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This week and next week, Innovation Origins is looking at the growing influence of wireless communication within today’s society and in particular at data transmission via electromagnetic radio waves with ever-higher frequencies, such as 5G.

Research is needed to map out exactly what the exposure to electromagnetic fields is as soon as the new frequencies come into effect for communicating data wirelessly with 5G. In the interim, 4G will coexist with 5G. This means that levels of electromagnetic fields might experience an overall increase. So says Professor Hans Kromhout, who is chair of the Exposure Assessment and Occupational Hygiene group at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Kromhout is also chair of the Committee Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Health Council of the Netherlands. This committee is investigating the possible health risks associated with 5G at the request of the Dutch House of Representatives. The advisory report is due by the end of July, as stipulated by the Health Council of the Netherlands.

“The level of expected exposure to radiofrequency fields can be easily mapped out. The people who devised the technology for 5G are very smart physicists. They should be able to do this.”

Resistance to 5G

Several individuals and groups in The Netherlands are actively opposing the introduction of 5G because they are convinced that radiofrequency waves are harmful. Some claim that there is a conspiracy to harm the population. Over the past few months, it has frequently been reported in the news that activists had set fire to telecom companies’ masts. Some of these new 5G antennas will have to be placed on the same masts that are currently used for 4G.

Another group has filed a preliminary injunction against the government which is to auction off the new frequencies starting this summer.

Several documents circulate among activists, such as a pamphlet written by Martin Pallan, an American emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington. The pamphlet claims that electromagnetic fields used for 5G can lead to, among other things, damage to DNA, increased risk of infertility, cancer, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.

No scientific evidence linked to cancer

According to Kromhout, there isn’t any substantiated evidence-based scientific research that proves that such diseases are caused by the use of mobile phones and exposure to radiofrequency fields from transmission masts. Kromhout himself participated in research into the effect that mobile phone usage might have on the onset of headaches, tinnitus (a hearing disorder whereby you constantly hear peeping sounds in your ear when in reality there’s no sound), hearing impairment and insomnia. This study did not show a connection between the radiofrequency fields and the health complaints that were studied. Although it did show a connection with the (excessive) use of a mobile phone.

Kromhout also took part in a study into the effect of electromagnetic fields on people who consider themselves to be ‘electrohypersensitive.’ This experimental double-blind study showed that the test subjects were unable to perceive whether or not they were exposed to electromagnetic fields. This made the claim that their complaints were related to these fields far more improbable.

Research into the effect of static magnetic fields from MRI scanners on nurses and workers in the production of MRI scanners showed that after prolonged exposure, they are more likely to suffer from dizziness, abnormal bleeding in the uterus, and an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. “The levels of radiation to which these people are exposed are significantly higher than those of people using a mobile phone,” Kromhout adds. “You cannot use those tests to determine any potential effects of 4G or 5G on health.”

Absence of test procedures for determining health effects stemming from 5G

In spite of this, Kromhout thinks it is appropriate to carry out research into any eventual effects. “When a company introduces a new medicine, it has to go through all kinds of test procedures to be certain that they are safe to public health. This hasn’t taken place at all here.”

It is difficult to establish with 100% certainty that there is no damage to health without scientific research because you just don’t know exactly what the influence of 4G and 5G is. “But I don’t think it’s likely that the damage could be more severe as a result of the use of these higher frequencies. Electromagnetic fields with lower frequencies are able to penetrate deeper into your head. These seem to me to be more dangerous than high frequencies like 5G. Research should, therefore, focus more on the skin. Skin is what is most likely to come into contact with electromagnetic fields at higher frequencies.”

The fact that there will be more transmission masts as a result of 5G does not necessarily lead to more exposure, Kromhout believes that as the increasingly higher frequencies that will come into use have a shorter range than existing lower frequencies. “Exposure to radiation in the times of 1G and 2G was many times higher than it is now.”

Yet as 5G will become active alongside 4G, and in light of the fact that there will be a greater number of applications, the total amount of exposure to radiation is still likely to increase for today’s user.

Read other IO articles about 5G via this link.