Apple and Samsung have been hit with a class-action lawsuit over claims that their phones expose users to radio frequency emissions up to 500 percent beyond federal limits. Meanwhile the health debate around smartphones heats up.
Filed following an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, the lawsuit alleges that the Radio Frequency (RF) emissions of a number of Apple and Samsung phones – among them the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and Galaxy S8 – “far exceed federal guidelines.” The risks of such radiation levels, it continues, include “increased cancer risk, cellular stress…genetic damages, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders,” and a laundry list of other medical problems.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tests phones by their ‘Specific Absorption Rate,’ measured in watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body tissue. No phone sold in America can exceed 1.6 w/kg, while European regulators allow a more generous 2w/kg. However, health activists consider these levels outdated. Indeed, the FCC’s guidelines were put together in 1997, and were largely based on tests carried out by the US military on the head of a 220lb (100kg) soldier.
Children can absorb more than 150 percent more phone radiation than adults, and up to ten times more radiation through their skulls. With kids as likely to use modern smartphones as top-tier military personnel, some researchers say that the FCC’s SAR guidelines are inadequate.
No major public health organization has thus far been able to link cell phone use with cancer or other serious ailments. However, a number of studies have found that even at levels far below those set by the FCC, significant health effects are possible. Radiation 2,000 times lower than the 1.6 limit was found to weaken the DNA of lab rats and decrease their sperm count. A dose four times lower was found to statistically increase the likelihood of malignant tumors, while exposure to just under half the limit alters the sleep patterns of users.
None of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim to have actually suffered any illness or health problems. Instead they are suing Apple and Samsung – two of the world’s three largest smartphone manufacturers – for misleading them into buying potentially dangerous devices.
A number of the alarm-raising studies mentioned above were carried out in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the more powerful antennae and different transmitting standards of modern devices mean the true effects could be more drastic.
The upcoming rollout of 5G cell infrastructure has also rung alarm bells. 5G cell towers use shorter radio waves than their current-generation counterparts, meaning as cities in America fast-track their rollout, more will have to be erected to ensure coverage. These shorter waves, however, travel at a much higher frequency meaning users are bombarded with more radiation.
The FCC maintains 5G is safe, but defers to the Food and Drug Administration’s assessment that “the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems” to back this up.
Dr. Martin Paul, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Washington State University, told RT that 5G poses a “great threat”to public health. Pointing to reproductive damage, cardiac effects, and oxidative stress, which can accelerate “every chronic disease we suffer from,” Paul slammed the US government for passing laws to speed up the rollout of 5G technology, but refusing to fund research into the consequences.
With 5G promising a new chapter in a debate that has raged for three decades, lawsuits like the one filed against Apple and Samsung will likely become more and more commonplace.