iPhone 12 Banned in France Over Radiation Levels

A French governmental agency in charge of managing wireless communications frequencies has ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 12 after determining that the smartphone emits electromagnetic radiation levels above European Union standards.

As AP reports, it is not immediately clear why the iPhone 12, which first hit the market in late 2020, is the only iPhone model to have failed to meet radiation standards.

Users concerned about adverse health effects may not need to worry too much. The French digital minister claims that while the iPhone 12’s radiation levels exceed allowable standards, the emission is still considerably below the threshold scientists generally believe threatens human health.

Nonetheless, the National Frequency Agency in France has demanded that Apple take all necessary steps to address the issue. The agency hopes that Apple can fix the problem via software updates. If that does not work, the agency will get Apple to recall the iPhone 12.

Malcolm Sperrin, the director of medical physics at the United Kingdom’s Royal Berkshire hospital group, says that the iPhone 12’s radiation levels are “well below the level at which harm will occur” and that the device in its current state is “unlikely to be of any health consequence.”

iPhone 12 radiation
iPhone 12 | Credit: Apple

The National Frequency Agency “…recently tested 141 cellphones and found that when the iPhone 12 is held in a hand or carried in a pocket, its level of electromagnetic energy absorption is 5.74 watts per kilogram, higher than the EU standard of 4 watts per kilogram,” AP reports.

Sperrin speculates that the iPhone 12 may have failed the National Frequency Agency’s testing due to how the phone looks for a connection. He adds that this is something that should be addressable via a software update.

As AP adds, the iPhone 12 has been on the market for nearly three years and has been certified by various international agencies and regulatory bodies.

Apple has been in contact with the National Frequency Agency in France, providing the regulatory agency with multiple lab results from Apple and third-party companies that prove that the iPhone 12 complies with radiation standards.

The agency acknowledges that its testing methods “do not reflect the most common telephone use.” During the six-minute test, radiation is measured using a liquid-filled mold that simulates a human head and body. Regulators say that most phone calls do not last six minutes and that during more typical transmission, such as when using mobile data or texting, transmission levels are lower than during a call.

The iPhone 12’s radiation levels are “slightly higher” than EU regulations but “significantly lower” than levels that scientists believe to be harmful, says Jean-Noël Barrot, France’s minister in charge of digital issues. “But the rule is the rule,” he adds.

Today, Belgium says that it is reviewing potential health risks posed by the iPhone 12’s radiation levels. All EU member states have three months to review and provide comment after France notified the EU yesterday.

“We immediately asked the IBPT (Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications) for confirmation, or at least an analysis, and this is currently underway,” Mathieu Michel, Belgium’s state secretary for digitalization, tells Reuters.

Daily Mail reports that German regulators are also looking into the issue. Italy and Spain are currently monitoring the radiation issue.

The National Cancer Institute explains that smartphones emit radiation in the radiofrequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the organization claims that the energy emitted by cell phones is too low to damage DNA.

On the other hand, the World Health Organization has labeled cell phones as possibly carcinogenic. Other commonly encountered items in this category include coffee, diesel exhaust, and some pesticides.

While there is no clear link between cell phone use and increased incidences of cancer, the situation remains closely studied. Whether cell phones pose a health risk due to radiation, France still says that Apple must get the iPhone 12 to comply with EU radiation standards. Until the iPhone 12 passes muster, the French government says Apple must stop selling the iPhone 12.

Image credits: Apple