What do GPs need to know about the new 5G network?

Amanda Lyons

19/08/2019 2:52:26 PM

Do community concerns about the health impacts of the new 5G mobile network match the evidence? Scientist Dr Ken Karipidis lays out the facts.

Although some in the community are alarmed about the rollout of 5G technology in Australia, there is no evidence to support fears of health harms. (Image: Mick Tsikas.)

5G, the fifth generation of mobile networks, is being rolled out across the country, with estimates that most Australians should be able to access it by 2020.
Touted to be much faster than 4G, with a far greater capacity for data transfer, many predict the new network will enable as much of a leap forward in telecommunications as its predecessor did in 2011.
However, some are also concerned the implementation of 5G, and the associated increased exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiation, will also cause serious health issues.
But Dr Ken Karipidis, Assistant Director of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s (ARPANSA) Assessment and Advice Section, wants GPs and their patients to know there is no evidence to support the concern that 5G technology, which uses radio waves and emits low-level radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME), will cause harms to the public.
‘There’s been a lot of research into whether radio waves cause adverse health effects, and the only established health effects of radio waves are very high power levels, where they raise temperature,’ Dr Karipidis told newsGP.
‘An everyday example of that is your microwave oven at home; inside the microwave is very powerful radio waves which make the water molecules in the food bounce very fast, heating them up.
‘At very high power levels, radio waves can raise temperature and that can have serious health consequences. However, the power levels at which telecommunications operate are extremely low, and in those low levels there is no rise in temperature – we’re talking millions of times below what you would find inside of a microwave.’
Dr Ken Karipidis says that telecommunications radio waves operate at a far lower power than those of a microwave oven.

Despite the lack of evidence for adverse health effects, Dr Karipidis does understand some of the reasons for community concern. He believes the fact the 5G network will use a different frequency from its predecessors is a strong contributor to those fears.
‘5G has already started, and it’s currently using similar frequencies to the 4G network,’ he explained. ‘With current mobile phone technologies, some of the energy is absorbed inside your head, but it’s too low to cause any significant temperature.
‘However, in the future – we’re thinking in about two to three years’ time in Australia – 5G will use different sorts of frequencies called millimetre waves. Millimetre waves don’t penetrate the skin, but that also means they don’t travel very far.
‘The way mobile phones work, there’s a base station – your phone communicates with the base station, and then my phone communicates with a base station. So the future 5G network will require a lot more base stations, there will be lots of them everywhere. And I think people don’t like to see base stations around where they live and work.’
While the increased presence of 5G base stations is often perceived negatively, Dr Karipidis has found this to be more of a psychological issue than a cause of genuine harm.
‘The funny thing is, exposure from base stations tends to be thousands of times lower than exposure when you’re using a mobile phone,’ he said. ‘When you’re talking on a mobile phone, your exposure is still low, but it’s much higher than what you’re exposed to from a base station.
‘So people love their mobile phones, but they don’t like base stations, and unfortunately you can’t have one without the other.’
Some people experience a condition known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EMH), which they fear will be further exacerbated by the presence of the 5G network. These people include ‘Oliver from Mackay’, who wrote to the ABC’s Hack earlier this year, ‘I’m very concerned about 5G – I already get headaches from 4G and Wi-Fi’.
‘EMH is when people self-report a range of non-specific symptoms, like headaches and lethargy, as being due to electromagnetic sources,’ Dr Karipidis said.
‘So, for example, when they’re in a room and there’s Wi-Fi, or they’re talking on a mobile phone, or there’s a mobile phone tower or a power line next to their house, they’ll report non-specific symptoms to exposures that the majority of the population doesn’t have a problem with.’
Dr Karirpidis explained that while people who experience EMH feel very strongly that electromagnetic fields and radiation are the cause of their symptoms, the evidence does not support this connection.
‘There’s been quite a lot of double-blind placebo trials on this. In other words, they’ve tested people who identify as electromagnetic hypersensitive in a lab situation, where they’ve exposed them to an electromagnetic source in a double-blind scenario so the person doesn’t know, and neither does the researcher,’ he said.
‘And in those scenarios, there’s been no difference in reported symptoms between when the exposure has been on, compared to when the exposure has been off. That’s a good indicator to researchers that this condition is not related to electromagnetic fields.’
Regardless, Dr Karipidis made sure to emphasise that these findings do not invalidate the patient’s symptoms.
‘We [ARPANSA] believe that the symptoms are real, but we’re not actually sure what’s causing them,’ he said.

