French regulators ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 12, saying it emits electromagnetic radiation levels above EU exposure standards. The company disputed the findings, saying the device complies with regulations.
The French government body that manages wireless communication 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 is unclear why the phone, which was released in late 2020, did not pass the agency’s latest round of tests and why it was only that particular model.
France’s digital minister said the iPhone 12’s radiation levels are still much lower than levels that scientific studies estimate could harm users, and the agency itself acknowledges that its tests do not reflect typical phone use.
The National Frequency Agency on Tuesday called on Apple to “implement all available means to quickly fix this flaw” for phones already in use, and said it would monitor device updates. If they don’t work, Apple “will have to recall” phones that have already been sold, it said.
Normal levels when stored in 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 level of electromagnetic energy absorption is 5.74 watts per kilogram, higher than the EU standard of 4 watts per kilogram.
The phone passed a separate test of radiation levels for devices kept in a jacket or in a bag, the agency said.
The radiation limits are set “well below the level where harm will occur”, so a small increase above the threshold “is unlikely to have any health consequence,” said Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics at Britain’s Royal Berkshire hospital group. .
iPhone 12 users should be able to download an update that prevents radiation exposure from exceeding the limit, Sperrin said.
It’s not clear why this particular model appears to be emitting higher radiation, but it “may be related to the initial phase of the connection when the phone is ‘looking’ for a send/receive signal,” he said.
“The rule is the rule”
Apple said the iPhone 12 has been certified by several international bodies and complies with all applicable radiation regulations and standards around the world.
The American technology company said it has provided the French agency with several lab results conducted by both the company and third-party labs proving the phone’s compliance.
Jean-Noël Barrot, France’s minister in charge of digital issues, told France Info radio that the National Frequency Agency “is responsible for controlling our phones, which, as there are software updates, may emit a little more or a little less electromagnetic waves.”
He said the iPhone 12’s radiation levels are “slightly higher” than EU standards, but “significantly lower than levels where scientific studies estimate there may be consequences for users. But the rule is the rule.”
The agency’s tests are performed in a diagnostic laboratory that uses a fluid-filled mold that simulates a human head and body with brain and muscle tissue. Devices transmit at maximum power for the six-minute test, the agency says on its website, acknowledging that the tests “do not reflect the most common use of a phone.”
During calls, the phone transmits only half the time when the user is talking, and calls rarely last six minutes, the agency said. Using mobile internet or video lasts longer, but the phone “rarely transmits more than 10% of the time,” it added.
WHO: Mobile phones “possible” carcinogens
Mobile phones have been labeled as “possible” carcinogens by the World Health Organization’s cancer research division, putting them in the same category as coffee, diesel fumes and the pesticide DDT. The radiation produced by mobile phones cannot directly damage DNA and is different from stronger types of radiation such as X-rays or ultraviolet light.
While mobile phones have been in widespread use for years, studies have not shown a clear link to adverse health effects such as cancer, headaches and cognitive function, said Ian Scivill, a senior researcher with expertise in radiation at Britain’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
Experts have recommended that people concerned about their exposure to mobile phone radiation use earphones or switch to texting.