The health and environmental impacts of 5G
July 26, 2021
On May 31, 2021, the European Parliament Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) met to hear a presentation of the studies it commissioned on 5G health effects and environmental impacts.
"Over the last decades, novel wireless communication technologies, such as mobile telephones, cellular networks and Wi-Fi, have been developed at unparalleled speed. The forthcoming rollout of 5G technology across the European Union is expected to bring new opportunities for citizens and businesses by enabling faster internet browsing, streaming and downloading, as well as by ensuring better connectivity. However, 5G, along with 3G and 4G, with which it will operate in parallel for several years, may also pose threats to human health. This event will present the results of two STOA studies, which take stock of our present understanding of the impacts of 5G on health and the environment."
The presenters included Dr. Fiorella Belpoggi from the Ramazzini Institute in Italy and Dr. Arno Thielens from Ghent University in Belgium.
The discussants included Joachim Schüz from the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, Kurt Straif from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain, and Martin Vácha from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.
The reports prepared by Drs. Belpoggi and Thielens are now available.
The abstracts and executive summaries along with links to the two open access reports can be found on my website. In addition, I have summarized the presentations and the discussants' remarks during the workshop:
Following are the two abstracts:
Fiorella Belpoggi. Health impact of 5G: Current state of knowledge of 5G-related carcinogenic and reproductive/developmental hazards as they emerge from epidemiological studies and in vivo experimental studies. Study. Panel for the Future of Science and Technology. European Parliamentary Research Service. Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA). PE 690.012. June 2021.
The upcoming deployment of 5G mobile networks will allow for significantly faster mobile broadband speeds and increasingly extensive mobile data usage. Technical innovations include a different transmission system (MIMO: use of multiple‐input and multiple‐output antennas), directional signal transmission or reception (beamforming), and the use of other frequency ranges. At the same time, a change is expected in the exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) of humans and the environment. In addition to those used to date, the 5G pioneer bands identified at EU level have frequencies of 700 MHz, 3.6 GHz (3.4 to 3.8 GHz) and 26 GHz (24.25 to 27.5 GHz). The first two frequencies (FR1) are similar to those used for 2G to 4G technologies and have been investigated in both epidemiological and experimental studies for different end points (including carcinogenicity and reproductive/developmental effects), while 26 GHz (FR2) and higher frequencies have not been adequately studied for the same end points.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency (RF) EMF as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' (Group 2B) and recently recommended RF exposure for re-evaluation 'with high priority' (IARC, 2019). Since 2011 a great number of studies have been performed, both epidemiological and experimental. The present review addresses the current knowledge regarding both carcinogenic and reproductive/developmental hazards of RF as exploited by 5G. There are various in vivo experimental and epidemiological studies on RF at a lower frequency range (450 to 6000 MHz), which also includes the frequencies used in previous generations' broadband cellular networks, but very few (and inadequate) on the higher frequency range (24 to 100 GHz, centimetre/MMW).
The review shows: 1) 5G lower frequencies (700 and 3 600 MHz): a) sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in epidemiological studies; b) sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental bioassays; c) sufficient evidence of reproductive/developmental adverse effects in humans; d) sufficient evidence of reproductive/ developmental adverse effects in experimental animals; 2) 5G higher frequencies (24.25-27.5 GHz): the systematic review found no adequate studies either in humans or in experimental animals.
Conclusions: 1) cancer: FR1 (450 to 6 000 MHz): EMF are probably carcinogenic for humans, in particular related to gliomas and acoustic neuromas; FR2 (24 to 100 GHz): no adequate studies were performed on the higher frequencies; 2) reproductive developmental effects: FR1 (450 to 6 000 MHz): these frequencies clearly affect male fertility and possibly female fertility too. They may have possible adverse effects on the development of embryos, foetuses and newborns; FR2 (24 to 100 GHz): no adequate studies were performed on non-thermal effects of the higher frequencies.
Arno Thielens. Environmental impacts of 5G: A literature review of effects of radio-frequency electromagnetic field exposure of non-human vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA). European Parliament. 2021, 137 pp. PE 690.021, ISBN 9789284680337. doi: 10.2861/318352.
Telecommunication networks use radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to enable wireless communication. These networks have evolved over time, and have been launched in successive generations. The fifth generation of telecommunication networks will operate at frequencies that were not commonly used in previous generations, changing the exposure of wildlife to these waves. This report reviews the literature on the exposure of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields in anticipation of this change.
The review shows that dielectric heating can occur at all considered frequencies (0.4-300 GHz) and for all studied organisms. Summarising and discussing the results of a series of studies of radio-frequency electromagnetic field exposure of wildlife, the review shows that several studies into the effects of radio-frequency electromagnetic field exposure on invertebrates and plants in the frequency bands considered demonstrate experimental shortcomings. Furthermore, the literature on invertebrate and plant exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields above 6 GHz is very limited. More research is needed in this field.
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