UK mobile radiation tests top out at 1.5% of safe levels

Unlikely to make a dent with the truther crowd who believe it is cumulative exposure that does the bad things.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Ofcom

At the end of last week, the United Kingdom Office of Communications (Ofcom) released a set of testing that looked at electromagnetic energy (EME) levels from around Britain.

The location with the highest total radiation level during any of the six-minute tests undertaken was London's Canary Wharf, which had a total of 1.496% of the guidance levels issued by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

In that particular test, first spotted by The Register, the 1.496% total was made up mostly of frequencies in the 800-900Mhz bands and did not include any frequencies over the 3GHz range.

In locations where EME did consist of frequencies in the 3GHz band, the highest EME level was in Birmingham, which registered 0.0386% of safe levels.

Meanwhile in Australia last week, the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts held public hearings around the country for its 5G inquiry, where the nation's telcos addressed the EME elephant in the room.

"There has been much focus on the alleged negative health impacts of 5G -- thankfully respected independent experts have dispelled the myths and misinformation," Optus vice president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said.

"There is, however, a positive side to the impact of 5G on health -- by supporting new innovation and technology, 5G can improve health outcomes for the community."

Similarly, Vodafone said exposure was safe so long as it fell within ICNIRP guidelines.

See also: Telstra chair likens 5G health truthers to anti-vaccination and Flat Earth movements

The telco also responded to questioning from Labor MP Ed Husic, who asked telcos whether there was an appetite for telco equipment to be manufactured in Australia.

"The difficulty of developing a new vendor, even at a global level, I think should not be underestimated; and then [to] try to engage in a high-cost jurisdiction, such as Australia, poses an additional barrier but it's something that we would absolutely support," Vodafone Australia chief strategy officer and corporate affairs director Dan Lloyd said.

Husic further said the globalised model of using the lowest cost vendor had proved itself to be "exceptionally problematic".

"And I would agree with that," Lloyd said. "There is though, of course, a spectrum of different possibilities with different levels of cost and complexity associated with them ... I'm simply being realistic about those cost differentials."

The attempts from Ofcom and the telcos to address 5G health concerns, however, are unlikely to satisfy anti-5G groups who also appeared before the committee last week.

"We are standing on the deck of a ship called 5G," Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association president Dr Julie McCredden said.

"We have an international sailing organisation called ICNIRP and a local branch called Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) that has stipulated that in order to ensure a safe voyage, we must measure the temperature of healthy sailors while they are on deck for six minutes, in order to make sure their temperature does not increase by one degree."

McCredden took the analogy a step further and said those on the boat get scurvy unless they ate a fruit called "precaution".

"We are gravely concerned that this ship will be wrecked on the shoals of three possible destinations, called marked deterioration in the physical and mental health of our children, workforce, and alterations to fundamental planetary systems," she said.

"This journey is not optional, every man and women must come on board, despite health and privacy concerns. Many families are being press-ganged by small cells in their streets, and thousands more satellites in the sky."

Other anti-5G speakers compared EME exposure to smoking, saying it was cumulative exposure that mattered, not six-minute spot checks.

McCredden was joined by at least six other anti-5G speakers during the hearing; it was not asked how many of them were sitting in a room saturated with 2.5Ghz and 5GHz Wi-Fi signals.

In November, Telstra said small cells provide faster connections and better response times at lower EME levels, with its principal of 5G EME strategy Mike Wood saying 5G EME was similar to that of walkie-talkies, Wi-Fi hotspots, key tags, and remote controls.

"What we find is that because 5G's very efficient, it typically runs at a lower level than an everyday device in your house like a baby monitor or a microwave oven," he said.

"When we've done our tests on our 5G network, they're typically 1,000 to 10,000 times less than what we get from other devices. So when you add all of that up together, it's all very low in terms of total emission. But you're finding that 5G is in fact a lot lower than many other devices we use in our everyday lives."

In an earlier submission to the committee, ARPANSA said the use of higher frequencies in 5G does not mean higher exposure levels.

"Current research indicates that there is no established evidence for health effects from radio waves used in mobile telecommunications. This includes the upcoming roll-out of the 5G network. ARPANSA's assessment is that 5G is safe," the agency said.

If exposed to energy levels 50 times higher than the Australian standard, heating of tissue can occur, such as when welding or exposed to AM radio towers, but that is why safety precautions are taken, ARPANSA said.

The submission also reiterated the scientific fact that radio waves are non-ionising, and cannot break chemical bonds that could lead to DNA damage.

Related Coverage

Canberra to spend AU$9 million combatting 5G misinformation

The Australian government believes people who already think 5G is a dangerous conspiracy will listen to it.

5G radiation no worse than microwaves or baby monitors: Australian telcos

Microwaves sit 100 times below Australia's EME safety limit, and 5G is one or two orders of magnitude safer.

Australia's radiation safety agency reinforces that 5G is safe

Double blind trials have debunked any health concerns about 5G and radiation, ARPANSA has said.

Australian radiation safety agency fires back at 5G health fearmongering

5G is fine, ARPANSA has said, and a single study does not make for scientific consensus.

Editorial standards