Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — Your new iPhone could be emitting excessive amounts of radiation, a new study for a Utah company claims.
Testing in connection with North Salt Lake-based Penumbra Brands’ new iPhone case, which was designed to shield users from radio frequency — or RF — radiation exposure, indicated the iPhone 11 Pro discharges twice the level of radiation exposure deemed safe by the Federal Communications Commission, according to a news release from the Utah company.
Apple, in response, points to its assertion disputing similar claims against previous iPhone models that its phones are rigorously tested and meet required RF limits.
Radio waves and microwaves are produced via transmitting antennas as a form of electromagnetic energy. Collectively, they are referred to as RF energy or radiation, according to the FCC website. Penumbra Brands asserts that an independent laboratory noted the iPhone 11 Pro emitted exposure levels that far exceeded the federal government’s legal safety limit for RF radiation from a mobile phone.
“The iPhone 11, if it’s tested 5 millimeters away from the body as per the FCC test guidelines, it’s more than double the FCC safety limit,” said Ryan McCaughey, Penumbra Brands chief technology officer.
The testing was conducted at RF Exposure Lab, based in San Marcos, California, where researchers examined the iPhone 11 Pro and observed it exposed users to a Specific Absorption Rate of 3.8 watts per kilogram; the acceptable level set by the FCC is 1.6 watts per kilogram.
“Cellphone users should be concerned about exposure to RF radiation,” McCaughey said. He added that cellphone testing is self-regulated — meaning the manufacturer supplies a phone to an independent lab for testing and the FCC approves the device for release if it passes the testing phase.
He noted, however, that when Penumbra Brands purchased an iPhone “off the shelf” and conducted the same test, it failed. Last year, the company also replicated cellphone radiation tests completed by the Chicago Tribune that showed iPhone 7 radiation levels at more than 50% above federal safety standards.
Cellphone users should be concerned about exposure to RF radiation.
–Ryan McCaughey, Penumbra Brands
The media coverage prompted additional testing by the FCC on the iPhone 7 and other devices, with the devices testing below the legal limit.
Apple released a statement following the publication of the Chicago Tribune article describing the company’s commitment to customer safety, including extensive testing to ensure compliance with safety requirements.
“We looked at the reports provided by the Chicago Tribune in detail and found the test results of the iPhone 7 were inaccurate due to the test setup not being in accordance with procedures necessary to properly assess the iPhone models. All iPhone models, including iPhone 7, are fully certified by the FCC and in every other country where iPhone is sold. After careful review and subsequent validation of all iPhone models tested in the report, we confirmed we are in compliance and meet all applicable radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines and limits.”
Additionally, the FCC issued a report also contradicting the newspaper’s claims and assuring the commission’s test results “show that the handsets in question do comply with applicable FCC RF exposure limits.”
McCaughey said the difference in the FCC testing was the manufacturers supplied most of the devices for that round of examination, whereas testing by Penumbra Brands and the Chicago Tribune were phones purchased on the market.
“Consumers should develop cellphone use habits to protect themselves from over exposure,” he said. Research on prolonged direct exposure to RF radiation showed cause for concern for consumers, he stated.
The World Health Organization has classified RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans since 2011, and the National Institutes of Health found “clear evidence” that RF radiation causes cancer in animal studies, McCaughey said.
“A big Interphone (study) showed that heavy or long-term cellphone users had a higher risk of certain types of brain tumors,” he said. “There are other studies out there showing that it’s also linked to problems with male fertility. A lot of people like guys carry their phones in their pockets and they’re exposing some sensitive areas. There’s studies that show that’s causing reduction in sperm and sperm motility.”
He said other studies have linked excessive RF radiation to sleep problems, headaches and behavioral problems.
While the devices don’t pose an immediate health hazard, consumers should understand the risk they are exposing themselves to over the long term, one company executive said.
“Our recommendation is that people just be aware of what the phones are doing,” said Penumbra Brands CEO Gentry Jensen. “(The devices) need to radiate in order to operate. That’s just a fact of life and we’re not going to get away from that. But keeping your phone in close proximity to your body over long periods of time is something that we would advise against.”