5G’s Health Risks Study Indicates Lack of Risk Assessment Consensus and Further Research Needs

OTS0206, March 6, 2020, 5:29 pm

Authors see the need for new forms of dialogue about uncertainties and risks

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Vienna (PK) – From August 2019 to February 2020, the ARGE “ITA-AIT-Parlament” was commissioned by the Austrian Parliament to assess the state of health regarding possible health risks of electromagnetic fields in mobile radio with a special focus on the new generation of mobile radio “5G” in to collect and summarize a short study. The lead study by the Institute for Technology Assessment (ITA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) is now available and is available on the Parliament’s website. The aim was to raise the level of discussion regarding 5G at the level of relevant international and national scientific bodies.

The study authors point out that “5G” is a collective term that variably combines different aspects. In addition, key data on the medium to long-term implementation of 5G technology (frequency ranges, supply infrastructures or areas of application) are still very unclear, which is why statements about the effects are only possible to a very limited extent. It seems important to them to continuously expand their knowledge of the effects of 5G. When implementing the technology, a wide range of options for action can be used to deal with possible risks or to avoid them as far as possible. These should be taken into account by the actors involved.

Seven key findings to discuss 5G

On the basis of the examined contributions to mobile radio technology and in particular 5G, the present study comes to seven central findings which characterize the current state of discussion about 5G:

There are currently still large differences in the risk assessment on the part of the relevant committees, a consensus is not foreseeable.

In any case, there is agreement that acute, short-term, individual effects are unlikely for 4G.

According to the study, however, there is still a broad spectrum of risk hypotheses for mobile communications in general. Its electromagnetic fields were classified as “potentially carcinogenic” by a recognized committee in 2011.

As far as the 5G risk hypotheses are concerned, effects on the eyes, skin and small organisms seem to be possible.

It is further stated that there are still large gaps in knowledge and ambiguities on these questions and that there is therefore a need for further research, in particular on 5G.

According to the authors, there is also agreement that the real exposure situation of the population manifests itself in a wide variety of radiation emissions due to the increasing ubiquity of electronic devices (from baby monitors and children’s toys to mobile phones, smart meters, self-driving cars and Internet of Things) a variety of sources will further complicate and exacerbate.

According to the study, the discussion about 5G shows agreement on the general need for precautionary measures and improved risk communication. However, there is disagreement about the type of recommended preventive measures.

There is currently no consensus regarding 5G’s health risk potential

The authors of the study come to the conclusion that no clear and consensual assessment of the health risk potential with regard to established mobile phone radiation is currently foreseeable. With regard to 5G, a more robust evidence situation also does not appear to be foreseeable or even unlikely, since this would require or lack sophisticated studies. The study authors recommend considering the broadest possible range of options for action in the evidence-based further discussion of governance strategies.

The study authors first point out the application of protective principles of “prudent avoidance” in addition to existing limit values. Attention must also be paid to the formulation of specific guidelines in the context of transmitter system construction, the technical design of end devices and the design of the basic service infrastructure.

The study also indicates that, in view of the current state of knowledge, further independent, national and international research of the highest quality is required to ensure the most robust evidence possible. It would also require greater clarity and more targeted communication on the technological details of all planned expansion stages as well as on the areas of application and exposure situations that can actually be expected from 5G.

In this context, the study also says that new ways of providing uncertainty and risk information must be sought. It should be taken into account here that the application of the new technology takes place against the background of uncertainty, inconsistency and controversiality that cannot be finally resolved. Therefore, it is important to take new paths for the uncertainty and risk dialog, since there is a high need for exchange from different stakeholders. At the same time, the lack of independent institutions for the organization and moderation of such an inter- and transdisciplinary exchange in Austria is noted. The study therefore recommends an evaluation of the existing risk governance system, e.g. B. with regard to the institutional separation and the legitimation criteria of evaluation, recommendation,

The knowledge gained can now be discussed in the Committee on Research, Innovation and Digitization with the responsible minister. (Conclusion) sox


The study on “5G and health” is available on the Parliament’s website:


Further information from the Institute for Technology Assessment can be found at: www.oeaw.ac.at/ita


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