PARIS: French regulators on Tuesday ordered Apple to halt sales of the iPhone 12 for emitting too much electromagnetic radiation, and to fix existing handsets.

The French agency that regulates radio frequencies, the ANFR, said testing found that the model emits more electromagnetic waves susceptible to be absorbed by the body than permitted.

The ANFR said it “ordered Apple to remove the iPhone 12 from the French market from September 12 due to the model exceeding the limit” for electromagnetic absorption by the body.

It said accredited labs had found absorption of electromagnetic energy by the body at 5.74 watts per kilogram during tests simulating when the phone was being held in the hand or kept in a pocket.

Apple disputes findings, says cell phone meets radiation rules

The European standard is a specific absorption rate of 4.0 watts per kilogram in such tests.

“Concerning phones already sold, Apple must in the briefest of delays take corrective measures to bring the affected phones into compliance,” said the ANFR in a statement on its website.

“Otherwise, Apple will have to recall them.” ANFR noted that tests that measure the electromagnetic radiation absorbed at a distance of five centimetres was in compliance with the limit of 2.0 watts per kilogram.

ANFR said its agents would verify beginning that iPhone 12 models were no longer being offered for sale in France.

Dispute findings

Apple said on Wednesday in a statement that the iPhone 12, launched in 2020, was certified by multiple international bodies as compliant with global radiation standards, that it had provided several Apple and third-party lab results proving the phone’s compliance to the French agency, and that it was contesting its findings.

Researchers have conducted a vast number of studies over the last two decades to assess health risks resulting from mobile phones. According to the World Health Organisation, no adverse health effects have so far been established as being caused by mobile phone use.

Industry experts said there were no safety risks as regulatory limits on SAR were set well below levels where scientists have found evidence of harm.

“From a health and safety point of view, it is not as if this is putting anyone at risk,” said Professor Rodney Croft, the chair of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radia­tion Protection (ICNIRP), which sets global guidelines on the SAR limits.

The limits - based on the risk of burns or heatstroke from the phone’s radiation - are already set ten times below the level where scientists found evidence of harm.

Croft said the French findings could differ from those recorded by other regulators because ANFR assesses radiation with a method that assumes direct skin contact, without intermediate textile layers, between the device and user.

A French government source also said the French test was different from the method used by Apple.

Smartphone radiation tests have so far led to 42 sales stops in the country. It is the first time Apple has been affected by such a move.

Germany’s radiation watchdog BfS also said the French decision could have implications for all of Europe.

France’s junior minister for the digital economy, Jean-Noel Barrot, said a software update would be sufficient to fix the radiation issues.

“Apple is expected to respond within two weeks”, he told daily Le Parisien in an interview on Tuesday, adding: “If they fail to do so, I am prepared to order a recall of all iPhones 12 in circulation.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2023

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