FCC Investigating Cell Phones Tested as Having Radiofrequency Radiation

News Cell Phone Radiation Featured

This is something that perhaps we considered years ago when we first encountered the idea of having phones that traveled with us. Maybe these phones would have radiation. But many of us really haven’t paid too much attention to it since then. We enjoy the convenience of what cell phones give us, especially when using smartphones, such as iPhone and Androids.

However, the Chicago Tribune tested what seems to be a random range of cell phones and found radiofrequency radiation at more than an acceptable amount. The FCC is now investigating on their own, after the newspaper’s testing.

Cell Phone Radiation Testing

The Tribune paid for this test of radiation in cell phones and conducted the test according to federal guidelines at what they describe as an accredited lab.

Their test produced surprising results. An iPhone 7 they tested showed radiofrequency radiation exposure that measured over the safe legal limit. They found it to be more than double what Apple reports it to have.

The FCC states on its website that if a cell phone has been approved for sale, it “will never exceed” the maximum allowable exposure limit, yet the iPhone 7 used in this testing did.

The newspaper tested three more new iPhone 7s, and these, too, measured over the maximum allowed limit for radiation exposure. Apple wasn’t the only offender. Eleven phone models from four companies were tested with a range of results.

The Tribune admits their testing was limited yet also says it “represents one of the most comprehensive independent investigations of its kind.” They believe the results raise questions about whether cell phones in general are ignoring designated safety standards.

“We take seriously any claims on non-compliance with the RF (radiofrequency) exposure standards and will be obtaining and testing the subject phones for compliance with FCC rules,” said FCC spokesman Neil Grace.

The newspaper notes it wasn’t their intention to rank phones for safety and only eleven models were tested, and many times just one of each device. Two phone manufacturers dispute the results, and that includes Apple. They said the phones were not tested the same way they do, but any way you test should not be showing higher levels than what they are supposed to have.

News Cell Phone Radiation Iphone

The FCC sets the exposure limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue. Exposure was measured at two distances from the simulated body, the distance manufacturers used in their testing (5, 10, or 15 millimeters) and a closer range of 2 millimeters which would be similar to carrying the phone in a pocket. Apple and Motorola phones were tested a second time using the companies’ feedback of how they achieved their results.

Several versions of the iPhone 7 were tested because of the “high results from a pilot test.” The least amount measured was 2.47 kg, above the limit, and the most 7.15, frighteningly above the limit. The iPhone X ranged from 1.38, below the limit, to 2.19. iPhone 8 1.1 to 5.37, and iPhone 8 Plus 0.68 to 1.79.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 measured 0.63 and 3.8, the Galaxy S8 1.53 and an astonishing 8.22, and the Galaxy J3 1.38 and 6.55.

The Moto e5 Play ranged from 1.25 to 6.67, the Moto g6 Play ranged from .25 to 3.42, and the Moto e5 measured 0.68 and 1.75.

The BLU Vivo 5 Mini measured 0.3 and 1.29.

Part of this discrepancy could be because the testing standards were set in the 1990s, a time when cell phone use wasn’t anywhere near where it is today and when they were not kept as close to the person as we keep them now. Companies were allowed to position them up to 25 millimeters away in their testing.

Unknown Risk

It’s unknown at this point what this type of exposure will do and if it involves a cancer risk or other harm. But it’s frightening nonetheless. As I type this, I have an iPhone 7 sitting right next to me.

Regardless, we need updated standards that represent how we use our cell phones, updated standards that phone companies are forced to obey. We also need to know what the danger is when the limits are exceeded and exactly how phone companies do their testing to achieve different results than the Tribune.

Will these results change the way you use your phone? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments below.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. This article was not useful at all. It presents numbers without any context. Plus the unit usage is confusing.

    “The FCC sets the exposure limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue. ”
    “Per kilogram” of what? User body weight? Phone weight? Over one gram of what tissue?

    “The least amount measured was 2.47 kg,”
    I thought the limit referred to watts, not kilograms. How did we get from “1.6 watts per Kg” to 2.47 Kg?

    “the most 7.15, frighteningly above the limit.”
    While in absolute numbers, 7.15 is “frighteningly above” 1.6, what units are attached to these numbers? Are we comparing amounts of watts or, again, comparing watts to kilograms?

    Throwing around and comparing random numbers may produce FUD but very little useful information.

    “the Chicago Tribune tested what seems to be a random range of cell phones and found radiofrequency radiation at more than an acceptable amount.”
    Again, a statement without context. Were the phones emitting this RF radiation while they were inactive, laying on a table or sitting in someone’s pocket? Or were they emitting the RF radiation while they were transmitting? Devices that transmit (such as cell phones) emit RF radiation only when transmitting. They should not be emitting RF while inactive.

    FCC has set up power limits for each type of device that transmits radio waves. Commercial radio stations are not allowed to transmit with more than 50,000 watts. By law, Citizen’s Band radios are limited to 4.5 watts. Amateur radio operators are limited to no more than 1,000 watts. So on and so forth for other devices. Nowhere in the FCC rules is there any mention of “watts per Kg, over grams of tissue” I assume (I know, that’s dangerous) that the “1.6 watts” mentioned above refers to the maximum power with which dell phones are allowed to transmit.

  2. This report will make no difference to the way I use my phone, and causes me no concern. I agree that phones should comply with FCC rules, but I don’t see any danger to the user here.
    Different types of radiation have been studied for many decades, and the frequencies used by cellphones have long been regarded as low-risk, even at much higher levels than are typically employed by cellphones.
    Some scientists have asserted that cell phones (and WiFi) could cause certain types of cancer. However, many experts have challenged their hypotheses, arguing that they rely on assumptions which are not supported by existing research.
    A study was done involving exposing rats to very high doses of cellphone radiation, with inconclusive results. One group of rats had a slightly higher rate of cancer than normal, but another group under the same conditions did not (in fact very slightly lower than a control group).
    Many researchers point to the fact that, as much as cell phones are used these days, we should be seeing an increase in the number of people getting these cancers if phones do indeed cause them, but no such increase has yet appeared.
    While we can’t say for sure that cell phones pose no health risk at all, we can say that at present there is scant evidence that they do.

  3. Well done to other commenters to your incredibly calm restraint while once again patiently debunking this tired conspiracy theory. I would have been somewhat more colourful in my responses!
    One of the points you didn’t cover, which I’ll briefly add, is the fact that RF is not ionizing radiation, which is the mechanism by which UV, X rays and gamma rays can damage tissue, by knocking electrons out of atoms. There is no known physical mechanism for RF to damage living cells, at least when we are talking real world intensities, such as in phones. As you implied, the first generation of cellphone users would now all be dead had there been any conceivable causal mechanism between phone RF and deadly diseases No such correlation has been found by epidemiologists despite decides of trying. Any such risk must be negligible or it would have been discovered long ago.

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