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5G confusion - clarification one step at a time

Opinion Piece

What a polarising topic 5G has become. This is unsurprising since the information we hear varies greatly from government, telcos, and scientists (industry-funded and independent), through to conspiracy theorists.

Today, I will address just one recent statement from our Ministry of Health: “exposures to 5G signals are similar to, or lower than, those from existing cellsites, and (are) small fractions of the public limit in the standard”.

The statement is misleading, and the topic is complex. Let me explain. The last part of the MoH statement claims that measured 5G exposures “[are] small fractions of the public limit in the standard [2772.1-1999].” This assumes the standard provides safety. Actually, it only seeks “minimal levels of radio-frequency absorption” and to minimise the chance of burns and shocks over short periods.

It clearly does not minimise absorption as a more stringent standard would reduce the permitted maximum. Preventing burns/shocks is insufficient to assure health is intact. Many biological effects occur from “small fractions of the public limit”. Some of these are known precursors to serious diseases.

Now to 5G. Once fully functioning, 5G signals will be different from 2G, 3G and 4G transmissions in key ways. Currently these differences may not apply. Here are some key differences:

1. 5G will transmit power in narrow, high-power beams. Our exposure standard evaluates average exposures. The average may be lower than 2G/3G/4G because the 5G component will only transmit when being used. But during use, the energy in the beams will be high. The beams will interact with people/animals/trees. This is the first time these beams have been intended for public devices used against the body. Increased use, even 5G device ownership, will mean increased exposure.

How energy is delivered makes a difference. For instance, if the energy used in patting a baby to sleep over 30 minutes were delivered in one blow, the outcome could be ghastly. In this analogy, the sustained patting represents averaged radio-frequency exposure; the one blow represents the focused beam.

2. If a transmitting phone is used/stored against the head or body, research indicates that permitted 5G exposures could cause burns. Although the Resource Management Act regulations do not permit exceeding public limits, it seems exposure could cause burns within those limits. This, and other research, demonstrates there are RMA “effects” from phone exposures, so the RMA is not in line with the exposure standard.

3. The user will be exposed to 5G beams when the phone is receiving and sending information. Current phones increase exposure only when sending.

4. Private phones may be used to support telco infrastructure to re-direct others' wireless traffic when there are insufficient public transmitters, further increasing personal exposures.

5. Most 5G energy is expected to be absorbed in the top layers of the skin, deep enough to impact on peripheral blood vessels. This does not seem to have been tested or considered.

Recently, I attended a hearing of Parliament's Regulations Review Committee as an expert witness for the NZ Outdoors Party. It had brought a complaint relevant to 5G and our exposure standard. Subsequently, I submitted supplementary evidence responding to the main question the committee had asked to be addressed. Briefly, this was whether NZ's radio-frequency exposure standard complies with the Resource Management Act 1991. There is strong evidence that it does not.

Additionally, our standard which is based on the 1998 ICNIRP Guidelines is not suitable for fully-functional 5G, and the revised ICNIRP Guidelines may also not be intrinsically safe. For instance, they allow 5C increases in temperature in some organs, including the cornea of the eye, but this is a topic for another article.

■ Mary Redmayne is an adjunct research fellow at Victoria University of Wellington. She is an independent researcher, consultant and educator in environmental health (transmitting technology).

Mary adds: I do not and have not received any funding from the telco industry nor from the NZ Outdoors Party, nor, currently, from the universities with which I am affiliated. My supplementary evidence can be read here, along with my credentials:


The hearing can be viewed here https://vimeo.com/event/86156/videos/425380738

■ See also the letter by Susan Pockett (MSc, PhD) and Robin Kelly (FRNZCGP). and the MoH response, here.

Mary Redmayne

  1. Tom Whitney, Ontario, Canada says:

    Mary is a scaremongering anti-wireless activist spreading misinformation!

    Consult MoH, ARPANSA, ICNIRP and WHO for authoritative information on the safety of wireless.

  2. Murray May, Canberra says:

    I think Mary’s comments are measured and informed. Anyone who looks into this issue in depth will find that the official sources Tom Whitney names are heavily compromised by industry influence and conflicts of interest. The wireless industry has penetrated far and wide with its lobbying activities. Moreover, the paradigm subscribed to by official bodies is out of date. Much relevant peer-reviewed published research on the adverse effects of EMR is simply ignored.

    1. Tom Whitney says:

      Misinformed activists frequently make the claim that government bodies and independent experts are corrupted by industry influence and conflicts of interest. But, they have yet to provide any credible evidence of this. Perhaps you, Murray May, will provide some examples from your own personal experience, along with some proof. Not rumour, innuendo or anecdotal stories – just actual evidence please!

      1. Adrienne Jeunette, Canada says:

        The problem with the radiofrequency (RF) radiation standards (by ICNIRP, ARPANSA, FCC, or Health Canada) are very simple: they are based on thermal effects only. The assumption is that if human skin is not heated by a certain amount, then the technology is safe. It has been shown that RF radiation can have biological effects at thresholds well below the thermal limits. These effects can be good (RF being used for pain relief and healing) and bad (cancer, DNA damage, neurological issues, fertility problems, etc) but biological effects have been shown undeniably in numerous studies and real life examples. Adequate safety guidelines must therefore consider other effects in addition to heating.

        Moreover, the guidelines are based on acute (immediate) harm. Today, we are bathed in RF radiation 24/7. Should there be different limits for chronic exposure? If something does not burn me immediately, could it harm me after days, years, or decades of exposure?

        The guidelines also do not consider the effects of pulsations and modulation, which have been shown, in addition to frequency, to have a variety of biological effects, where the effects are not necessarily proportional (i.e. higher frequencies are not necessarily more harmful).

        Tom, please get informed on this topic. You are either funded by industry or very ignorant.

        Here are some studies for your review:
        Risks to Health and Well-Being From Radio-Frequency Radiation Emitted by Cell Phones and Other Wireless Devices

        National Toxicology Program (NTP) Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation

        Report of final results regarding brain and heart tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats exposed from prenatal life until natural death to mobile phone radiofrequency field

        Electromagnetic Radiation Due to Cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Technologies: How Safe Are We?
        Retracted – we can speculate on reasons why but still available for PDf download

        Our daily exposure to RF radiation has increase by 1000 fold since the 1980s. This alone should have us questioning diseases with environmental factors, such as autism and cancer in children.
        Planetary electromagnetic pollution: it is time to assess its impact

        A link to over 100 studies:

  3. Antoinette Janssen, Norway says:

    In “key differences” there is one missing, and that one is missing mostly in all articles and papers about 5G: it is “Satellites”.
    These satellites are creating, when all are orbited, a very narrow web of radiation around the earth, in the womb of the weather: the ionosphere. See: Starlink https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Starlink_SpaceX_1584_satellites_72_Planes_22each.png
    There is no limit registered by law. This means that all enterprises are allowed to orbit their satellites. In total already about 50.000 are on the list to be orbited. Elon Musk is orbiting his Starlink satellites already from last year, each month. Nobody knows what will happen when these will be turned on.

    1. Tom Whitney, Ontario says:

      All frequencies and orbital positions require the co-ordination and prior approval of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Nobody can just launch whatever they want into space. ITU knows exactly how each new satellite will perform when turned on long before it is launched. The approval process is lengthy and exhaustive. Sometimes it can take years!