5G and health claims unpacked
Monday, 07 September 2020
As 5G technology is deployed across the country, more and more services are becoming available, gradually transforming our lives. For instance, educators are exploring the use and value of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies in learning, delivered across the 5G network. 5G’s ability to provide real-time information (low latency), ultra-fast speeds (critical for high definition images and video), increased capacity and security can allow, for example, engineers to receive real-time instructions on how to fix a machine on a production line.
Health care is also undergoing a rapid digital transformation. We are all becoming used to relying on remote healthcare services, such as virtual GP appointments, and ordering online deliveries of medical supplies. Trials have shown that connecting ambulance crews to expert resources using 5G allows paramedics to work with doctors and conduct specialist procedures in real-time whilst on the road. 5G is also providing the necessary infrastructure required to deliver remote health services over the next decade.
However, there are members of the public that have significant concerns about 5G and health. Over 20% of the queries the Cornerstone Community team receives mentions this issue. Recent nationwide incidents of arson and vandalism have shown that these concerns have a real effect on our network of base stations. We know that many people receive their health information from social media platforms which are hardly regulated and make it difficult to validate any ideas presented.
So, what do we know, factually about 5G? 5G is like other forms of radio frequency signal used in communications, such as 4G or WiFi. Although 5G is relatively new, this means there is already lots of information on how it interacts with our bodies. Various international assessments have concluded that below the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP) Guidelines, there is no evidence of adverse health effects regarding wireless networks - including 5G. In light of specific concerns about 5G signals, Public Health England (PHE) commented in 2019:
“It is possible that there may be a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to an existing network or in a new area. However, the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health” Gov.UK Guidance on 5G technologies: Radio waves and health.
This year, in 2020, the ICNIRP updated their safety guidelines. ICNIRP Chairman, Dr Eric van Rongen stated ‘When we revised the guidelines, we looked at the adequacy of the ones we published in 1998. We found that the previous ones were conservative in most cases, and they’d still provide adequate protection for current technologies…However, the new guidelines provide better and more detailed exposure guidance in particular for the higher frequency range, above 6 GHz, which is of importance to 5G and future technologies using these higher frequencies. The most important thing for people to remember is that 5G technologies will not be able to cause harm when these new guidelines are adhered to.’
Ofcom, the regulator for the communications services, undertook measurements of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) around 5G base stations. In 2020, they noted: “In all cases, the measured EMF levels from 5G-enabled mobile phone base stations are at small fractions of the levels identified in the ICNIRP Guidelines”. Download the Ofcom EMF Test Summary.
In common with all mobile phone base stations, Cornerstone sites with 5G technology are checked and certified for ICNIRP compliance. We are increasing the amount of information on 5G available to the public via factsheets and planning documentation.