Apple has received a directive to halt the sales of its iPhone 12 model in France due to tests revealing radiation levels surpassing the EU safety threshold. Additionally, the tech company has been instructed to either issue an update to rectify existing smartphones or recall all iPhone 12 units ever sold within the country.
France’s digital minister, Jean-Noël Barrot, downplayed concerns about the radiation levels causing cancer risks. Nevertheless, this development has once again sparked discussions regarding the safety of mobile phone usage.
The World Health Organization has previously attempted to alleviate worries about mobile phone radiation, emphasizing that there is no evidence suggesting it poses harm to humans. However, scientists caution that our understanding of safety risks beyond 20 years is limited, as most people didn’t begin using mobile phones until the late 1990s.
Do Mobile Phones Lead to Brain Cancer?
Concerns about the potential cancer-causing effects of mobile phones initially emerged in the 1990s when these portable devices became ubiquitous in households. Statistics revealed a 34 percent increase in brain tumor diagnoses in the two decades following their widespread use.
However, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) points out that mobile phone ownership in the UK surged by 500 percent between 1990 and 2016. If mobile phones were the cause, we would expect significantly higher cancer rates, they argue.
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, stated that phones may be a “possible cause of cancer” but lacked sufficient data for a definitive conclusion. Subsequent larger studies, according to CRUK, found no such link.
In the United States, institutions such as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Communications Commission all assert that there is no scientific evidence linking mobile phones to cancer.
Mobile phones emit radiofrequency waves as electromagnetic radiation from their antennas, according to the National Cancer Institute. The body region nearest to the antenna, usually the head, has the potential to absorb some of this energy. Nevertheless, several scientists argue that this radiation is non-ionizing and does not harm cells, unlike ionizing X-rays.
The rise in brain cancer rates is more likely due to improved diagnostic capabilities over the years.
So, could your iPhone be harming you?
“Currently there is no strong evidence that exposure to electromagnetic fields during mobile phone use is associated with adverse health effects,” stated Maria Feychting, a professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. She added that safety guidelines have significant margins of safety, and health effects are unlikely even if guidelines are slightly exceeded. However, these guidelines incorporate safety margins to account for uncertainties in scientific knowledge.
It’s important to note that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO subsidiary, has previously suggested that extreme levels of certain radio frequencies are “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” but this is considered unlikely.
There have been studies suggesting that mobile phone use can increase the risk of cancer and affect fertility. In 2014, researchers at the University of Exeter proposed a potential link between mobile phone exposure and reduced sperm quality, though more research was deemed necessary due to limited evidence. A separate study in 2020 claimed that using a mobile phone for as little as 17 minutes per day over 10 years increased the risk of cancerous tumors by up to 60 percent. However, Cancer Research UK disputes these claims.