International Society of Doctors For The Environment
5G networks in European Countries: appeal for a standstill in the respect of the precautionary principle 5G_appeal
Author: Agostino Di Ciaula
ISDE Scientific Office
The document by the European Commission “5G for Europe: An Action Plan” (September
2016) aimed to describe “an action plan for timely and coordinated deployment of 5G
networks in Europe through a partnership between the Commission, Member States, and
Industry”. This document was targeted to introduce early the new 5G networks by 2018 and,
subsequently, to a “commercial large scale introduction by the end of 2020 at the latest”.
Following this document, several member States are planning in these months, at a national
level, preliminary “5G experimentations” by private phone operators, aimed at testing the
network at frequencies over 6 GHz, before the final introduction of the typical 5G frequencies
(over 30 GHz, millimeter waves).
A document by the Italian Communication Authority (AGCOM, March 28, 2017) stated that
“the 5G networks will serve an elevated number of devices and will connect, according to the
prevalent hypothesis based on ongoing standardization developments, about 1 million
devices per Km2. This device density will cause an increase of the traffic and the need to
install small cells in order to allow adequate connectivity performances, with subsequent
increment of the density of the installed antennas”.
In Italy, as an example, the “5G experimentation” will involve, in three different geographical
areas (north, center, south), about 4 million of uninformed and unaware citizens.
The residents will be exposed, during this “experimentation” to frequencies and with a device
density never employed before on a large scale.
Although typical radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) exposure levels are usually
below current regulatory limits in European countries 1, 2, the real health impact of the
advancement and spreading in communication technology is still under debate 3. Several
studies have documented the ability of RF-EMF to induce oxidative stress 4, 5 (mainly by an
increased production of reactive oxygen species) 6-12, and oxidative DNA base damage 13. Of
note, biological effects have also been recorded at exposure levels below the regulatory
limits, leading to growing doubts about the real safety of the currently employed ICNIRP
Previous evidences led the IARC in the year 2011 to classify the RF-EMF as
possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). After the year 2011, more recent studies
strengthen the link between RF-EMF and cancer onset 17-22 and highlighted new possible
health risks mainly in terms of reproductive 23-25, neurologic 26-31 and metabolic diseases 32-35.
Furthermore, specific preliminary evidence showed the exposure to frequencies over 30GHz
could alter gene expression 16, 36-39, increase the temperature of the skin 40, stimulate cell
proliferation 41-43, alter the functions of cell membrane 44, 45 and neuro-muscular systems 46-52,
and are able to modulate the synthesis of proteins involved in inflammatory and immunologic
processes 53, with possible systemic effects.
Further studies are certainly needed in order to better and fully explore the biological effects
caused by the exposure to these specific RF-EMF frequencies accompanied by high
exposure density. The available evidence, however, is sufficient to justify the possibility of
health effects (in particular on the more vulnerable subjects, as children and pregnant
women) secondary to a technological “experimentation” conceived with commercial aims.
We believe it should be unethical to ignore the available evidence waiting a possible “a
posteriori” demonstration of health damages in the presence of a present and potentially
manageable risk for public health.
Thus, in the respect of the precautionary principle and of the WHO principle “health in all
policies”, we believe suitable the request of a standstill for the “5G experimentations”
throughout Europe until an adequate and active involvement of public institutions operating in
the field of environmental health (health ministry, environmental ministry, national
environmental and health agencies) will be effectively planned.
This involvement should be aimed to correctly and preliminarily perform risk analyses and
environmental health monitoring plans, possibly suggesting alternative or adequate measures
to reduce the level of risk in the exposed population.
See the pdf for references 5G_appeal