LONDON — As mankind rolls into the 2020’s, most of the world is anxiously awaiting the rollout of the new fifth generation (5G) signal for their digital devices. While telecom giants promise this new network will provide more connectivity than ever before, some are still concerned about what these high-strength signals will do to human health. A professor from the University of Edinburgh is going one step further; urging both nations and network providers to stop the 5G rollout until its radio waves are proven safe for human exposure.
In an opinion piece appearing in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, Professor John William Frank of the Usher Institute contends that radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) can be potentially harmful to people. He states that the transmitter density the 5G signal needs will end up exposing more people to high levels of RF-EMFs.
Is 5G rolling out without any fact-checking?
The study notes that 5G is being celebrated across the world as a new era in telecommunication; bringing both economic and lifestyle benefits to phone and internet users. The health implications of these radio waves however, continues to spark debate between scientists.
Prof. Frank says there are four critical areas of concern that have not been addressed regarding 5G. First, Frank says there is a lack of clear information about the technology telecom companies are using to make the 5G network. At the same time, there is a growing amount of research pointing to RF-EMFs disrupting human biology.
Second, Frank argues there is an almost complete lack of epidemiological studies looking at the health impacts of 5G exposure. The professor is also concerned with new health studies which show evidence that exposure to older signals (like 3G and 4G) may cause health problems too.
Lastly, Frank points to accusations that some national telecom regulatory authorities are not basing their RF-EMF safety standards on modern science, since stricter policies may cause a conflict of interest.
Previous studies of ‘varying scientific quality’
The study finds 5G uses a much higher frequency, with radio waves measuring between three and 300 gigahertz. The network also uses a new and relatively untested supportive technology which enables users to transmit more data.
Frank says the fragility of the network means 5G needs more boosting antennas than with the older 2G, 3G, and 4G signals. These older signals use low frequency waves instead. That dense transmission network helps 5G developers to achieve their promise of “everywhere/anytime” connectivity.
Despite other studies generally declaring 5G signals harmless to humans, Prof. Frank argues many have been of “varying scientific quality.”
The researchers adds there are “a growing number of engineers, scientists, and doctors internationally… calling on governments to raise their safety standards for RF-EMFs, commission more and better research, and hold off on further increases in public exposure, pending clearer evidence of safety.”
The study notes that current maximum safety limits for RF-EMF exposure vary significantly depending on what country you live in. Moreover, the definition of “5G” is not even consistent yet in regards to its technology and the components each company uses.
“It is highly likely that each of these many forms of transmission causes somewhat different biological effects—making sound, comprehensive and up-to-date research on those effects virtually impossible,” Frank explains in a media release.
Not every health concern is a valid concern
The study finds there is recent evidence that RF-EMF exposure may cause wide-ranging effects to reproductive, fetal, oncological, neuropsychiatric, skin, eye, and immunological health. There is, however, no proof these radio waves are causing the spread of COVID-19.
“There are knowledgeable commentators’ reports on the web debunking this theory, and no respectable scientist or publication has backed it,” the researcher says. “The theory that 5G and related EMFs have contributed to the pandemic is baseless.”
Conspiracy theories aside, Frank’s study concludes that there is enough evidence to invoke “the precautionary principle” when it comes to rolling out this new network — regardless of the economic impact.
“Until we know more about what we are getting into, from a health and ecological point of view, those putative gains need to wait,” he concludes.