A new study conducted by the Chicago Tribune found that Apple's iPhone 7 produced radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure above the FCC's legal limits. The publication tested other phones from other manufacturers, including Samsung and Motorola, and found that some of them also transmit RF radiation above some of the FCC's safety limits in certain circumstances.
Importantly, Apple and Samsung disputed the publication's findings, but they did not specify exactly what was wrong with the tests conducted by the Chicago Tribune. Apple officials specifically did not respond to repeated attempts by the publication to obtain information about the company's own RF tests and details about how those tests differed from the publication's tests. The Chicago Tribune's tests 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.
In response to the Chicago Tribune's tests, the FCC said it would conduct its own tests on the devices to see if they in fact do not comply with the Commission's rules around RF exposure limits.
Why this matters
At the heart of the Chicago Tribune's detailed reporting is the increasingly central role that cell phones now play in people's lives around the world. No longer are they occasionally carried in a holster or a glove compartment; they're now ubiquitous, and ever-present, in pockets and purses across the globe. And, according to some surveys of recent scientific reports on the issue, the increasing proximity between cell phones and human tissue could well pose a health threat.
Partly in response to those concerns, the FCC just this month finished a seven-year-long proceeding on cell phone RF exposure. The agency concluded that it will not change its existing RF exposure limits, arguing that such limits are already among the most stringent in the world.
Further, agency officials specifically said that 5G -- the industry's newest generation of wireless technology -- does not pose a health risk.
"The available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or under the current limits," Jeffrey Shuren, director of the US Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, wrote to the FCC. "No changes to the current standards are warranted at this time."
But, according to the Chicago Tribune's tests, Apple's iPhone 7, and other devices, exceed some of those limits in certain situations. And that, at the very least, could cause headaches for wireless executives across the country who are facing opposition from residents worried about the health effects from a growing number of nearby cell towers and small cells.