Is 5G technology safe? A look at the scientific concerns around the world

Anti-5G protesters in Switzerland

The current environment in the US is far from ideal. Most states are under shelter-in-place orders, with only essential workers allowed to go to work, and social distancing guidelines keeping most of us from socializing as we normally would. There are many negative side effects of this : and one of them has been that everyone has turned increasingly to social media, a double edge sword in many ways, and the general anxiety and agitation many of us feel is coming across in many different ways. This is the perfect storm for all kinds of conspiracy theories to flourish, as we grasp to get a handle on a situation that is largely out of our control.

A number of theories abound about 5G technology, the next generation of cellular communications, including as a cause of coronavirus/Covid-19. Personally, I find that idea to be completely without merit – having seen zero evidence of this other than YouTube videos, some from ‘Doctors’ who turn out to be fake, espousing ideas like “viruses are fake, and not contagious” something that must be a shock to any microbiologist. In fact, I have wondered if beyond getting attention and profiting from YouTube monetization if some of this might be actually be intentionally spread as disinformation – hoping to obscure any real discussion about 5G, and in particular Millimeter Wave technology. That is {the kind of ‘fake news’ conspiracy possibility}I find quite plausible.

At any rate, my goal here is to reframe the discussion – trying my best to exclude the paranoid thinking and unreasonable correlations. But still, to ask the question, has 5G been shown to be safe?

To take the full view, I started with those saying that it IS safe. No surprise here, the technology companies behind the technology say that it is. (Have you ever had a company, other than tobacco, tell you they were selling you something unsafe?)

The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is a scientific group based in Germany that has international responsibility for setting guidelines for the safety of radio wave broadcasting. In response to 5G, the group updated their guidelines for the first time in many years, but still believes that the level of exposure falls well below an unsafe level.

Dr Eric von Rongen, the chair of the ICNIRP recently told the UK’s the Guardian “We know parts of the community are concerned about the safety of 5G and we hope the updated guidelines will help put people at ease. The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to [electromagnetic field] exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”

There is no shortage of opposition from scientists who disagree with the findings of the ICNIRP, but none perhaps as succinct as a paper published earlier this year in the journal Molecular and Clinical Oncology titled “Appeals that matter or not on a moratorium on the deployment of the fifth generation, 5G, for microwave radiation”

In this paper authors Hardell and Nyberg specifically rebutt the findings of the ICNIRP, and describe what they see as the European Union’s failure to act “The fifth generation, 5G, for microwave radiation is about to be implemented worldwide in spite of no comprehensive investigations of the potential risks to human health and the environment. In an appeal sent to the EU in September, 2017 currently >260 scientists and medical doctors requested for a moratorium on the deployment of 5G until the health risks associated with this new technology have been fully investigated by industry-independent scientists. The appeal and four rebuttals to the EU over a period of >2 years, have not achieved any positive response from the EU to date. Unfortunately, decision makers seem to be uninformed or even misinformed about the risks. EU officials rely on the opinions of individuals within the ICNIRP and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), most of whom have ties to the industry. They seem to dominate evaluating bodies and refute risks. It is important that these circumstances are described. In this article, the warnings on the health risks associated with RF presented in the 5G appeal and the letters to the EU Health Commissioner since September, 2017 and the authors’ rebuttals are summarized. The responses from the EU seem to have thus far prioritized industry profits to the detriment of human health and the environment.”

Another study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health entitled 5G Wireless Communication and Health Effects-A Pragmatic Review Based on Available Studies Regarding 6 to 100 GHz reviewed 94 published studies and concluded “The available studies do not provide adequate and sufficient information for a meaningful safety assessment, or for the question about non-thermal effects. There is a need for research regarding local heat developments on small surfaces, e.g., skin or the eye, and on any environmental impact. Our quality analysis shows that for future studies to be useful for safety assessment, design and implementation need to be significantly improved.”

In summary, the jury may still be out on whether 5G is safe. So, the next question we might ask is ‘why isn’t sufficient testing being done?’ When the next wave of technology rolls out – 6G, 7G – will better designed studies be done and will scientists’ concerns be listened to? These are questions to be treated with seriousness, in my opinion, and to be carefully parsed apart away from paranoia, propaganda and disinformation. Like many environmental health concerns, we may be right in feeling that we should be as careful as we are in measures such as social distancing, as we are in examining the health effects of new technologies. You just can never be too careful, can you?

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