RF Exposure Lab, an independent laboratory in San Marcos, California, tested the iPhone 11 Pro for radiofrequency radiation (RF) and found the levels were twice as high as federal safety limits and far different from what Apple had previously reported. The lab found the smartphone exposes users to a Specific Absorption Rate—how much the body absorbs radiofrequency energy—of 3.8 watts per kilogram.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set the maximum exposure rate at 1.6 watts per kilogram. That’s certainly cause for concern, considering that the World Health Organization has classified RF radiation as a possible carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer) to humans since 2011 and the National Institutes of Health has found “clear evidence” in animal studies that RF radiation causes cancer. Plus, the radiation has been linked to lower sperm counts, headaches, and effects on learning and memory, hearing, behavior and sleep.
Why the discrepancy? Well, for one thing, cell phone testing is self-regulated, meaning that “the manufacturer supplies a phone to an independent lab for testing, and if the phone passes, the FCC approves the device for release,” Ryan McCaughey, CTO of Penumbra Brands, which funded the research, said in a prepared statement. “However, when we bought an iPhone ‘off-the-shelf’ and tested it the same way, RF Exposure Lab found it fails the FCC’s safety limit,” McCaughey added. Such is the case in a previous August 2019 Chicago Tribune investigation, which inspired the Penumbra-sponsored study.
The Tribune found that the iPhone 7 similarly had double the rate of radiation that the FCC deems safe for use and other smartphone makers, like Samsung and Motorola, also exceeded the safety threshold. The real reason behind the conflicting results is likely that the FCC’s guidelines for setting safe radiofrequency radiation levels are extremely old. “The FCC limits are over 20 years old,” McCaughey told IEEE Spectrum. “Some might argue that the limit is antiquated (old-fashioned or outdated) at this point.” The FCC set its radiofrequency radiation standards some 25 years ago, he said, long before smartphones were even conceived.