Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro doubles radiation exposure deemed safe for consumers, testing lab claims

An independent lab, RF Exposure Lab, based in San Marcos, California, found that Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro emits more than twice the FCC’s legal safety limit for radio-frequency (RF) radiation from a cellphone. The test opens up the possibility many other phones expose users to more radiation than legally allowed.

The lab tested the iPhone 11 Pro and discovered it exposes users to a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of 3.8 W/kg, even though the FCC sets the maximum exposure rate at 1.6 W/kg. The tests were performed using FCC guidelines with the phone 5 mm away from a mannequin engineered to simulate human tissue. If a device is closer, for example in a pocket, the exposure could increase even more.

iPhone 11 Pro test results graph
Source: Penumbra Brands

“Cellphone users should be concerned about exposure to RF radiation,” said Ryan McCaughey, CTO of Penumbra Brands, in a statement. “The testing shows the iPhone 11 Pro potentially exposes people to more than double what the FCC has deemed safe. Cellphone testing is self-regulated—the manufacturer supplies a phone to an independent lab for testing, and if the phone passes, the FCC approves the device for release. 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.”

Last fall, Penumbra Brands replicated cellphone radiation tests completed by the Chicago Tribune. These tests confirmed iPhone 7 radiation levels are more than 50% over the FCC safety standard at 5 mm and double the standard at 2 mm of separation.

iPhone 7 test results graph
Source: Penumbra Brands

The media coverage prompted the FCC to examine the iPhone 7 and other phones again, but the new tests showed all phones were under the legal limit. The only difference in the FCC testing was that the manufacturers supplied most of the devices for testing, whereas Penumbra Brands and the Chicago Tribune purchased phones off-the-shelf.

“In the recent FCC tests, the iPhone XS model that wasn’t supplied by Apple reveals the testing flaws—radiation is 28 times higher than the agency’s original report,” added McCaughey in a statement. “That discrepancy should have been cause for alarm at the FCC, but they didn’t even comment on it. Consumers should develop cellphone use habits to protect themselves from over exposure.”

Research has raised legitimate concerns regarding exposure to RF radiation:

• When a mobile phone is transmitting, it generates an almost omni-directional electromagnetic field. A phone next to a user’s head is directly in the most intense region of that RF field.

• 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.

• RF radiation has also been linked to lower sperm counts, headaches, and effects on learning and memory, hearing, behavior and sleep.

Penumbra Brands conducted the tests on the iPhone and the cases the company developed to protect cellphone users from radiation.

Source: Penumbra Brands

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, Penumbra Brands is trying to sell Gadget Guard anti-radiation iPhone cases, but what’s concerning is that the FCC’s safety standard at 5 mm doesn’t accurately represent how many people carry and use their iPhones. For example, many people slip their iPhones into their jeans pocket. Denim is roughly 0.38 mm thick – and that’s on the outside – the cotton fabric pocket between the iPhone and your body is much thinner.

Here is the FCC’s conclusion after they retested the devices:

All sample cell phones tested by the FCC Laboratory, both grantee-provided and FCC- purchased samples, produced maximum 1-g average SAR values less than the 1.6 W/kg limit specified in the FCC rules. Therefore, all tested sample devices comply with the FCC RF radiation exposure general population/uncontrolled limits for peak spatial-average SAR of
1.6 W/kg, averaged over any 1 gram of tissue as specified in 47 CFR § 2.1093(d)(2), and these tests did not produce evidence of violations of any FCC rules regarding maximum RF exposure levels.

The U.S. FCC’s latest “RF Exposure Compliance Test Report,” dated December 19, 2019, is available here.


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