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Health concerns

Public Health England (PHE) takes the lead on health matters relating to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (radio waves) and 5G. PHE’s advice is informed by the work of expert bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has been undertaking an extensive review of the evidence for health effects arising from exposures to radio waves, including the sort emitted by 5G networks.

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which is formally recognised by WHO, independently produces exposure guidelines for exposure to radio waves.

Public Health England advice on 5G

Public Health England summarises its position on radio waves and health relating to mobile phone base stations on its website, and this has been updated to include information relating to 5G as this technology develops.

The health effects of exposure to radio waves have been researched extensively over several decades. Independent expert groups in the UK and internationally have examined the research and their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below international guideline levels.

PHE’s main advice about radio waves from base stations is that the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) should be adopted for limiting exposures. ICNIRP guidelines relate to frequencies used by both existing mobile systems and those intended for 5G.

It is the responsibility of the industry to ensure the total exposure remains within ICNIRP guidelines.

PHE advises that it is possible there may be a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to an existing network or in a new area, but the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to exposure guidelines and therefor there should be no consequences for public health. ICNIRP guidelines apply up to 300 GHz, well beyond the maximum (few tens of GHz) frequencies under discussion for 5G.

Public Health England (PHE) continues to monitor the health-related evidence applicable to radio waves, including in relation to 5G, and is committed to updating its advice as required. In 2018 ICNIRP produced new draft guidelines for public consultation and final guidelines are anticipated to be published in the autumn of 2019.