Public Health England (PHE) advises the UK Government on the public health aspects of exposure to radio waves, including those from mobile phone base stations and other radio transmitters in the environment. PHE advises that exposures to radio waves should comply with the guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which is formally recognised by the World Health Organization. The ICNIRP exposure restrictions have been incorporated into a 1999 European Union Council Recommendation on limiting public exposures to electromagnetic fields, which is supported by the UK Government and PHE.
PHE develops and provides a range of published information about radio frequency topics, including comprehensive scientific review reports and position statements. This includes reports from PHE’s predecessor organisations. Information from PHE can be found on the Government website, www.gov.uk, by searching for “electromagnetic fields radio waves”.
Amongst this material is information about base stations for telecommunications networks, which can be found by searching for “mobile phone base stations health”, and information about 5G, which can be found by searching for “5G technologies radio waves health”. The information also sets out that the health effects of exposure to radio waves have been researched extensively over several decades, and that many publications can be found in scientific journals and elsewhere. Independent expert groups in the UK and at international level have examined the accumulated body of research evidence, and their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below international guideline levels.
It should be noted that the general public is routinely exposed to radio waves without harm. Exposures of radio waves to the public from telecommunications networks are currently well within the international health-related guideline levels. Your constituent may also be interested to know that precautionary advice is not considered necessary with lower exposures that occur from Wi-Fi equipment, smart meters and mobile phone base stations.
5G technology reflects the latest evolution in mobile communications technology and, as with the earlier 2G, 3G and 4G systems, current technical standards that draw on the ICNIRP exposure guidelines will apply to the products that are developed. ICNIRP guidelines apply to frequencies of up to 300 gigahertz, well beyond the maximum frequencies under discussion for 5G.
It is possible that there may be a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to an exiting network, or in a new area, but this is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and there should be no consequences for public health.
A recent Ofcom study, published on 21 February, indicated that electromagnetic field emission levels from 5G-enabled mobile phone base stations remain at small fractions of the relevant reference level for general public exposure. According to ICNIRP guidelines, the highest level recorded was approximately 1.5 per cent of the reference level. Ofcom measurements also show that the contribution of 5G to the total emission levels observed is currently low. The highest level observed in the band used for 5G was 0.039 per cent of the international reference level. Ofcom will continue to undertake electromagnetic field measurements to monitor long-term trends.
PHE is committed to monitoring the evidence applicable to this and other radio technologies, and to revising its advice should that be necessary.