(Auto translated from French)
The deployment of the “5th generation” communication technology promises innovative services based on new infrastructure. These technological developments will modify the methods of exposure of the population, and will require adapting the measurement and evaluation methods. As part of the deployment of 5G planned for the end of the year in France, ANSES has undertaken expert work aimed at assessing the health risks linked to the exposure of populations to these technologies. To this end, ANSES stresses the need to have data describing the technologies developed and their installations in order to characterize the associated exposure levels and to assess any health effects.
As part of the deployment of 5G and the national roadmap launched by the Government in July 2018, ANSES was contacted by the ministries responsible for health, the environment and the economy in order to conduct a expertise on the exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields arising from this technology and to the possible associated health effects. In this context, ANSES publishes a preliminary report which determines the bases of its expert work, the results of which will be available in the 1 st quarter of 2021. In particular, it presents an inventory of available scientific studies and identifies the main areas of risk evaluation.
5G technology: new frequency bands to investigate
The deployment of 5G technology aims to develop innovative services in multiple fields such as health, media, transport and the industries of the future. It will rely on greater mobile data transfer capacities, in quantity and speed, to offer a greater range of wireless services and encourage the development of interconnected objects.
In France, the first 5G offers will be launched at the end of 2020. The frequencies already used by previous generations of mobile telephony (2G, 3G, 4G) will be used, as well as two new frequency bands:
- initially, the 3.5 GHz band for 5G mobile telephony coverage in large geographic areas,
- then in the following years, the 26 GHz band for communication between connected objects or for mobile telephony within limited perimeters.
Essential exposure data for risk assessment
ANSES stresses the need to have as much technical information as possible from the manufacturers involved in order to be able to define population exposure scenarios, in collaboration with the National Frequency Agency (ANFR), and to assess the possible health impact.
The mobile operators have already carried out pilot experiments in several French cities to test the functioning of the new infrastructures. On this occasion, as part of its missions to control public exposure to the airwaves, the ANFR has been carrying out exploratory tests for measuring exposure in the 3.5 GHz band since the end of 2018. These measures will constitute one of the sources of data taken into account in the expertise of ANSES.
Two areas of research identified
The Agency has identified two distinct risk assessment fields corresponding to the two new 5G frequency bands, around 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz, the exposure methods of which are different.
It highlighted a lack of scientific data on the potential biological and health effects linked to exposure to frequencies around 3.5 GHz. As a result, the experts will assess the possibility of extrapolating the results of the Agency’s previous expert work on the health impacts of the various existing communications technologies (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, etc.) which use close frequencies, in the 3.5 GHz band, from 0.8 to 2.45 GHz. Concerning the higher frequencies, between 20 and 60 GHz, the data available in the literature are more numerous, expert work will therefore endeavor to analyze them to assess the possible health impacts linked to exposures in the 26 GHz band.
Consult the ANSES INTERMEDIATE REPORT on the exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields linked to the deployment of the ‘5G’ communication technology and the associated health effects:
More on the topic:
5G arrives in France, but authorities note “a significant lack of data on its health effects”
By Stéphane Mandard
5G arrives in France with its promises to revolutionize the uses linked to mobile telephony, from the autonomous car to remote surgery. The first offers are expected at the end of the year. The telecoms regulatory authority launched the frequency allocation procedure on the new 3.5 GHz band on December 30, 2019. Its deployment is however accompanied by many questions about its health and environmental effects.
In response, the ministries of health, ecology and the economy contacted the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Security (ANSES) in July 2018 to assess the risks linked to the exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields resulting from this technology which will allow mobile data to be transferred in greater quantity and at higher speed.
In a preliminary report published Monday, January 27, ANSES concludes that “there is a significant lack or even an absence of scientific data on the potential biological and health effects linked to frequencies around 3.5 GHz”. In other words, at this stage, it is impossible for ANSES to assess the risks associated with 5G. It therefore asks operators to provide all the technical information in order to be able to characterize the exposure levels.
“Today, we cannot yet say if the French will be more exposed to electromagnetic fields. The level of exposure will depend a lot on the use that will be made of 5G “, comments Olivier Merckel, head of the risk assessment unit for physical agents at ANSES. “Until the deployment is done, we can only simulate from different exposure scenarios. “
This is the work that ANSES will now tackle, whose final report is not expected before the first quarter of 2021. “To estimate the exposure, we need to know what type of antennas will be deployed, with what power , in what direction” , details the researcher. “According to operators’ data, the levels will be limited in space compared to the current network but the user will a priori be more exposed since subject to more power and more throughput through his smartphone. “
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio frequencies between 30 kHz and 300 GHz as possible human carcinogens. “Today, there are uncertainties about the long-term effects of intensive use of the mobile phone. Some studies show excess risks for cancers or brain tumors” , notes Olivier Merckel. “Are the effects the same at 3.5 GHz? This is one of the questions that we will try to answer. “
ANSES notes a lack of data on the health effects of 5G
5G raises many concerns related to its potential health or environmental impact
5G also raises many concerns related to its potential health or environmental impact, which have led NGOs to announce a legal action to request the cancellation of the call for candidates launched in December for the allocation of frequencies.
“Today, nobody is able to predict with certainty how many people and when will use these 5G networks,” commented Olivier Merckel, expert at ANSES.
“Today there are exposure limit values for all frequencies“, he said. But if the analysis, which publication is planned for the first quarter of 2021, should highlight “particularly worrying effects” for certain frequencies, the Agency “could possibly recommend a modification of the thresholds”.
ANSES must also soon launch another assessment of all the other potential health impacts of this technology that promises a hyperconnected society. This could range from physiological effects (musculoskeletal disorders linked to less physical activity), to cognitive and developmental effects (impact of screens on children’s learning) or even psychosocial (relationships with others).
“We think about which population we will be interested in first, workers, children, adolescents, adults, etc“.
Deployment of 5G: “There have been no studies” on the health effects of the new frequencies, laments ANSES