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We should take a cautious approach to 5G introduction Benefits of wireless technology may come at a high price

Readers' Letters | Published:

I’M always worried when I hear that Guernsey is going to be used as a test bed, rather like a laboratory experiment, and so it is with the introduction of 5G. Despite the health concerns and warnings that have been raised I appreciate that many businesses and islanders will want and welcome this technology in the name of progress, convenience and economic opportunity, but nevertheless I think at the very least, and for the sake of the public record, words of caution should again be expressed. The precautionary principle states that ‘if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action’.

What needs to be understood is that the higher the G, or generation rating, as in 1G, 2G and so on, the more potentially toxic the technology. 5G is a case in point, frequencies within the microwave spectrum include never-before-released millimetre wave (MMW) frequencies. MMWs are the fastest, shortest, highest – intensity wavelengths within the microwave spectrum. All wireless microwave radiation can cause biological harm but MMWs pose a particular threat; human eyes and skin as well as insects and plant foliage are potentially especially vulnerable. Dr Ron Powell, a former US government physicist has gone on record as saying that 5G would irradiate everyone, including the most vulnerable, and that radio frequency radiation could especially cause harm to pregnant women, unborn children, young children and the chronically ill and that it would set a goal of irradiating all environments.

Dr Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust states that multiple studies show adverse effects from electromagnetic field exposure, such as headaches, sperm damage and types of cancer including brain cancer. These were the sort of studies that resulted in a 2011 declaration from the World Health Organisation that radio frequency radiation was a 2B (possible) Human Carcinogen.

Things have moved on since then, so much so that in 2015 well over 200 scientists from over 40 countries made the United Nations and the World Health Organisation aware of their findings and concerns in relation to wireless technology. Their alarm in connection with the introduction of 5G is even more intense. 10,000-plus peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated that radio frequency radiation can cause harm to human health, the effects can include DNA damage, alteration of heart rhythm, sleep disorder, neurological damage and many more. Industry-led safety guidelines are based on thermal effects (so heating caused by electromagnetic frequencies) but this ignores the many independent and impartial scientific studies showing that a number of acute and chronic illnesses are caused or exacerbated by radiation levels below international guidelines where thermal effects (heating) play no part.

I do not profess to be an expert in this area but the research I have undertaken indicates to me that we should proceed with great caution. There are many individuals and organisations who can rightly claim to be eminently qualified in this field and they are making their voices heard.

I am of the view that in years to come a clear link will be established between the emergence and widespread use of these technologies and the cause and proliferation of certain diseases, health conditions and environmental damage. History throws up many examples of products being introduced to the market that were considered by the experts of the day to be either safe (beneficial) for human consumption or for industrial application, among these were thalidomide and asbestos. Amazingly during the 1950s doctors extolled the ‘virtues’ of tobacco/cigarette smoking. Both asbestos and tobacco are now classed as Group 1 Carcinogenic. A current example would be the mass production and multiple uses of plastic, the convenience of which is now greatly outweighed by the dire consequences for wildlife and the environment.

Gains and benefits realised via the deployment of 5G (and wireless technologies more generally) might come at a greater cost to human health and the environment (and the public purse).

The latest international petition directed at the EU, UN and the WHO, among others, has been signed by hundreds of scientists and doctors and over 350 environmental and health organisations. Among other things the petitioners are calling for the setting up of an international group of truly independent EMF [electromotive force] and health scientists for the purpose of establishing new international safety standards for radio frequency radiation that are not based only on power levels, that consider cumulative exposure and that protect against all health and environmental effects, not just thermal effects and not just effects on humans.

The industry, if they have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, should welcome this initiative. The overriding concern of those behind this petition is that if the telecommunications industry plans for 5G come to pass, no person, no animal, no bird, no insect or plant on Earth will be able to avoid exposure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to levels of radio frequency radiation that are tens to hundreds of times greater than exist today. They go on to say that the 5G plans threaten to inflict serious effects on human health and further damage to all of the Earth’s ecosystems. Perhaps the sensible and pragmatic thing to do would be to delay the introduction of 5G so that the new called for international safety standards can be further researched and established.

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Some countries, France, Austria and Australia to name a few, have wisely (remember the precautionary principle) already introduced some measures to help reduce the harmful effects that can be caused by wireless technology on their populous and environment.

Considering the intention to use Guernsey as a test bed, islanders who have concerns about the health and environmental risks and implications of 5G need to make their views known now to the powers that be.

Deputy LAURIE QUERIPEL

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