#5GCheckTheFacts > 5G and health FAQs

UK and international guidelines for exposure limits

The exposure guidelines in the UK have been developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), following a comprehensive assessment of all the peer-reviewed scientific literature, including thermal and non-thermal effects. The guidelines are based on evaluations of biological effects that have been established to have health consequences. The WHO recommends that countries adopt the ICNIRP guidelines.

any independent expert groups have reviewed the available evidence. The GSMA, the global body representing the worldwide mobile communication industry, hosts a comprehensive tabulation of such reports dating back to 1978 on its website. [1]

[1] http://www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/consumer-affairs/emf-and-health/expert-reports

Do current guidelines cover 5G?

Yes, current UK and international guidelines cover all frequencies used for mobile telephony, including those being allocated to 5G.

The ICNIRP exposure guidelines for frequencies up to 300 GHz were published in 1998. They are being revised and replaced step by step where independent reviews have established that this is necessary. Revisions of the static and low-frequency parts are already finalised and published. Currently, ICNIRP is revising the guidelines on limiting exposure EMF in the frequency range 100 kHz - 300 GHz. The updated guidelines are expected to be published in final form in 2019. It is the opinion of ICNIRP, and other bodies such as the WHO, that there is no convincing evidence of adverse health effects at exposure below guideline levels.

Have the guidelines been tested?

Yes, Ofcom recently (February 2020) extended its programme measuring EMF emissions from equipment used to transmit mobile signals and other wireless services to cover the frequencies being used for 5G. It measured 16 5G sites in towns and cities across the UK, focusing on areas where mobile use is likely to be highest. At every site, emissions were a small fraction of the levels included in international guidelines, as set by ICNIRP. And the maximum measured at any site was 1.5% of those levels. Further information can be found here.

What kind of research exists on the possible health risks from exposure to 5G?

Information on new research and details of individual studies can be found in the EMF-Portal web database maintained by the RWTH Aachen University, Germany: https://www.emf-portal.org/en

The radio signal exposure characteristics of 5G are similar to those of existing mobile technologies. In particular, the new applications use similar transmitting powers and operate in similar frequency ranges.

A European Commission expert committee concluded that current knowledge about how EMF interacts with the human body can be used to set exposure limits for the whole frequency range up to 300 GHz. Therefore, existing health risk assessments are valid independently of the wireless technology for the whole frequency range.

Are RF signals a possible human carcinogen, and what does that mean?

In May 2011 a working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified RF electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). The WHO explains this is a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.

It is important to note that following the classification, the WHO has not recommended any changes to the exposure limits for wireless networks and

The WHO is conducting an overall risk assessment of all health outcomes related to RF exposure. The final report is expected termed a ‘monograph’ is expected in 2019/20.

What is the advice from the WHO on mobile phones and health?

The position of the WHO in regard to health effects from mobile phones is that:
“A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”

In respect of long-term effects WHO says:
“While an increased risk of brain tumours is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential health effects in children and adolescents are underway.”

Are children at a greater risk?

There have been many independent scientific reviews, and these have consistently concluded the international guidelines are protective of all persons, including children.

There are currently few studies specific to children and this topic remains an active research area. The international exposure guidelines have been developed based on conservative assumptions to be protective of all persons.

“Although a substantial amount of research has been conducted in this area, there is no convincing evidence that RF field exposure below guideline levels causes effects in adults or children.” (United Kingdom Health Protection Agency (2012)). [3]

[3] Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields – RCE 20, Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), Health Protection Agency, April 2012

Can I reduce exposure?

Mobile phones are designed to automatically reduce power to the lowest possible level to make a quality connection. When used in areas of good reception a mobile phone will operate at lower transmit power. For those who are concerned, exposure to radio signals can be reduced by limiting use of wireless devices or increasing the distance between the device and the body.

Can 5G spread coronavirus?

Viruses cannot travel on mobile networks so this is not possible. COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks. The UK government states there is no evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus.

Does 5G harm wildlife?

There is currently no scientific evidence to establish that birds, bees or wildlife are negatively affected by 5G radio waves.

Are 5G radio waves dangerous to our health?

Mobile phones and mobile masts transmit and receive radio waves, which are a type of electromagnetic radiation. Importantly, this type of radiation is classed as mainly harmless, or in scientific terms, non-ionising when used within guidelines, just like our TVs, remote controls, home WiFi and so on. It is widely recognised that the strength of the signals is extremely weak and therefore does not have enough energy to cause adverse health effects.

Does new 5G equipment produce any noticeable extra noise, either via cabinets or antennae?

No, 5G equipment will not produce any noticeable extra noise. 5G equipment is typically deployed externally and is passively cooled; this means that there are no extra fans required to cool the equipment and, therefore, no additional noise.