PARIS (AP) — French regulators have ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 12 on the grounds that it emits electromagnetic radiation above European Union exposure standards.
The company disputed the findings and said the device complied 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 launched in late 2020, failed the agency’s latest round of testing and why it was only this particular model.
France’s digital minister said the iPhone 12’s radiation levels are still much lower than levels that scientific studies suggest could harm users, and the agency itself admits its tests do not reflect typical phone use.
The National Frequency Agency on Tuesday called on Apple to “take all available means to quickly resolve this malfunction” 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.
The agency recently tested 141 mobile phones and found that the iPhone 12’s electromagnetic energy absorption when handheld or carried in a pocket was 5.74 watts per kilogram, above the EU standard of 4 watts per kilogram lies.
The phone passed a separate test of radiation levels for devices stored in a jacket or bag, the agency said.
Radiation limits are “well below the level at which harm occurs” and therefore a small increase above the threshold is “unlikely to be harmful to health,” 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, said Sperrin.
It’s not clear why this particular model appears to emit higher levels of radiation, but it “could be related to the initial phase of the connection when the phone ‘looks’ for a transmit/receive signal,” he said.
Apple said the iPhone 12 has been certified by multiple international bodies and complies with all applicable radiation regulations and standards around the world.
The US technology company said it had submitted to the French authority several laboratory results, carried out by both the company and third-party laboratories, that demonstrated the phone’s compliance.
Jean-Noël Barrot, the French minister in charge of digital affairs, told France Info Radio that the National Frequency Agency “is responsible for controlling our phones, which, due to software updates, may emit a little more or a little less electromagnetic waves.” ”
He said the iPhone 12’s radiation levels were “slightly higher” than EU standards, but “significantly lower than levels at which scientific studies suggest there could be consequences for users. “But the rule is the rule.”
The agency’s tests are conducted in the diagnostic laboratory, which uses a fluid-filled mold that simulates a human head and body with brain and muscle tissue. The devices transmit at maximum power during the six-minute test, its website says, acknowledging that the tests “do not reflect the most common use of a phone.”
When making calls, the phone transmits only half the time when the user is speaking, and calls rarely last six minutes, the agency said. Mobile Internet or video usage takes longer, but the phone “rarely transmits more than 10% of the time,” it continues.
Cell phones have been classified as “possibly” carcinogenic by the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, putting them in the same category as coffee, diesel exhaust and the pesticide DDT. The radiation produced by cell phones cannot directly damage DNA and is different from stronger types of radiation such as X-rays or ultraviolet light.
While cell phones have been widely used for years, studies show No clear connection with adverse health effects could be proven such as cancer, headaches and cognitive function, said Ian Scivill, a senior scientist with expertise in radiation at Britain’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
Experts have recommended that people concerned about their radiation exposure from cell phones consider using headphones or switching to texting.
Chan reported from London.