Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Getting Reliable Information on 5G

There has been a lot of inaccurate and misinformation circulated about 5G recently. Finding accurate and reliable information is more important than ever and to help in that regard we have put together a collection of recent statements by health authorities that provide authoritative information on 5G and health as well as factsheets by trade organizations that explain how the technology actually operates.

Have a look at the following resources:

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA): 

“The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) safety standard sets limits for exposure to RF EME. These limits are set well below levels at which harm to people may occur. […] At exposure levels below the limits set within the ARPANSA safety standard, it is the assessment of ARPANSA and international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP) that there is no established scientific evidence to support any adverse health effects from very low RF EME exposures to populations or individuals.”

ARPANSA on recent misinformation: 

"Contrary to some claims, there are no established health effects from the radio waves that the 5G network uses. This network currently runs on radio waves similar to those used in the current 4G network, and in the future will use radio waves with higher frequencies. It is important to note that higher frequencies does not mean higher or more intense exposure. Higher frequency radio waves are already used in security screening units at airports, police radar guns to check speed, remote sensors and in medicine and these uses have been thoroughly tested and found to have no negative impacts on human health."

World Health Organization (WHO): 

“From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them.”

Other Useful Resources:

EMFexplained on “How 5G works”:

GSM Association (GSMA) on the “Safety of 5G Mobile Networks”: 

GSM Association (GSMA) on “5G, the IoT and Wearable Devices: What do the new uses of wireless technologies mean for radio frequency exposure?”: 

Monday, August 26, 2019

MWF Research Outcomes: Updating the Dosimetric Models used for SAR Compliance in the Extremities

As part of the MWF’s ongoing support for research, we recently completed a project to support an update to the dosimetric human body models used to assess SAR compliance in the extremities. Currently, Radio Frequency (RF) exposure standards as well as government regulations define different limits for the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) induced in the body and in the extremities (or limbs). However, the numerical human body models standardised for RF exposure compliance evaluation in the IEC/IEEE 62704-2:2017 standard lack details of the body tissue definition that allow discriminating between the body and extremities, while many simulation tools allow for this evaluation provided corresponding tissue definitions are available.

Therefore, as part of the routine ‘maintenance’ update of  IEC/IEEE 62704-2:2017, we decided to develop and propose an updated model with the relevant body and extremity tissue definitions. The MWF engaged electromagnetic modelling experts Remcom to review the relevant standards and to produce updated models that can now be made available as part of the next revision of the standard.

The work resulted in detailed updates to the existing standard models, which included 14 tissue types present in the voxel meshes in the regions classified as extremity. The tissues in these extremities included: blood, blood vessel, body fluid, bone marrow, cancellous bone, cartilage, cortical bone, fat, ligament, muscle, nerve/spine, skin, toe and finger nails, and lymph and each was mapped and information provided on the relevant standard that they applied to.

The figure below shows an overview of the outcome for one of the models - with extremities defined according to the FCC, IEEE C95.1-2005, and ICNIRP standards in a different colour (although it is important to note that the IEEE C95.1-2005 extremities also include the FCC extremities and ICNIRP extremities encompass the entire arms and legs which include all the IEEE and FCC extremities).

The figure below shows an overview of the outcome for one of the models - with extremities defined according to the FCC, IEEE C95.1-2005, and ICNIRP standards in a different colour.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

5G: Political vs science-based decisions

Early on, the region of Brussels in Belgium decided to introduce arbitrarily low EMF exposure limits from base stations, despite the overall consensus in the scientific community that the international guidelines for exposure limits proposed by ICNIRP are sufficiently safe. 

In time however, the Brussels government was confronted with the consequences of this decision. In 2013, when the 4G network came to be deployed – the government faced fierce discussions in the parliament on whether or not to increase the very low limits to a point where 4G could be introduced. The political majority finally succeeded in doing so, but only increased the limits to the bare minimum needed to introduce 4G. 

