Smart phones may leak unsafe levels of radiation, report claims

Apple and Samsung smart phones may leak unsafe levels of radiation, investigation claims

  • The Chicago Tribune tested 11 popular phone models 
  • The iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8 emitted double the radiation allowed under FCC regulations 
  • Devices also leaked more radiation than their manufacturers’ tests claimed 
  • Radiofrequency radiation from cell phones is a ‘possible carcinogen’
  • The FCC is launching its own follow-up investigation  

Popular smart phones, including the popular iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8 emit more radiation than US regulators have deemed safe, a Chicago Tribune investigation reveals. 

Cell phones use radiofrequency (RF) radiation to transmit signals. 

It’s a much lower frequency than known carcinogenic forms of radiation, like X-rays, but whether or not these radiation waves may be harmful to humans has been hotly debated. 

As a precaution, US regulators set maximums for the amount of radiation the devices can emit, but the Chicago Tribune’s tests found that the iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S8 and several other models from the two companies can exceed those limits.  

Radiation shot even further above what Apple reported to regulators was possible for the iPhone 7 – according to its own tests – and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now investigating. 

Popular smart phones including the iPhone 7 emit far more 'possibly carcinogenic' radiofrequency radiation than US regulations allow, a Chicago Tribune investigation found

Popular smart phones including the iPhone 7 emit far more ‘possibly carcinogenic’ radiofrequency radiation than US regulations allow, a Chicago Tribune investigation found

The FCC’s limit on cell phone radiation says that the devices cannot emit more than 1.6 watts per kilogram per one gram of tissue.

Radiation – even relatively low frequency emissions like the radiowaves used in cell phone technology – has the potential to penetrate the skin and damage DNA. 

This genetic corruption has the potential to cause cancer and other health problems.

But only if levels and duration of exposure are significant enough. 

Studies in humans that work near higher levels of RF have suggested they may be at higher risk for certain cancers. 

Rat studies have shown the radiation may raise risk for heart and reproductive tumors but, oddly, males exposed to RF also lived longer than those that were not exposed (the same was not true for females). 

It’s a hot-debated area of study but, so far, RF radiation has only met the threshold to be considered a ‘possible’ human carcinogen. 

Nonetheless, the FCC requires all cell phone makers to prove that their devices do not emit more radiation than it has deemed safe before coming to market.  

California has been distrustful of these limits and cell phones’ safety, as have expert groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG). 

To investigate each side, the Chicago Tribune ran its own tests, setting each of 11 models of Apple, Motorola and Blu and Samsung smart phone at two different distances – five millimeters and two millimeters away – from material that mimics human tissues. 

The  FCC requires manufacturers to test phones at anywhere from five to 15 millimeters from the test ‘body. 

The Chicago Tribune also tested the phones at two millimeters, to simulate the distance the devices would be if they were in a pocket. 

From a pocket, the iPhone 7 emitted between two and four times more radiation than FCC guidelines allow. 

At its worst, the Galaxy S8 hit five times the legal limit. 

‘This strongly suggests that the [FCC] testing protocol is not adequate,’ says Dr Joel Moskowitz, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. 

For its part, the FCC has said it will now investigate the smart phone companies’ testing practices, and the FDA has expressed interest in the past in stepping in, but Dr Moskowitz is skeptical. 

‘I have no faith in either the FDA or the FCC,’ he said.