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Can the radiation of iPhone (Smart Phone) cause cancers?
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Can the radiation of iPhone (Smart Phone) cause cancers?
What’s the Deal with Excessive Radiation in Apple iPhones? Is Cell Phone Radiation a Threat to Health?
On September 12th, Apple unveiled its latest generation of iPhones, the iPhone 15/15 Pro series.
Every year, the launch of Apple’s new iPhone models garners global attention, but this year, in addition to the new iPhone 15, the discontinued iPhone 12 is making headlines.
Recent news about Apple:
From tech-focused outlets like Engadget to business media benchmark Pingwest, from mainstream media such as The Washington Post to tabloids like the New York Post, all have been closely following the issue of radiation in iPhone 12.
Radiation has been a major concern for the Chinese public in recent times. Just when we were done studying whether sea salt is contaminated by nuclear radiation, are we now shifting our focus to whether smartphones emit radiation?
Actually, there’s no need to be overly concerned about iPhone 12 radiation.
First and foremost, smartphone radiation is not ionizing radiation, and concerns about radiation causing cancer usually refer to ionizing radiation. Radiation comes from electromagnetic waves, ranging from visible light to radio waves, and all electromagnetic waves carry energy. Without energy, plants wouldn’t be able to undergo photosynthesis, which is the process of converting energy from sunlight into biological energy.
However, different electromagnetic waves have varying energy levels. X-rays, for instance, have very short wavelengths and high frequencies, which means they possess a significant amount of energy, even enough to directly damage DNA. It’s this ability to damage DNA molecules that makes such electromagnetic waves carcinogenic and a cause for concern. These are referred to as ionizing radiation.
Cell phone radiation, as well as microwave oven radiation, visible light, infrared, and others, falls under non-ionizing radiation. These waves have lower energy levels and cannot damage DNA.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies cell phone radiation as a Group 2B possible carcinogen, this classification is based on the idea that there’s a possibility of a cancer risk, but there is no conclusive evidence to confirm or eliminate the risk. In fact, to date, there’s no evidence to suggest that cellphone use increases the risk of cancer.
Despite the widespread use of cellphones in the United States, concerns about an elevated incidence of brain cancer or other cancers due to cellphone radiation have not materialized. Multiple cohort studies have also failed to establish a clear link between cellphone use and cancer incidence.
So, if cellphone radiation isn’t ionizing radiation, what standards did Apple’s iPhone 12 exceed? Did it secretly surpass the standards for ionizing radiation?
Not at all. In reality, cellphone radiation is simply the electromagnetic waves emitted when a cellphone is in use. When we talk about the transition to 5G networks or the previous generations like 3G and 4G, we’re talking about electromagnetic wave bands, which are all forms of non-ionizing radiation.
However, non-ionizing radiation doesn’t mean there are no standards. Both 4G and 5G have specific band standards that are licensed by governments to telecommunications companies.
Cellphones are designed to operate within these standards, and you can’t simply choose which band you want to use.
These standards pertain to the bands, which dictate how cellphones communicate (Wi-Fi also has standards). But beyond the bands, there are also standards related to the energy of electromagnetic waves produced by cellphones, and this is what’s at the heart of the “issue” with iPhone 12.
Non-ionizing radiation may not have enough energy to damage DNA, but it does have energy. To put it in perspective, microwave ovens use non-ionizing radiation energy to heat food. We certainly don’t want the radiation from cellphones to be strong enough to cook us, right?
As a result, regulatory agencies have established corresponding standards for the energy levels of this non-ionizing radiation. This leads us to the concept of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which measures the rate at which a unit of tissue absorbs energy when exposed to a specific electromagnetic field, typically measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg).
SAR can be calculated for the entire human body or for a small piece of human tissue, and for cellphone radiation, it’s more appropriate to consider a small piece of tissue. Think about it – when you use your cellphone, you don’t have your entire body pressed against it; you wouldn’t physically be able to do that. When you make a phone call, you typically place your cellphone next to your ear, and that’s where the highest level of radiation is received. Even on the other side of your head, the exposure to radiation is much lower.
The SAR standard for cellphone radiation applies to the tissue that is closest to (and receives the highest exposure from) the cellphone:
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets the SAR standard for the tissue that absorbs the most radiation, which averages out to no more than 1.6 W/kg. In the European Union, the standard is no more than 2 W/kg for the tissue that absorbs the most radiation, which is measured over a larger volume.