Now, the Brussels government finds itself in the same position again. Given the current use of the mobile network in Brussels, with the high demand for faster data connections and greater capacity there is no room left to introduce 5G. Hence, the discussions among politicians recommence on whether or not limits should be increased. Having departed from a scientific rational long ago, the argument for changing the limits becomes more and more difficult.

In the meantime, the countries who have adopted the science based ICNIRP limits, move ahead in introducing the newest generation of mobile technology and when confronted with questions can rely on advice of the World Health Organization which states: 

“Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.” (https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts/fs304/en/)

More information: 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Measurement of EMF exposure around small cell base station sites

With the ever-increasing demand for data on mobile devices, network operators are looking at a range of options to increase their network capacity. One of these options is through the use of ‘small cell’ sites, an umbrella term for operator-controlled, low-powered radio access nodes.

While the radio-frequency exposure from small cells is equivalent to other low-powered equipment, there has been interest in a practical study of the devices in real world settings. For this reason, the MWF and the Small Cell Forum commissioned in 2017 a measurement program, the results of which were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The graph summarises the study set up and conclusions.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Importance of Quality Control Measures in Scientific Studies

In a paper by Vijayalaxmia and Prihodab TJ, the authors looked at the influence of four quality control measures ideally associated with studies of exposure to radio-frequency (RF) energy. In this particular analysis, they assessed 225 published papers from the period 1990-2017, involving 110 animal studies and 115 studies of human cells exposed in vitro and in vivo to RF energy (involving 2,160 actual test results) for the inclusion of four specific quality control measures. The bottom line is that the inclusion of any, some or all quality measures saw fewer reported effects – or no effects at all - associated with exposure to RF energy, highlighting the importance of these measures in quality studies and publications in this area. Our Viewpoint provides a summary of the study and details the quality control measures and their importance in  studies in this area.

Read the full viewpoint on the MWF website: http://www.mwfai.org/docs/eng/MWF%5FViewpoint%5FQualityControlMeasures%2Epdf

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) – Biological effects vs health effects

We often see media articles that claim new research has found health effects from human exposure of some chemical or physical agent. In the case of electromagnetic fields (EMF), we have seen such studies claiming effects of exposure to EMF. But what is rarely discussed is whether the claimed ‘effect’ is a biological effect or indeed a health effect. What’s the difference you ask? 

In the recent MWF publication “20 years of research[1]”, we tried to explain this difference: 

Biological effects are a response to stimulus or to a change in the environment around you and are not necessarily bad for your health. Health effects are changes in health resulting from exposure to an agent or source. Eating a freezing cold ice cream can give you a ‘brain-freeze’ (ice-cream headache), a sensation which goes away a short time after you stop eating it. Going for a run or sitting in a sauna will cause your body temperature to rise. These biological effects are not considered health effects because the result is temporary and not detrimental to your health.

Further explanations on the difference between “biological effects” and “health effects” in particular in regards to exposure to EMF, can be found in the factsheet of the World Health Organization[2](WHO) on electromagnetic fields. There the WHO states: 

Biological effects are measurable responses to a stimulus or to a change in the environment. These changes are not necessarily harmful to your health. For example, listening to music, reading a book, eating an apple or playing tennis will produce a range of biological effects. Nevertheless, none of these activities is expected to cause health effects. The body has sophisticated mechanisms to adjust to the many and varied influences we encounter in our environment. Ongoing change forms a normal part of our lives. But, of course, the body does not possess adequate compensation mechanisms for all biological effects. Changes that are irreversible and stress the system for long periods of time may constitute a health hazard.

An adverse health effect causes detectable impairment of the health of the exposed individual or of his or her offspring; a biological effect, on the other hand, may or may not result in an adverse health effect.

It is not disputed that electromagnetic fields above certain levels can trigger biological effects. Experiments with healthy volunteers indicate that short-term exposure at the levels present in the environment or in the home do not cause any apparent detrimental effects. Exposures to higher levels that might be harmful are restricted by national and international guidelines. The current debate is centred on whether long-term low level exposure can evoke biological responses and influence people's well being.

