As wireless industry executives gathered this week at the Mobile World Congress Americas conference in San Francisco, more than 180 scientists and doctors from 35 countries urged the European Commission (EC) to impose a moratorium on the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless service antennas “until non-industry research can be conducted to ensure the safety of the public.”

Pointing to past scientific studies and newer studies that are “consistently identifying harmful human health impacts when wireless products are tested properly using conditions that reflect actual exposures,” the scientists stated in a written declaration on Wednesday that “we are very concerned that the added exposure to 5G radiation could result in . . . irreversible harm.” Such concern, noted the scientists, is based on the fact that 5G service, “which is designed to carry higher loads of data more rapidly through wireless transmission, will require the construction of cell towers every 10-20 houses in urban areas.” When compared to more sparsely-located transmission facilities used for second-, third- and fourth-generation wireless services, the scientists warned that the density of 5G antenna deployment will “massively [increase] mandatory exposure” to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF).

The scientists also highlighted risks to public health associated with RF-EMF emissions coming from the “ten to twenty billion connections to refrigerators, washing machines, surveillance cameras, self-driving cars, buses, etc.” that will form parts of the Internet of Things (IoT) to be driven by 5G technology. As stated by the scientists, these IoT connections, when combined with the significant number of antenna deployments required for 5G network operation, “can cause a substantial increase in the total, long-term RF-EMF exposure to all European Union (EU) citizens” which, in turn, may result in “increased cancer risk, cellular stress, genetic damage, reproductive system challenges, learning and memory problems, and neurological disorders.”

In addition to urging a moratorium, the scientists called for the appointment of an EU task force “to reevaluate the health risks” of RF-EMF radiation. That task force should (1) set new guidelines for “safe, maximum total exposure standards” for all wireless communications services throughout the EU, (2) study “the total and cumulative exposure” of EU citizens to RF-EMF radiation, and (3) create rules about “how to avoid exposure exceeding new EU ‘maximum total exposure standards’ concerning all kinds of EMFs in order to protect citizens, especially infants, children and pregnant women.” 

Responding to the scientists’ declaration, an EC spokesman explained that, because 5G “is expected to use smaller cells with lower power levels . . . the overall electromagnetic field exposure is therefore expected to decrease in areas where 5G is deployed.” As the EC spokesman further emphasized that 5G network services will be covered by electromagnetic exposure limits set previously by the EU, an official of global wireless association GSMA told reporters that 5G service regulations should be based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which has concluded—with the backing of 30 public health agencies—“that there are no established health risks” from exposure to RF-EMF radiation.