You might think that the U.S. standard of 1.6 W/kg is stricter, but it’s not. This is because the two standards measure radiation exposure over different tissue volumes. The U.S. standard focuses on the central 1 gram of tissue, while the EU standard considers a larger tissue volume. In essence, the standards are not directly comparable.
So, did iPhone 12 exceed the EU standard of 2 W/kg? No, both the 1.6 W/kg and 2 W/kg standards apply to radiation when the phone is held close to the head during a call. Nowadays, people use their phones in various ways, some using all the features except for making calls. As a result, some regulatory agencies have adopted additional testing standards.
For example, France, where iPhone 12 was found to exceed standards, requires SAR testing for situations where the phone is held in the hand or placed in a pocket, which must not exceed 4 W/kg. There are also separate standards for when the phone is placed in a backpack.
iPhone 12 was found to exceed the SAR standard of 4 W/kg in the scenario of holding it in the hand or placing it in a pocket, with a measured SAR of 5.74 W/kg. However, in all other scenarios, it met the standards.
Does this mean iPhone 12 is unsafe when held in the hand, or not fully compliant? Not really. The SAR standard for cellphones is set very conservatively. The SAR standards originate from experiments conducted on rats and monkeys in the 1980s, which found behavioral changes in animals exposed to electromagnetic fields of 4 W/kg (due to the heating effect caused by radiation). Later, specific working conditions (similar to occupational exposure) for humans were set with a SAR limit of no more than 8 W/kg. On top of these limits, the FCC introduced a safety margin and set the standard at 1.6 W/kg.
Keep in mind that this 1.6 W/kg limit pertains to the tissue that absorbs the most radiation. In reality, the average exposure of the entire human body is much lower. After all, when you make a call, at most, only your ear gets warm; it’s not like your toes are heating up, right?
The situation in which iPhone 12 exceeded the standard (holding it in the hand or placing it in a pocket
) doesn’t pose an actual health threat due to the very conservative nature of the SAR standards. Even the French regulatory agency that flagged iPhone 12 stated that this situation doesn’t constitute a health threat, but since standards are in place, they aim to address the issue.
The solution is simple: it just requires a software update, which is what Apple is planning to do.
However, in this day and age, there are always skeptics and conspiracy theorists, and if you present too much science and theory, there will inevitably be accusations of bias or financial interests. To provide some context, the FCC is somewhat lax in SAR testing, as they allow cellphone manufacturers to conduct their own tests and submit the data. Only phones that meet the standards are allowed to be sold. India, a neighboring country to China, is more diligent in this regard, much like France. They randomly test phones available in the market.
An example is the phone EssentialIB Heyou, which exceeded SAR limits in India for both of its models. However, the manufacturer resolved the issue through a software update (specifically, optimizing the power output during signal searches, so no hardware changes were needed).
Furthermore, several well-known domestic brands in India were also tested for SAR compliance:
India now uses the FCC’s 1.6 W/kg standard, which is why all three phones exceeded the limit.
Additionally, SAR data for each phone is publicly available. You can simply dial *#07# (a USSD code) to access SAR information for your phone or receive related information links.
Some individuals have heightened concerns about cellphone radiation and may want to choose phones with lower SAR values for safety. However, this approach is fundamentally flawed. Remember that SAR data represents the peak radiation levels, not the actual radiation exposure during use. If Phone A has a higher SAR value than Phone H, it simply means that Phone A may occasionally exceed the SAR limit during peak radiation emissions. In actual usage, Phone A may rarely reach these peak levels, while Phone H might operate near peak levels more frequently, resulting in the user of Phone H potentially experiencing higher radiation exposure.
In conclusion, there is currently no research indicating that cellphone radiation poses a health hazard. Harm caused by excessive exposure to cellphone radiation is not attributed to the radiation itself but rather to the consumption of misinformation and unfounded fears. However, if you are genuinely concerned about cellphone radiation, there are simple ways to significantly reduce your exposure, such as avoiding phone calls in areas with weak signals and using headphones or speaker mode during calls to keep the phone away from your head.
Can the radiation of iPhone (Smart Phone) cause cancers?
(source:internet, reference only)