PARIS--Apple defended its iPhone 12 model on Wednesday after a French watchdog ordered a halt to its sales citing breaches of European Union radiation exposure limits.
The French move raised the prospect of further bans in Europe. Germany's network regulator BNetzA said it might launch similar proceedings and was in close contact with French authorities, while Spain's OCU consumers' group urged authorities there to halt the sales of the iPhone 12. Apple said in a statement the iPhone 12, launched in 2020, was certified by multiple international bodies as compliant with global radiation standards, that it had provided several Apple and third-party lab results proving the phone's compliance to the French agency, and that it was contesting its findings. Researchers have conducted a vast number of studies over the last two decades to assess health risks resulting from mobile phones. According to the World Health Organisation, no adverse health effects have so far been established as being caused by mobile phone use.
France's Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR) told Apple on Tuesday to halt iPhone12 sales in France after tests that it said showed the phone's Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)- a gauge of the rate of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body from a piece of equipment - was higher than legally allowed. The watchdog said it would send agents to Apple stores and other distributors to check the model was no longer being sold and a failure to act would result in the recall of iPhone 12s already sold to consumers. Industry experts said there were no safety risks as regulatory limits on SAR were set well below levels where scientists have found evidence of harm. "From a health and safety point of view, it is not as if this is putting anyone at risk," said Professor Rodney Croft, the chair of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which sets global guidelines on the SAR limits. The limits - based on the risk of burns or heatstroke from the phone's radiation - are already set ten times below the level where scientists found evidence of harm. Croft said the French findings could differ from those recorded by other regulators because ANFR assesses radiation with a method that assumes direct skin contact, without intermediate textile layers, between the device and user. A French government source also said the French test was different from the method used by Apple. Smartphone radiation tests have so far led to 42 sales stops in the country.
It is the first time Apple has been affected by such a move. The ANFR said accredited labs had found absorption of electromagnetic energy by the body at 5.74 watts per kilogramme during tests simulating when the iPhone 12 was being held in the hand or kept in a trouser pocket. The European standard is a specific absorption rate of 4.0 watts per kilogramme. ANFR added the tests showed the phone complied with so-called body-SAR standards when it was in a jacket pocket or bag. It also passed the French tests when held directly to the head as if making a phone call.