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A Radio Frequency Exposure Test Finds an iPhone 11 Pro Exceeds the FCC’s Limit

An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: A test by Penumbra Brands to measure how much radiofrequency energy an iPhone 11 Pro gives off found that the phone emits more than twice the amount allowable by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The FCC measures exposure to RF energy as the amount of wireless power a person absorbs for each kilogram of their body. The agency calls this the specific absorption rate, or SAR. For a cellphone, the FCC’s threshold of safe exposure is 1.6 watts per kilogram. Penumbra’s test found that an iPhone 11 Pro emitted 3.8 W/kg.

Ryan McCaughey, Penumbra’s chief technology officer, said the test was a follow up to an investigation conducted by the Chicago Tribune last year. The Tribune tested several generations of Apple, Samsung, and Motorola phones, and found that many exceeded the FCC’s limit. Penumbra used RF Exposure Labs, an independent, accredited SAR testing lab for the tests (The Tribune also used the San Diego-based lab for its investigation). Penumbra was conducting the test, which also included testing an iPhone 7, to study its Alara phone cases, which the company says are designed to reduce RF exposure in a person. It’s worth noting that when the FCC conducted a follow-up investigation they did not find evidence that any of the phones exceed SAR limits. “That said, while the Tribune and Penumbra both used off-the-shelf phones, the FCC largely tested phones supplied by the manufacturers, including Apple,” adds IEEE Spectrum.

Joel Moskowitz, a researcher at UC Berkeley, says that could be because there’s a systematic problem with RF Exposure Lab’s testing methods, or Apple rigged the software in the provided test phones to ensure they didn’t put out enough power to exceed the SAR limit. Either way, both McCaughey and Moskowitz agree that the FCC’s RF exposure testing is woefully out of date, as the limits reflect what the FCC deemed safe 25 years ago.

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