5G Is Safe for Human Health, International Watchdog Says
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:
- Whole body exposure to these frequencies.
- Exposure of some body parts for less than six minutes.
- 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.
@shockproofbeats The Covid19 and 5G slash fanfiction is pretty popular on conspiracy Facebook. Here's one positing… https://t.co/V7FNb5cf9b— Seán (@Seán)1583840564.0
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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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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