5G Electromagnetic hypersensitivity Mobile networks Radiation

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Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM   20/08/2019 9:38:31 AM

It is reassuring there is no evidence to be concerned with mobile towers but as Dr Karirpidis notes lack of evidence does not dismiss patients concerns & symptoms they claim to suffer from with mobile towers. I have a few of these patients who suffer a myriad of symptoms they believe since mobile towers were built near their homes. Pollution comes in many forms - air, land and water. There is an abundance of research to demonstrate the health impacts of air pollution from emissions eg automobiles & coal-fired power stations, noise pollution living and working near major roads; chemical fumes from industry, and visual pollution: how will our patients feel when a prolific number of mobile towers are built in every suburb? Mobile towers will assist with the use of mobile phones for communication but possible concerns with EMR effects with use of mobile phones have been raised by WHO esp in children. Aus Gov notes "The incidence rate for brain cancer is expected to increase with age" why?

Dr. Pri Bandara   20/08/2019 6:33:35 PM

Claims of Dr. Karipidis are not substantiated by the scientific evidence.
ARPANSA regulates public exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) only based on acute heating effects, ignoring a vast body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence on non-thermal effects such as oxidative stress and DNA/mitochondrial damage. That is why a large group of scientists and clinicians who have expert knowledge in this area (with peer-reviewed publications) have appealed to the UN and the WHO to take immediate action for public health protection- see the International EMF Scientist Appeal. Biomedical experts have been calling for biologically-based exposure regulation- see the Bioinitiative Report.
Credible medical organisations including the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and its European counterpart have presented the evidence of harm:
Australian clinicians can access peer-reviewed studies on RF-EMR non-thermal effects collated in ORSAA database:

Dr MD Faisal Rabbani   20/08/2019 9:20:32 PM

necessary practical information .

Anonymous   21/08/2019 10:16:06 PM

Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Energy and Health: Research Needs, ARPANSA, 2017

“The 2010 WHO Research Agenda identified a lack of sufficient evidence relating to children and this is still the case. The WHO agenda recommended a prospective cohort study to investigate whether the use of mobile phones and other radio frequency sources by children and adolescents is associated with long-term health effects including cancer and developmental, cognitive and behavioural disorders. Given that no long-term prospective study has looked at this issue to date this research remains a high priority" (p10)

So why has ARPANSA not adopted a precautionary measure to protect children exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone towers, and mobile devices?

ARPANSA follows outdated guidelines that do not recognise the proven non-thermal effects of exposure to EMR. Negative health effects are being proven by hundreds of independent scientists.

Steve Weller   23/08/2019 4:35:39 PM

When reading this article keep in mind that Dr Karipidis is a physicist and not qualified to give medical advice. ARPANSA does not employ any medical specialists nor has medical experts been directly involved in the Australian radiofrequency (RF) risk assessment process.
ARPANSA has been found to have ignored and misrepresented scientific evidence in their TRS-164 report (Leach and Weller 2017). ARPANSA set up a working group to look at EHS in 2016, I was a participant. The working group concluded without reaching agreement.
ARPANSA was more interested in associating illnesses due to microwave exposures to nocebo effects. They chose to ignore clinical and experimental evidence that clearly shows neurophysological effects associated with low level exposures.
To date we have had continued investment of millions of dollars by NHMRC on questionable psychological based research and no medical research. Why?
Health seems to be secondary to industry profits.

Arlene Selman   28/09/2019 11:21:30 PM

Thank you for your article. I am rather surprised by this article. I imagine your readership is predominantly GPs. Why would you not refer to someone with medical expertise on the subject? I can't see one sentence that quotes a study proving that 5G is safe for humans. I would like to recommend that you review the following sources of information. GPs are busy so I have posted only a few:

* Bioinitiative Report - published in 2012, regularly updated.