A report last year from the Chicago Tribune found that mobile phones from Apple, Samsung and others produced radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure above the FCC's legal limits. Not surprisingly, the report raised concerns that common smartphones like the iPhone 7 might pose some kind of health hazard.
So the FCC responded. Late last year, the agency conducted its own tests to determine whether the phones in question were in fact blasting radiation above the agency's prescribed limit.
The result? "All tested sample devices comply with the FCC RF radiation exposure general population/uncontrolled limits for peak spatial-average SAR [specific absorption rate] 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 FCC wrote in its report, issued last month and highlighted by Wireless Estimator.
Meaning, the FCC found that the phones were behaving in accordance with the government's radiation guidelines.
Why this matters
The initial Chicago Tribune report in August helped to rekindle long-simmering fears that cellphones cause cancer. Those concerns have dogged the wireless industry for decades, but have been re-energized in recent years by the industry's move to 5G technology alongside operators' efforts to deploy small cells in neighborhoods around the country.
Citing data from the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, among other sources, the FCC has been very clear that 5G, small cells and cellphones in general do not pose a health risk. Indeed, the agency last year said it will not change its existing RF exposure limits, arguing that such limits are already among the most stringent in the world.
As for the Chicago Tribune's findings specifically, the publication noted that the FCC used test software, RF cables and other accessories that were supplied by the smartphone vendors. "Such software was unavailable to the Tribune's lab when testing Apple phones," the publication noted.
The Tribune's tests last year were conducted by the RF Exposure Lab in San Marcos, Calif., which the publication said is recognized by the FCC as accredited to test for RF radiation from electronic devices and has been doing so for wireless companies for 15 years.
For its own tests, the FCC said "a robotically positioned probe takes a series of measurements of the electric field (proportional to SAR) at specific pinpoint locations in a very precise, grid-like pattern within the head and torso models. All data for each cell phone placement is submitted as a part of the equipment approval test report for final authorization," among other technical specifics.
"The FCC takes claims of non-compliance with its regulations seriously," the agency noted.