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5G: hype v reality

Opinion Piece

The expert Q&A readers are directed to in the footnote to a letter on 5G health concerns today has a host of good information on how this latest upgrade to the mobile network might change our lives — beyond making phones and internet faster — and whether we should worry about potential interference with weather satellites, cybersecurity threats, or getting cancer from the technology.

With 5G health concerns being a topic of the day, here are some relevant responses:

EMF Services director Martin Gledhill (whose contribution has a conflict of interest statement) says: “5G is just a new application of radio technology, and the knowledge gained from some 60 years of research is as applicable to 5G as any other form of radio technology. The radio frequencies to be used by 5G are similar to those that have been used for several decades.”

He also says: “Recent research confirms the validity of current exposure limits. It also shows that in everyday life, exposures are normally far below the limits.”

Asked about international research into the biological effects of technology used in mobile phones and wifi, University of Auckland professor of health psychology Keith Petrie (no conflict of interest) says:

“The majority of studies show that there is no relationship between weak electromagnetic field exposure and symptoms or health. Some people report that they are sensitive to the electromagnetic fields used in mobile phone and wifi. Studies show that such people do experience symptoms, but only when they know they are being exposed. In double-blind conditions where they are exposed without knowing whether the electromagnetic field is on or off, no reliable effects are apparent.”

Prof Petrie says it would take “strong evidence of health effects” to trigger a change in safety standards.

Asked why this topic keeps coming up, he says:

“Worries about new technology causing health problems are not new . . . . The internet has now brought a new dimension to worries about technology and unsubstantiated health worries can be spread instantly to those with similar concerns.”