The definition by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)[3], although a little more technical is also useful: 

"Established adverse health effect: A biological effect characterized by a harmful change in health that is supported by consistent findings of that effect in studies published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, with evidence of the effect being demonstrated by independent laboratories, and where there is consensus
in the scientific community that the effect occurs for the specified exposure condition." versus the biological effect as “alterations of the structure, metabolism, or functions of a whole organism, its organs, tissues, and cells. Biological effects can occur without harming health and can be beneficial. Biological effects also can include adaptive responses."

From these different explanations, we can clearly see that there is an important difference between a biological effect and a health effect, even though many articles do not differentiate between the two – whether it is in relation to EMF or in other contexts. 

So when you are reading the next article, it might be interesting to see whether the authors make the proper distinction between the two, and if they don’t, it may say something important about the quality of the reporting. 


MWF’s “20 years of research” booklet: http://www.mwfai.org/docs/eng/2018_05_MWF_20YearsofResearch.pdf

WHO’s factsheet “What are electromagnetic fields?”: http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/index1.html (accessed 5 September 2018) 

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc (IEEE) IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields,3 kHz to 300 GHz. IEEE; Piscataway, NJ, USA: 2006.

[1]MWF’s “20 years of research” booklet: http://www.mwfai.org/docs/eng/2018_05_MWF_20YearsofResearch.pdf
[2]WHO’s factsheet “What are electromagnetic fields?”: http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/index1.html (accessed 5 September 2018)
[3]Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc (IEEE) IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields,3 kHz to 300 GHz. IEEE; Piscataway, NJ, USA: 2006.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

EMF Research and the Weight of Scientific Evidence

We have all seen media articles that claim that a new study has “proven” a chemical or physical agent causes some health effect, usually cancer. While such results might look scary or at least surprising to the reader, scientists usually react differently and point to the “weight of scientific evidence”. What does this term mean and how does it apply to scientific studies related to electromagnetic fields (EMF) research?

As summarized in the MWF’s booklet on “20 years of research”,

The ‘weight of scientific evidence’ approach means that no single study can answer any scientific question, and must not be viewed in isolation but against the backdrop of previous research. Factors such as the quality of the data, consistency of results, nature and severity of effects and relevance of the information are all important considerations for experts to determine appropriate weighting to be given to the evidence. This approach is important to consider in research on radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic field (EMF) health effects when individual studies provide different or conflicting results. Individual studies need to be seen in the light of the total research effort into mobile phone health and safety. Scientific investigation is subject to potential errors, personal opinions and uncertainties. This applies as much to research on RF EMF health effects as it does to all other areas of science.

The concept of “weight of scientific evidence” is not exclusive to research on EMF but is a key principle in scientific work. The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) scientific committee has published for example a “Guidance on the use of the weight of evidence approach in scientific assessments”. In this Guidance it states:

Weight of evidence assessment is a process in which evidence is integrated to determine the relative support for possible answers to a scientific question. The term ‘weight of evidence’ on its own is the extent to which evidence supports possible answers to a scientific question. This is what is assessed by weight of evidence assessment, and can be expressed qualitatively or quantitatively. 

The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER)  published in June 2018 a revision of their “Memorandum on weight of evidence and uncertainties”, which defines the weight of evidence as

A process of weighted integration of lines of evidence to determine the relative support for hypotheses or answers to a question. 

All of this does not mean that single studies are ignored or not important. They are integrated into the body of knowledge and put into context with all the other studies and research that have been carried out on the subject in question. As the World Health Organization  has stated, “(i)n the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years.” And as a result “scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals.”


MWF’s “20 years of research” booklet (2018): http://www.mwfai.org/docs/eng/2018_05_MWF_20YearsofResearch.pdf

EFSA’s “Guidance on the use of the weight of evidence approach in scientific assessments” (2017): https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2017.4971

SCHEER’s “Memorandum on weight of evidence and uncertainties” (2018): https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/scientific_committees/scheer/docs/scheer_o_014.pdf

World Health Organization: What are electromagnetic fields?