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France Bans Sale of iPhone 12 Over Excessive Radiation Levels

In a surprising development, Apple has been instructed to cease the sale of its iPhone 12 model in France following tests that revealed radiation emissions exceeding the European Union’s safety standards.

This mandate also requires the tech behemoth to rectify existing iPhones in the country either through an update or by recalling all previously sold iPhone 12 units. Apple products, including some of its most recent smartphone models like the iPhone 12 are popular in Nigeria, where it is seen as a status symbol.

Jean-Noël Barrot, France’s digital minister, has downplayed concerns regarding the detected radiation levels, assuaging fears of cancer risks. Nevertheless, this announcement has reignited the ongoing discourse surrounding the safety of mobile phone usage, the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously sought to quell radiation-related anxieties associated with mobile devices, emphasizing the absence of evidence linking them to harm in humans. However, scientists caution that limited knowledge exists concerning risks beyond 20 years, primarily due to the fact that widespread mobile phone use did not begin until the late 1990s.

Maria Feychting, a professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, stated, “Currently, there is no strong evidence that exposure to electromagnetic fields during mobile phone use is associated with adverse health effects.” She further added, “However, there are still some uncertainties and further research is needed, especially regarding the higher frequencies that will be used by 5G.” She emphasized that existing safety guidelines incorporate significant margins to account for scientific uncertainties.

It is important to note that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an offshoot of the WHO, previously categorized certain radio frequencies at extreme levels as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” albeit with low likelihood.

Several studies have suggested potential links between mobile phone use and increased cancer risk, as well as impacts on fertility. In 2014, researchers at the University of Exeter proposed a possible connection between mobile phone exposure and reduced sperm quality. However, they acknowledged the need for further research due to the limited evidence.

Another study in 2020 claimed that as little as 17 minutes of daily mobile phone use over ten years could increase the risk of cancerous tumors by up to 60 percent. This controversial research involved a statistical analysis of 46 global studies on mobile phone usage and health conducted by experts from UC Berkeley. Joel Moskowitz, one of the researchers involved, asserted, “Our main takeaway is that approximately 1,000 hours of lifetime cellphone use, or about 17 minutes per day over a 10-year period, is associated with a statistically significant 60 percent increase in brain cancer.”

In contrast, Cancer Research UK adamantly refutes these claims, stating on its website, “Using mobile phones does not increase the risk of cancer.” The organization posits that the radiation emitted by mobile phones lacks the energy to damage DNA, making it highly unlikely to cause cancer.

Furthermore, a decade ago, the UK’s now-defunct Health Protection Agency conducted a comprehensive safety review, finding no conclusive evidence of mobile phones harming human health. Researchers examined hundreds of studies and failed to establish definitive links between mobile phone exposure and brain tumors, other types of cancer, or adverse effects on fertility or cardiovascular health.

While the scientific community largely agrees that mobile phones do not pose a significant risk to human health, ongoing research is deemed necessary to investigate potential long-term effects resulting from decades of mobile device usage.

EU law stipulates specific absorption rate (SAR) limits, measuring the amount of energy absorbed by the body when exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic waves from electronic devices like mobile phones. The SAR limit is set at 2 watts per kilogram when a handset is held near the ear or torso, and 4 watts per kilogram when carried or placed in a pocket.

ANFR, the French regulatory authority governing radio frequencies, reported a SAR of 5.74 watts per kilogram for Apple’s iPhone 12 when carried. Apple disputes these findings, asserting that it has provided ANFR with its own laboratory results and results from third-party sources, all indicating compliance with EU safety standards.

Apple’s official website asserts that the iPhone 12 possesses a SAR of 0.98 watts per kilogram when held near the ear and 0.99 watts per kilogram when carried or placed in a pocket, significantly below the French claims.

This is not the first time Apple has faced scrutiny over SAR limits. In 2019, the Chicago Tribune published a report indicating that tests revealed the iPhone 7 and iPhone X exceeded radiation levels established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. However, upon reevaluation, the FCC determined that both phones adhered to the prescribed limits.

France’s decision to temporarily halt iPhone 12 sales coincides with Apple’s official launch of the iPhone 15. CEO Tim Cook has hailed the new range as the “best and most capable iPhones we’ve ever made.” Nevertheless, experts emphasize that SAR testing is highly sensitive to minor variations in methodology.

Professor Kenneth Foster of the University of Pennsylvania commented, “You can get almost any value you want by tiny variations in how you do the test.” He also noted that SAR values can fluctuate depending on the specific radio frequency bands a phone employs during testing.

France remains resolute in its stance, urging Apple to heed its warning and reduce the iPhone 12’s radiation emissions to acceptable levels. Notably, Apple is not the first company to face such action in France. Since 2017, ANFR has banned the sale of 42 smartphones for emitting excessive radiation, leading to recalls in six instances. Last year, Digital Information World compiled a list of smartphones with the highest and lowest radiation emissions, with notable mentions including the Motorola Edge, OnePlus 6T, Sony Xperia XA2 Plus, Google Pixel 3 XL, and Google Pixel 4a among the worst offenders.

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