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5G Is Safe for Human Health, International Watchdog Says

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A high-speed 5G mobile network antenna near Montpreveyres, western Switzerland, on Sept. 15, 2019. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

5G is safe, an international watchdog has assured.


The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a German-based scientific organization that determines the impact of electromagnetic waves on people and the environment, said March 11 that there is no evidence that 5G networks pose a health risk to humans, The Financial Times reported.

The reassurance came as the body did update its guidelines for millimeter-wave 5G, the highest frequency version of 5G which is in use in the U.S. but has not yet made it to Europe, The Guardian reported. However, actually millimeter-wave 5G frequencies are usually far below the new maximum set by the standard.

"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," ICNIRP Chairman Dr. Eric van Rongen said in a media release.

The new guidelines were based on seven years of research and update guidelines last set in 1998. Van Rongen told BBC News that, over the course of its research, the body found no evidence that the use of 5G mobile phone networks harmed the body beyond heating some tissue.

"We also considered all other types of effects for instance, whether radio waves could lead to the development of cancer in the human body," van Rongen said. "We find that the scientific evidence for that is not enough to conclude that indeed there is such an effect."

The new guidelines cover mobile phones that connect to frequencies higher than six gigahertz (GHz) and limit their radiation levels when they do so. These higher frequencies can deliver faster speeds over short distances.

According to the media release, the new guidelines add restrictions for:

  1. Whole body exposure to these frequencies.
  2. Exposure of some body parts for less than six minutes.
  3. The amount of time a small part of the body can be exposed.

Van Rongen said that the 1998 guidelines were still effective for most contemporary 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," he said. "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."

The ICNIRP cannot enforce its guidelines, The Financial Times pointed out. It is up to governments to do that. But some have already adapted stricter measures than the body recommends.

The mobile group GSMA was happy with the ICNIRP's research.

"Twenty years of research should reassure people there are no established health risks from their mobile devices or 5G antennas," GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti told BBC News.

The new guidelines come as there is persistent concern about the health impacts of 5G networks. Recent conspiracy theories have even linked them to the spread of the new coronavirus.

While there is no evidence to support these claims, there are legitimate concerns about 5G. A group of U.S. meteorologists warned in 2019 that a Federal Communications Commission plan to share a radio spectrum band with 5G mobile companies could delay communications between weather satellites, slowing the flow of vital information during extreme weather events.

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