Radiation 5G antennas restricted: uncertainty about danger to public health

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs is considering national restrictions on the radiation emitted by transmission masts. The roll-out of 5G is expected to result in a proliferation of antennas, including in lampposts and bus shelters. This may pose a risk to public health.

Source: Algemeen Dagblad, Peter Winterman. Translated from Dutch by JRS.

“5G can operate at a higher frequency. That means more capacity, but the range of an antenna is shorter. As a result, many more small transmitters will be needed, which will appear everywhere in the streetscape”

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Economic Affairs

A document from the Ministry of Economic Affairs states that ‘… it is being considered to introduce regulations on electromagnetic fields’. At present there are no nationally established limits for the radiation emitted by transmission masts.

With the roll-out of the new 5G network, we expect to see more antennas on the streetscape in the coming years”, explains a spokesman for the ministry. Now you see the antennas on masts, roofs of flats and other tall buildings. In the future, there will be many more ‘small cells’, such as antennae in lanterns, bus shelters and advertising columns.

According to the spokesman, ‘this also has implications for the emitted radiation’. “We want as much certainty as possible for citizens that the electromagnetic fields of the antennas in the environment do not pose a threat to health, even if there are several antennas in the immediate vicinity.”

At the end of last year, 180 scientists from 36 countries warned of the potential risks of the 5G network, which is still to be built. The radiation density is set to rise sharply, but the consequences for public health are unknown. Scientists claim that some studies show a link between radiation and brain tumours, Alzheimer’s and infertility in men.

‘5G important for the future’

Despite this warning, State Secretary for Economic Affairs Mona Keijzer is firmly planning to roll out a national 5G network in 2020. According to her, 5G is important for the future of -among other things- self-driving cars, drones and high-speed Internet connections on mobile phones.

Currently the municipalities assess whether it is allowed to erect a new transmission mast. As long ago as 1999, a European directive with limits for electromagnetic fields was drawn up, but this was not legally introduced in the Netherlands. “It’s not that radiation is not taken into account now, municipalities pay attention to it, on the basis of a covenant with telecom providers,” says the ministry’s spokesman.

Stricter standards across the border

A comparative study by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) – in January this year – shows that the Netherlands belongs to a small group of countries in Europe that do not yet have nationally set limits for radiation from telephone masts. Most European countries comply with the European directive, but in Flanders, Belgium, for example, the government is much stricter: in the vicinity of schools and nursing homes, the electromagnetic radiation emission power of a telephone mast can only be 7% of the EU standard.

In countries such as Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Croatia, the standards are also considerably higher than in the Netherlands. The differences are considerable, because scientific research has not yet conclusively established that radiation from transmission masts is harmless to public health.

‘Little known about long-term health effects’

The municipal health service (GGD) in Amsterdam stated that ‘we do not know much about the long-term health effects, such as cancer, of living in an electromagnetic field around mobile phone antennas’. This is because the antennas have only been there for a relatively short time. The strength of these fields is generally so low that health problems are not expected,” says the GGD. Some people are convinced that their health problems are caused by these antennas. They reported to the GGD a wide variety of health complaints such as headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration.

There are currently more than 45,000 mobile telephone antennas in the Netherlands (GSM/2G, UMTS/3G and 4G). This number will increase enormously in the coming years when the new 5G network is rolled out. “5G can work at a higher frequency”, says the ministry’s spokesman. That means more capacity, but the range of an antenna is less. As a result, many more small stations will be needed, which will appear throughout the streetscape.

Childhood leukaemia

For high-voltage cables, stricter rules already apply in the Netherlands, because research has shown that there is probably a connection between the radiation from high-voltage lines and children’s leukaemia. Therefore, no houses or schools can be built close to a high-voltage line.

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