A review of current information on the effects of wireless communications on health and environmental health.
Last updated May 2019.
Mobile networks use wireless radio signals to communicate with devices. Over recent years there has been a huge expansion in the use of all forms of wireless communications ranging from short range Bluetooth to wide area mobile connectivity. This rapid growth has been managed safely through the industry conforming to international health standards which are independently laid down and are based upon a huge amount of research carried out over the last 50 years (the ICNIRP guidelines).
ICNIRP is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, an independent organisation which is formally recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
5G is a next generation of cellular mobile technology that will overlay current 4G and WiFi means of connecting to the broadband Internet as well as being deployed for various industrial uses. The ICNIRP guidelines are technology neutral so the task for the industry is to ensure any new 5G characteristics conform to these guidelines under all circumstances.
In the United Kingdom, Public Health England’s (PHE’s) Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications. Central to PHE advice is that exposures to radio waves should comply with the ICNIRP guidelines. For more information on PHE’s stance on radio waves and health, please visit:
ICNIRP guidelines includes frequencies used by both existing mobile systems and those intended for 5G. While a small increase in the localised exposure to radio waves is possible when 5G is added to the existing network, it is the responsibility of the industry to ensure the total remains well within ICNIRP guidelines.
Public Health England and other organisations have concluded there is no convincing evidence that human exposure of radio waves below these guideline levels causes health effects in either adults or children.
You can hear from Azadeh Peyman from Public Health England talking to BBC Radio Orkney about 5G here.
Public Health England has issued the following statement:
Public Health England’s (PHE’s) Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications.
A considerable amount of research has been carried out on radio waves and we anticipate no negative effects on public health. 5G is the latest evolution in mobile communications technology and currently in its development stages. 5G will have a higher data capacity than current systems in order to transfer a larger volume of information.
Some 5G technology will use similar frequencies to existing communications systems. Other 5G technology will work at higher frequencies, where the main change would be less penetration of radio waves through materials, for example walls.
While a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves is possible when 5G is added to the existing network, the overall exposure is expected to remain low and well within the guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
ICNIRP guidelines apply up to 300 GHz, well beyond the maximum (few tens of GHz) frequencies under discussion for 5G.
A summary of PHE advice on radio waves can be accessed in the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/electromagnetic-fields#radio-waves
PHE is committed to monitoring the evidence applicable to this and other radio technologies, and to revising its advice, should that be necessary.