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ICNIRP Impose New Limits on Radiation from 5G Mobile Handsets

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 (5:32 pm) - Score 8,155
5g mast on smartphone uk mobile

The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has completed a review of recent scientific evidence and imposed some new limits for the protection of humans exposed to radio frequency electromagnetic fields. The main change applies to 5G handsets operating in bands of 6GHz of more.

We recently published our own fact checking article on 5G (mobile broadband) health fears (here), which debunked many of the misleading claims about the technology that tend to circulate online. Similarly Ofcom last month reported on the results of their own measurements of electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions at UK mobile sites (here), which found that the tested sites were all outputting EMF radiation safely and at many times lower than the ICNIRP’s own guidelines.

The big change today is that the ICNIRP has issued new exposure guidelines, which is not something they often do (this update replaces their 1998 and 2010 guidelines), for the protection of humans exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF) in the range 100kHz to 300GHz. We should point out that these actually apply to all sorts of wireless services and applications including mobile (4G etc.), WiFi, Bluetooth, base stations etc.

The main changes relate to EMF exposures above 6GHz, which is mostly focused on future 5G centric spectrum bands. These include additional restrictions to ensure that whole body and brief (under 6 minutes) local RF EMF exposures will not result in excessive exposures. Within this 6GHz+ EMF frequency range, the averaging area for local exposure has also been reduced, by a factor of 5 relative to the ICNIRP (1998) restrictions.

Crucially the changes are focused more on the mobile handsets and related kit that we all carry (e.g. Smartphones), rather than base stations and antennas which, as above, already tend to operate safely within both the existing and new guideline levels. We don’t expect this to have too much impact since 5G handsets are already quite conservative in this department and fall very safely within even the new rules.

Dr Eric van Rongen, ICNIRP Chairman, said:

“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. The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific
literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to EMF exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”

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.”

Other minor changes to the guidelines include additional means of assessing compliance with the guidelines and greater specification of how to assess complicated exposure scenarios. We should also point out that, at present, most mobile operators in the UK are only able to harness part of the 3.4-4GHz bands for 5G and more of that will be released by Ofcom this year (4G and other wireless services have been using these for years).

Further down the road we expect that Ofcom may also release new spectrum above the 6GHz range for use by 5G, but higher frequency bands tend to make for much weaker mobile signals that don’t travel as far and struggle to penetrate through objects or the environment in general. The advantage of such bands is that they allow more spectrum frequency to be harnessed by operators, which means faster mobile broadband speeds.

Crucially the ICNIRP reiterated that they couldn’t find enough solid and reliable scientific evidence for them to conclude that radio waves (i.e. those operating within their guidelines) could result in any truly negative health effects, such as the development of cancer in the human body.

The organisation said they considered all scientific literature of “good scientific quality” to set the new guidelines. This was based on major reviews by the World Health Organization (2014), the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (2015, 2016, 2018), the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (2015), as well as individual studies identified following those reviews.

The literature included research searching for effects of both brief and long-term exposures to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF), on both immediate (e.g. pain) and delayed (e.g. cancer) health outcomes. This included evaluation of self-reported hypersensitivity to RF EMF exposure. Importantly, the research that focused on potential adverse health effects of RF EMF exposure did not make any assumptions about the mechanisms of action of the RF EMF (e.g. thermal versus non-thermal), but merely looked for any verified (substantiated) adverse health effect, and where identified, instigated protective measures regardless of mechanism,” said the ICNIRP.

None of this is likely to change the opinion of those who passionately believe that 5G is dangerous and reject nearly all proper research to the contrary.

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