The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has allayed concerns raised by citizens on social media platforms in recent months that fifth-generation (5G) technologies have detrimental effects on human health.
Over the past few months, discussions on whether 5G is harmful to citizens’ health have accelerated, leading to widespread fears that the new technology is causing the spread and mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as cancer, skin disorders, electromagnetic hypersensitivity and male infertility.
However, many of these fears are unfounded and are based on pseudoscience, misinformation and fake news, says CSIR senior researcher Dr Essa Suleman.
Unpacking the myths surrounding 5G during a webinar, he explained that, based on the current available research, there is no evidence that 5G technologies pose health threats to humans.
“Many of the studies reporting alleged health effects associated with electromagnetic frequency (EMF) levels only observe possible negative effects when the levels are consistently higher than those emitted from 5G equipment and under very specific laboratory conditions.”
“There have been many different studies, some using animal models and some using human population-level studies,” he notes, adding that animal studies show possible carcinogenic effects, but at higher than normal EMF levels and under “very controlled laboratory conditions” which are not necessarily a reflection of real world conditions.
Human population-level studies do not show strong correlation between EMF and cancer.
“As a precaution, however, [and] despite the lack of evidence under real world conditions, I think further research is necessary, just to confirm that there is no significant threat to human health,” Suleman comments.
However, he dismisses the conspiracy theories surrounding 5G and Covid-19, including that EMF radiation from 5G towers will weaken the immune system; that the roll-out of 5G technologies contributed to the spread and mutation of the Sars-CoV-2 virus; and that 5G chips will be included in the vaccines for governments to spy on and track citizens, besides others.
Suleman says these are false and that there is no correlation between 5G distribution and Covid-19 distribution, and there is no evidence to support any of the claims.
5G has been deployed in several countries. Many countries and regions which do not have 5G technologies have had significant Covid-19 infections, he adds.
“There is no such connection between 5G and Covid-19, as 5G is a radio wave and Covid-19 is a virus,” CSIR chief researcher Dr Fisseha Mekuria added during the webinar.
He highlights that the CSIR has published a report, ‘An assessment of claims regarding health effects of 5G mobile telephony networks’, to debunk the myths and outline the features of a 5G network to help citizens better understand these technologies.
“Every previous introduction of mobile phone technology has been accompanied by similar sensational reactions. Nevertheless, no deterioration in public health associated with these technologies has been scientifically proven,” the paper notes.
“The best way to address these perceptions is to explain what 5G networks are and how they differ from existing networks. Given that current 5G networks are almost identical to existing networks, it should soon become evident that little has changed.”
In addition, Mekuria explains that wireless technology standards are highly regulated, with checks and balances.
The CSIR, which has undertaken directed research on 5G technologies, assures that the number of checks and balances undertaken before a new technology is commercialised is significant to ensure that health is not compromised.
Health concerns are studied throughout the standardisation process of any new technology, with the technology also having to go through several research and development phases with innovation labs, universities, industry associations and regulators, besides others, before being peer-reviewed internationally and investigated and tested in depth at worldwide technology forums.
The long, extensive process is to ensure that all the checks and balances are in place and that any new technology is not harmful to any population before being commercialised.