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Newspaper claims many cell phones emit illegal levels of radiation

The Chicago Tribune says it tested 11 models from four manufacturers

Photo (c) Joel Sorrell - Getty Images
An investigation by the Chicago Tribune found the iPhone 7, set to full power, reportedly emits more RF radiation than allowed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The Tribune said it conducted its tests according to federal guidelines and at an accredited laboratory. After an iPhone 7 was set to full power it was immersed in a tub of clear liquid that was designed to simulate human tissue.

Measurements were taken to determine the amount of RF radiation that was being blasted into the liquid. The newspaper reports radiofrequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 was determined to be over the FCC’s legal safety limit and more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators.

The FCC says cell phones approved for sale in the U.S. “will never exceed” the maximum allowable exposure limit, but The Tribune says the iPhone is not the only device giving off too much radiation.

Tested 11 smartphones

The Tribune tests 11 models of smartphones from four different manufacturers and reported it “varying” results. Tests also included phones from Motorola, Samsung, and BLU. The newspaper said it shared its findings with FCC officials and asked for a response.

“We take seriously any claims on non-compliance with the RF exposure standards and will be obtaining and testing the subject phones for compliance with FCC rules,” agency spokesman Neil Grace told The Tribune.

Whether cell phones pose a health threat is not exactly a new question. Even in the 1980s, there was a concern that holding a radio transmitter next to your head for long periods of time might not be healthy.

2011 study

As we reported in 2011, a group of international researchers meeting in Istanbul, Turkey claimed to have “stunning proof” that confirmed findings from the Council of Europe -- pulsed digital signals from cell phones disrupt DNA, impair brain function and lower sperm count.

The research was reputed to show that prolonged exposure to cell phone radiation could damage DNA, brain function, and sperm.

But there have been enough studies purporting to show no ill health effects that the issue has remained cloudy, even though the studies continue. A major 2018 study reportedly showed the RF exposure was linked to brain cancer in rats.

In response to The Tribune’s tests, Apple took exception. Apple was one of two manufacturers who disputed the findings, saying the lab the newspaper retained used unusual testing methods.

The Tribune said it conducted the tests to keep attention focused on the issue, hoping to contribute to the ongoing debate about the possible risks posed by cell phone radiation.

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