kilogram.
The phone passed a separate test for radiation levels for devices stored in a jacket or bag, the agency said.
Radiation limits are set “well below the level where harm will occur” and therefore small increases above the threshold “are unlikely to have any health consequences”, said Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics at the Royal Berkshire Hospital Group in the UK. .
iPhone 12 users should be able to download an update that prevents radiation exposure from exceeding the limit, Sperrin said.
It's unclear why this particular model emits higher radiation, but it “could be associated with the initial connection phase when the phone is ‘searching' for a transmit/receive signal,” he said.
“rules are rules”
Apple has stated that the iPhone 12 has been certified by multiple international bodies and complies with applicable radiation regulations and standards around the world.
The American tech company said it has provided the French agency with multiple lab results conducted by both the company and third-party labs that confirm the phone's compliance.
Speaking to France Info radio, Jean-Noel Barreau, France's minister responsible for digital affairs, said the national frequency agency “is in charge of controlling our phones, which, due to software updates, may emit a little more or less electromagnetic waves. “
He said the iPhone 12's radiation levels are “slightly higher” than EU standards, but “significantly lower than the level where scientific studies believe there could be consequences for consumers. But a rule is a rule.”
The agency's tests are conducted in a diagnostic lab that uses a fluid-filled mold that simulates a human head and body with brain and muscle tissue. The devices transmit maximum power for a six-minute test, the agency says on its website, acknowledging that the tests “do not reflect the most common use of the phone.”
During calls, the phone transmits only half the time the user is talking, and calls rarely last more than six minutes, the agency said. Using mobile internet or video takes longer, but the phone “rarely transmits more than 10% of the time,” he added.
WHO: Cell phones are “possible” carcinogens
Cell phones are listed as “possible” carcinogens by the World Health Organization's Cancer Research Group, putting them in the same category as coffee, diesel fumes and the pesticide DDT. The radiation produced by cell phones cannot directly damage DNA and is different from stronger radiation such as X-rays or UV rays.
Although mobile phones have been widely used for years, studies have not shown a clear link to adverse health effects such as cancer, headaches and cognitive function, said Ian Swiville, a senior radiation expert at the UK's Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
Experts have recommended that people who are concerned about exposure to cell phone radiation use headphones or switch to texting.