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France’s radiation regulatory authority, the Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR), has prohibited the sale of Apple’s iPhone 12 due to tests indicating that the smartphone surpasses European radiation exposure limits. The ANFR stated that the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), a measure of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body, exceeded permissible levels. France’s junior digital economy minister, Jean-Noel Barrot, suggested a potential software update to rectify the issue, with a warning of a device recall if Apple fails to address it. Apple disputes the findings, citing certification from international bodies for compliance with global radiation standards.

SAR measures energy absorption in watts per kilogram of body weight and differs from harmful radiation sources like X-rays or gamma rays, as mobile phone radiation doesn’t disrupt chemical bonds or affect cells in ways that lead to health issues such as cancer.

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What did ANFR discover and is it hazardous?

The ANFR conducted random tests on 141 phones, including the iPhone 12, purchased from various retailers. In independent laboratory assessments, two iPhone 12 units were found to be non-compliant with EU standards, as reported by the Digital Minister’s office to Reuters. These tests on smartphone radiation have resulted in 42 sales restrictions in the country thus far. The primary concern associated with the “non-ionizing” radiation emitted by phones is the potential heating of body tissue. If exposure surpasses specified limits and persists over time, it can lead to health issues like burns or heat stroke, according to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an organization that establishes global guidelines for such limits.

The ANFR reported that accredited laboratories measured a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of 5.74 watts per kilogram during iPhone 12 tests when the device was held in hand or placed in a trouser pocket, exceeding the EU standard of 4.0 watts per kilogram. Nevertheless, Professor Rodney Croft, chair of ICNIRP, stated that this level poses no risk to human health.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international health organizations have not found definitive evidence linking mobile phone radiation to adverse health effects, they have called for further research on the subject.

How has Apple responded?

The ANFR has suggested that a software update could effectively resolve the problem. In simpler terms, this is because the software, which includes apps, programs, and other operational data on a device, influences how the hardware (the device itself) functions. Therefore, a software update should be sufficient to decrease SAR exposure for iPhone 12 users.

However, Apple has dismissed the agency’s findings, asserting that it has supplied ANFR with numerous test results from both Apple and independent third-party laboratories, demonstrating its adherence to all relevant SAR regulations and global standards. Apple intends to challenge the results of ANFR’s evaluation and plans to maintain a dialogue with the agency to demonstrate its compliance.

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