Mobile World Congress in February 2019, Telco and other technology industry leaders touted 5G as the next mobile revolution. Both Key Mobile Operators in Sri Lanka; Dialog Axiata and Mobitel have concluded pilot runs for 5G, and are racing to be the first operator in South Asia to commercially rollout 5G by the year 2020/21. Its benefits are clear: the improved speed and latency the network enables the creation of smart cities, remote surgeries, and super-fast downloads, among countless other benefits, not to mention more data consumption by consumers to due faster speeds.
But one question remained largely unaddressed in these glossy PR articles — what are the health risks, associated with 5G and have they been fully understood before being allowed to be implemented at risk of public health?
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cellular radio waves as a possible carcinogen in 2011 and is undertaking a “high priority” study seeking a more definitive answer.
number of countries and U.S. states that have slowed or stopped 5G deployments due to health risks. In Belgium last month, for example, halted a 5G test in Brussels over difficulty in measuring radiation emissions. Switzerland has also started to delay 5G rollouts and will create a radiation monitoring system. In New Hampshire, lawmakers are considering establishing a commission to study the health impacts of 5G networks. And Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco, last year banned new 5G wireless cells.
Typical 4G cell networks transmit at frequencies such as 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz, well below the much higher wavelengths, like X-rays and gamma rays from medical devices and radioactive treatments, that can cause cancer and other health problems. Some of the new 5G networks will use higher bands, like 28 GHz, which still do not emit ionizing radiation like x-rays and gamma rays. One question for future studies is whether there is any mechanism by which the non-ionizing transmissions could harm human tissue.
The issue with the question of what risk 5G poses to human health is that “nobody knows“, Dariusz Leszczynski, an expert in molecular biology and Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland. “The assurances of safety concerning 5G-emitted radiation are based solely on the assumption that low amounts of radiation are safe, not on biomedical research,” he added. Specifically, the question mark lies over the effects of millimeter waves, also known as extremely high frequency, that 5G will tap into: “We don’t know what they will mean in practice for our immune systems.” “High-frequency waves only penetrate a few millimeters into the body and this is being used as a ‘no worries’ card by industries — but our skin is the biggest organ in the body and is linked to numerous things including immune response,” Leszczynski explained.
In Sri Lanka, Several Residences supported by Doctors in Jaffna have protested over 5G towers, in response to this The Jaffna Municipal Council has requested Telecommunication companies to halt their 5G rollouts, and remove the towers from the area. Questions are being raised from citizens in areas where 5G rollouts are planned to be implemented that shouldn’t the government & TRCSL have waited on approving 5G networks until it was certain they pose little or no health risk to the public?