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As an iPhone user myself, I was surprised to find out that there are over 100 million of us in the United States alone. This means that Apple devices make up a staggering 45% of all cell phone usage in the country. Despite their immense popularity, it’s important to acknowledge that smartphones, including iPhones, come with certain risks.
One of the main risks of using an iPhone is the electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation emitted by these devices. EMF radiation has been linked to health problems like cancer, male infertility, and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS).
In this guide, I’m going to talk about Apple’s turbulent history with FCC regulations surrounding RF radiation, as well as how you can test your phone’s radiation levels. I’ll also go over some things you can do to lower your exposure.
Apple And SAR Levels
Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) levels refer to the amount of radiation absorbed per gram of tissue. This number is used by the FCC and other regulating bodies across the globe to put caps on acceptable radiation levels from devices such as cell phones and tablets. In the United States, that limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg). Apple claims that all of their devices fall within this limit, but this has been called into question.
In 2019, the Chicago Tribune performed a study to test manufacturer’s claims regarding SAR levels, as well as to observe SAR levels at a distance of 2mm. The distance is significant because it represents the separation between your body and your cell phone when the phone is stored in your pocket — a common practice for many. Apple’s tests are done at a 5mm distance.
The Tribune found that at a distance of 2mm, the iPhone and many other devices were above the FCC’s limit. However, researchers also noted that the iPhone 7’s levels were over the legal limit even at the 5mm distance. The results prompted an FCC investigation, as well as a follow-up test by another independent laboratory in 2020.
During that test, it was discovered that once again, the iPhone’s results were over the legal limit at a distance of 5mm. This time, the test had been performed using an iPhone 11 Pro bought over the counter. It has been suggested that the problem may be the independent tests are done using devices purchased off the shelf, whereas the FCC’s tests are done with devices supplied by Apple.
iPhone Radiation And SAR Levels
To check the specific SAR levels for your iPhone model, I recommend visiting Apple’s RF Exposure page. Once there, select your iPhone model from the list provided. If your model is available in multiple languages, choose the one you prefer.
Note that some pages may include more than one model, so it’s important to know your exact model number. You can find this information in the Settings app under General→ About.
If you have an iPhone 7 or earlier, the model number is also printed on the back of the device. For iPhone 8 or newer models, you can remove the SIM card to find the model number printed inside the SIM tray slot.
Testing Your iPhone
If you can’t trust the SAR levels provided by Apple, how can you know the amount of radiation your phone is producing?
That’s where an EMF meter comes in handy. If you don’t have one yet, I can tell you that they’re a highly worthwhile investment, especially if you’re concerned about EMF exposure. Ideally, look for one that can detect electric field radiation, magnetic field radiation, and RF radiation. This will help you determine levels for both ELF and RF-EMF radiation.
My top recommendation for an EMF meter is the TriField TF2. While it may be a higher-end model, its reputation for accuracy and reliability justifies the expense. Check out my guide, The Best EMF Meters For Any Budget, for information on the TF2 and other meters.
Once you have your EMF meter, you can test your iPhone at different distances and in different states. For example, try making a call with the meter directly on the device to mimic the distance between your ear and your phone. Then, try making a call with the meter held several inches away from the device to see how much your exposure would be if talking on a headset instead.
You can also take measurements before and after turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular data to see how far away you need to hold your phone to reduce your exposure. These results may inspire you to change some of your habits to protect yourself from iPhone radiation.
Protecting Yourself From iPhone Radiation
- Put on a protective case. You can put on a protective case to reduce the amount of radiation your phone emits. Flip-style cases are often the best option, as they can protect you when your phone is not in use. If you tend to carry your phone in your pocket or close to your body, this kind of protection is essential.I recommend SafeSleeve’s Anti-Radiation RFID-blocking cell phone case, which is an excellent choice for iPhone users. This case can shield you from 99% of RF radiation produced by your phone and also doubles as a wallet to protect your chip-enabled credit cards from hackers.
- Use a wired headset. If you’re looking for a simple way to reduce your exposure to phone radiation, consider using a wired headset. During testing, I found that increasing the distance between the phone and the meter resulted in lower readings. This means that using a wired headset can help create distance between your phone and your head, reducing the amount of radiation you absorb.Apple’s wired headset is a good choice for newer model iPhones, but be sure to check the type of headphone port your device has first. Older models use the traditional headphone jack, while newer models use a lightning port.
- Opt for 3G when possible. Although faster speeds are convenient, they come with more EMF exposure. The transmitter device sending signals to your phone is more powerful for 4G and 5G than for 3G. By turning your phone to the 3G network exclusively, you can reduce my exposure to EMF. You can find this option in settings under Mobile Data→ Mobile Data Options→ Voice & Data on my newer iPhone.
- Turn off Bluetooth. I recommend turning off Bluetooth on your iPhone to lower its EMF radiation output. As a Bluetooth receiver, your phone is always searching for devices to connect to, which can cause spikes in EMF radiation even when the phone is not in use. Keep in mind that this step must be taken in the device’s settings, as turning off Bluetooth in the control panel only disconnects active devices but doesn’t disable Bluetooth itself.
- Keep your phone on the other side of the room at night. At night, it’s important to give our bodies a chance to fully recover from the day’s damage. However, many of us are still exposed to EMF radiation while we sleep, which can interfere with this recovery process. To minimize this exposure, I make sure to keep my iPhone away from my bed at night. I aim to keep it at least six to ten feet away to create a safe distance. If you’re looking for more ways to protect yourself from iPhone radiation, be sure to check out our guide to Cell Phone Radiation Protection.
Like with any smartphone, it is important to take steps to protect yourself when using an iPhone. If you must use a smartphone, reducing your exposure can at least help decrease your risk of experiencing negative health effects. The steps above can help you cut back significantly on your EMF radiation exposure. At the very least, I highly recommend investing in a radiation blocking cell phone case like the SafeSleeve listed above.