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We tested popular cellphones for radiofrequency radiation. Now the FCC is investigating via Chicago Tribune


This test, which was paid for by the Tribune and conducted according to federal guidelines at an accredited lab, produced a surprising result: Radiofrequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 — one of the most popular smartphones ever sold — measured over the legal safety limit and more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own testing.

The Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating phones, states on its website that if a cellphone has been approved for sale, the device “will never exceed” the maximum allowable exposure limit. But this phone, in an independent lab inspection, had done exactly that.


The Tribune tested three more brand-new iPhone 7s at full power, and these phones also measured over the exposure limit. In all, 11 models from four companies were tested, with varying results.

The Tribune’s testing, though limited, represents one of the most comprehensive independent investigations of its kind, and the results raise questions about whether cellphones always meet safety standards set up to protect the public. 

After reviewing the lab reports from the Tribune’s tests, the FCC said it would take the rare step of conducting its own testing over the next couple of months.


Though it’s unclear whether radiofrequency radiation from cellphones can increase cancer risk or lead to other harm, that question is increasingly pressing given the widespread use of cellphones today. Many children and teenagers may face years of exposure.


The results
The Tribune tested 11 cellphone models by measuring how much radiofrequency radiation was absorbed by a simulated body positioned near the phone. The Federal Communications Commission has set an exposure limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue.

How the tests were performed

Standard test: The phones were tested in accordance with FCC rules and guidelines. Exposure was measured at two distances from the simulated body: the distance the manufacturers chose for their own premarket testing (5, 10 or 15 millimeters) and a closer “pocket test” at 2 millimeters.
Modified test: The Apple and Motorola phones were retested after those companies provided feedback based on the results. These tests added steps intended to activate sensors designed to reduce the phones’ power. Two newly acquired phones also underwent the modified tests.
NOTE: The Tribune tested several iPhone 7s because of high results from a pilot test.

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