Between 2012 and 2016, France’s National Frequency Agency (ANFR) tested 379 different models of cell phones for their radiation emissions. Earlier this month, compelled by a court order, ANFR released the data they had collected. The result is now being called ‘PhoneGate’ and is gaining an increasing amount of attention.
What the PhoneGate Report Found
The French government found that 89% of the tested phones exceeded their reported radiation emission levels (SAR levels, or specific absorption rate)— some by up to 300%. That means these phones emitted up to four times the radiation the manufacturers claimed.
The Environmental Health Trust has summarized the data thusly:
French government tests on hundreds of cell phones reveal that in 2015, 9 out of 10 phones exceed the manufacturer’s reported radiation test levels when re-tested in positions where the phone is in contact with the body. The government had refused to disclose these test results until the court order.
That sounds pretty bad. But it’s even worse than that.
Not only do these phones emit more radiation than the manufacturers claim, these phones exceed legal limits of radiation emissions when held in contact with the human body.
The data from ANFR’s release is embedded below, at the end of this post.
ANFR released the data following the issuance of a court order. This was the result of legal action brought by Dr. Marc Arazi. His petition for the data was initially rejected by the French government, which is why he pursued legal action.
As a physician, I am deeply concerned about what this means for our health and especially the health of our children. People have a right to know that when cell phones are tested in ways people commonly use phones – such as in direct contact with their body – the values exceed current regulatory limits. This is a first victory for transparency in this industry scandal.
Dr. Arazi and others have dubbed this ‘PhoneGate’ because of the similarities to Volkswagen’s ‘Diesel Gate’ scandal, when it was shown that VW programmed their diesel cars to emit less pollution in labs than they do in real life usage. In real world usage, VW diesel’s emitted illegal levels of pollution.
As Dr. Devra Davis, head of the Environmental Health Trust, explains:
Volkswagen cars passed diesel emission tests when tested in laboratory conditions, but when the cars were driven on real roads, they emitted far more fumes. In the same way, every one of these cell phones ‘passed’ laboratory radiation SAR tests. These phones are legally considered compliant. However, when these phones are tested in the ways that people actually use them in real life, such as in your jeans pocket or bra, the amount of absorbed radiation emissions in our bodies violates the regulatory limits.
How PhoneGate is Different than Diesel Gate
With Diesel Gate, Volkswagen intentionally programmed their cars to emit less pollution when tested than they do in real life. Volkswagen rigged their products to intentionally deceive regulators.
PhoneGate, on the other hand, is more about the massive discrepancy between how phones are tested and how they are actually used in real life.
In other words, the cell phone makers aren’t deceiving the regulators. Instead, the regulators allow the cell phone makers to deceive the public, while still complying with the law. These tests simply do not match how people actually use phones, and the test results are not indicative of real life radiation exposures.
For example, in the United States phones can be tested at distances of 5 to 15mm (0.2 to 0.6 inches) away from the user’s head or body. But in real life, people who talk on their phone (without using the speakerphone or a headset) hold their phone immediately against their heads— not half an inch away. The same is true for those who carry their phones in their bras or pockets.
So the scandal here isn’t that the manufacturers are lying– it’s that the tests are rigged to show “safer” levels of radiation emissions and human absorption than we experience in real life.
That’s the problem.
For more details on Phonegate, check out the data released by ANFR.
Since I first wrote this post in 2017, there have been some newsworthy updates.
Peer-Reviewed Study of Data
In February 2019, Professor Om Gandhi published a peer-reviewed paper in which he examined the ANFR Phonegate data. Prof. Gandhi found that the phones in the Phonegate data can emit 11 times more than the US FCC limit and 3 times over French limits in 9 out of 10 phones tested.
13 Updates and Recalls
In April 2019, it was announced that 13 different models of phones were either updated, or recalled from the market entirely, based on the Phonegate data.
Here’s the summary of what happened with those 13 different models.
|Cell phone||SAR trunk measured||Manufacturer decision||SAR trunk measured after update|
|Orange HAPI||2.1 W/kg||Withdrawal from market, recall of models sold||Non applicable|
|NEFFOS X1 TP902||2.52 W/kg||Withdrawal from market, recall of models sold||Non applicable|
|Huawei Honor 8||2.11 W/kg||Software update||1.45 W/kg|
|Echo Star Plus||2.05 W/kg||Software update||1.41 W/kg|
|Alcatel Pixie 4-6”||2.04 W/kg||Software update||1.58 W/kg|
|2.46 W/kg||Software update||1.66 W/kg|
|Hisense F23||2.13 W/kg||Software update||1.46 W/kg|
|Wiko View||2.44 W/kg||Software update||1.34 W/kg|
|Archos access 50||3.01 W/kg||Software update||1.36 W/kg|
|LOGICOM M BOT 69||2.81 W/kg||Software update||1.51 W/kg|
|Xiaomi Redmi Note 5||SAR head measured|
|Software update||SAR head after update 0.356 W/kg|
|Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S||2.94 W/kg||Software update||1.42 W/kg|
|Nokia 5||2.24 W/kg||Software update||1.81 W/kg|
|Nokia 3||2.37 W/kg||Software update||1.64 W/kg|