"...no health risks have been established from exposure to the low-level radio signals used for mobile communications."

Health and Safety

Electromagnetic fields and health

Research into the safety of radio signals, which has been conducted for more than 50 years, has led to the establishment of human exposure standards including safety factors that provide protection against all established health risks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) set up the International EMF Project in 1996 to assess the health and environmental effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). The WHO reviews on-going research and provides recommendations for research to support health risk assessments.

The strong consensus of expert groups and public health agencies, such as the WHO, is that no health risks have been established from exposure to the low-level radio signals used for mobile communications.

The WHO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recommend that governments adopt the radio-frequency exposure limits developed by the International Commission on Non- Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

WHO, ITU and ICNIRP monitor all research on the potential health effects of EMF exposure.

In the UK, the Government has adopted the exposure limits developed by ICNIRP and mobile network operators are required to operate within these guidelines.  

The limits developed by ICNIRP cover all radio signals used for mobile telecommunications in the UK, including the spectrum allocated for 5G services.

The mobile operators' global trade body, the GSM Association has produced a summary of the current level of research, including an assessment of what the new users of wireless technologies mean for radio frequency exposure?  The report can be found here:

https://www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/5g_iot_web_FINAL.pdf

Public Health England 5G Information and Guidance

Public Health England has produced guidance on 5G technologies: radio waves and health. This can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/5g-technologies-radio-waves-and-health/5g-technologies-radio-waves-and-health

Mobile UK and External Information Sheets on Radio Signals and health:

  1. Overview
  2. 5G
  3. Small Cells
  4. Mobile UK 5G and Health Questions and Answers Information Sheet
  5. BBC - Does 5G pose health risks?
  6. 5G – Exploring the safety limits and addressing the myths (GSMA Blog)

Questions and Answers

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.

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 Public Health England?

Public Health England’s main advice, republished in May 2019, about radio waves from base stations is that:

“The guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) should be adopted for limiting exposures.

After reviewing the evidence, ICNIRP set guidelines to avoid excessive heating of the body, an established impact of exposure which can detrimental effects. The ICNIRP guidelines apply to frequencies up to 300 gigahertz and cover exposures arising from new 5G base stations as well as from older technologies.”
[2]

[2] Public Health England, 2019

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.