Apple and Samsung are the targets of a major class-action lawsuit after a study conducted on behalf of the Chicago Tribune discovered that many current popular smartphones produce unsafe levels of radio frequency (RF) emissions.
The Tribune testing procedures were conducted according to federal guidelines at an accredited lab. Two tests were performed on the phones. The “standard” test involved measuring exposure at two distances from a simulated body: the distance the manufacturers chose for their own premarket testing (5, 10 or 15 millimeters) as well as a “pocket test” at 2 millimeters. The “modified” test added steps intended to activate sensors designed to reduce the phones’ power. Eleven models from four companies including the iPhone and Galaxy were tested during the experiment with varying results. Some were quite troubling.
Radio frequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 not only measured over the legal safety limit, it also measured more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own testing. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is responsible for regulating phones, states that if a cellphone has been approved for sale, the device “will never exceed” the maximum allowable exposure limit, which has been set at 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue.
It is not completely clear whether radio frequency radiation from cellphones can increase cancer risk or lead to other harm, but experts have speculated that we may learn that the radiation did lead to harms, especially in populations who have been using smartphones since a very young age.
Apple disputed the findings and stated that the experiments were not performed in a way that properly assesses iPhones. Samsung said in a statement, “Samsung devices sold in the United States comply with FCC regulations. Our devices are tested according to the same test protocols that are used across the industry.”
FCC officials would not comment on the results of the testing but did state that although the Tribune testing was not as comprehensive as what would be required for an official compliance report, they would examine some of the phone models.
Now a group of plaintiffs have filed suit against Apple and Samsung, alleging that “recent testing of [Apple and Samsung] products shows that the potential exposure for an owner carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket was over the exposure limit, sometimes far exceeding it–in some instances by 500 percent.”
According to the complaint, Apple stopped making RF exposure statistics (including safe distances for talking on the phone) available for public viewing after the release of the iPhone 7. The suit claims that health effects of RF radiation exposure resulting from phone use include, “increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans.”