No Good Evidence That 5G Harms Humans, New Studies Find

Public service announcement posters deployed last year in Melborne, Australia.
Public service announcement posters deployed last year in Melborne, Australia.
Photo: William West/AFP (Getty Images)

Concerns over the potential harms of 5G technology are overblown, according to two large new reviews of research recently published by scientists in Australia. Both found no clear evidence that the type of radiofrequency energy used by 5G mobile networks poses any danger to human health.

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5G is the next generation of wireless communication. It enables faster speeds and lower latency than LTE, and while we’re already seeing that in action on 5G phones, it’ll take years before 5G’s potential to transform industries like autonomous cars becomes a reality.

That delayed promise hasn’t stopped some people from warning that 5G will only accelerate the harms purportedly caused by our existing use of wireless technology. The evidence for any health risks from our cell phones today isn’t particularly strong, but it’s still something scientists are keeping an eye on. In particular, there have been many studies in the lab and on animals trying to figure how varying levels of radiofrequency energy could possibly affect the body, including the sort of energy that would be emitted by 5G networks.

The two new papers are the work of researchers from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. Both were published this week in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology and are billed as the first reviews to focus on 5G specifically.

Aside from looking at animal and lab experiments, one review also analyzed epidemiological studies of radar, which uses the same sort of RF (low-level energy fields above 6 gigahertz to as high as 300 GHz) that 5G is expected to rely on. Their conclusions, based on reviewing data from over 100 studies, should be reassuring.

“In conclusion, a review of all the studies provided no substantiated evidence that low-level radio waves, like those used by the 5G network, are hazardous to human health,” said Ken Karipidis, assistant director of assessment and advice at ARPANSA, in a statement released by the agency.

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The second review, which focused on RF energy specifically in the millimeter wave (MMW) band, which 5G will use, also found no link between low levels of MMW exposure and health effects. According to the researchers, both findings are just more evidence that cell phones today and in the near future will continue to emit levels of RF well below the safety thresholds established by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) that have been adopted worldwide.

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Some studies did find plausible biological effects from this sort of RF exposure. But importantly, these studies usually weren’t replicated by other, similar experiments. Overall, most of the studies they reviewed were deemed to be low quality, Karipidis and his team concluded.

All that said, these reviews won’t be the final word on vetting the safety of 5G and cell phone radiation in general. And the researchers hope their work will help strengthen the ongoing research looking into it.

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“We recommend that future experimental studies improve their design with particular attention to dosimetry and temperature control and that future epidemiological studies continue to monitor long-term health effects in the population related to wireless telecommunications,” said Karipidis.

Born and raised in NYC, Ed covers public health, disease, and weird animal science for Gizmodo. He has previously reported for the Atlantic, Vice, Pacific Standard, and Undark Magazine.

DISCUSSION

icemetalpunk2
IceMetalPunk

Man, I’ve never wanted to move to Australia so much as now that I see there’s a political party called the “Reason Party” with the motto “#FightStupid” and ads bashing pseudoscientific BS.