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16 August 2018

Austria: 5G: Physicians Call for More Research on Mobile Phone Radiation

With the 5G expansion, the number of 
mobile radio antennas will increase sharply.
However, these are micro-antennas in small 
boxes with low transmission power.
(Photo: MEV)
5G: Physicians call for more research on mobile phone radiation
meinbezirk.at, 14 August 2018 - translation

The mobile industry and doctors are arguing whether cell phone radiation is harmful to health. In the run-up to the 5G expansion, scientists are indicating more research is needed.

AUSTRIA. The government has set itself the goal of making the next generation of mobile telephony, 5G, available throughout the country by 2025. This is what the 5G Strategy published by the Ministry of Infrastructure in April states. "The nationwide 5G supply is crucial for future economic development," it says in the paper.

Many new antennas

The expansion of the 5G infrastructure also means more antennas. "The total number of antennas can only be speculated," says Gregor Gradnig, spokesman for the Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications GmbH (RTR), Regional Media Austria (RMA).  The estimate is tens of thousands of new antennas. The locations of the current mobile radio and broadcasting stations in Austria are listed in the transmission register.

Old fears

This awakens old fears of cell phone radiation. But what about the fear of health damage from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emanating from smartphones, Wi-Fi and other wireless applications?

Appeal for more research

From the point of view of the mobile industry, which stands behind the mobile communication forum (FMK), "the fields, which are emitted by mobile telephony base stations and mobile phones, are completely harmless", as FMK speaker Gregor Wagner says. Some physicians see it differently. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is based at the World Health Organization (WHO), classified HF-EMF, ie the frequency range between 100 kilohertz and 300 gigahertz, as possibly carcinogenic in 2011. In 2015, over 180 international scientists signed an appeal, which also went to the EU Commission, to request a moratorium on the expansion of 5G until the health risks are thoroughly researched.

"No reliable data"

"A technology is used without testing the health effects," says Michael Kundi, epidemiologist at the Department of Environmental Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at MedUni Vienna. He sees the problem as a large population being exposed to RF-EMF and "there is no reliable data for biological effects". More than seven billion people worldwide use a mobile phone. In Austria there are 14 million active SIM cards with eight million inhabitants.

50-fold precaution factor

Scientists fear 5G expansion will result in an exponential increase in long-term citizen exposure to RF-EMF. Wagner counters that the limit values ​​set by WHO and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection ICNIRP, which are also valid in Austria, would contain a 50-fold precautionary factor. "This also covers any effects that are not yet known," says Wagner.

The argument of the brain cancer rate

In order to substantiate the safety of mobile communications, Wagner continues to argue about the statistics on brain tumors. "The number of brain tumor diseases has remained the same since the introduction of mobile communications in Austria in 1992 or even declined, as can be read in Statistics Austria," he says in an interview. In fact, Statistics Austria shows 8.5 new cases per 100,000 persons in 1992. In 2015, there were nine new cases. In between, this value varies between 7.5 and 10 annually.

Modern brain tumor registry

The RMA called Statistics Austria to have these numbers interpreted. The RMA was referred to Johannes Hainfellner, Head of the Clinical Institute of Neurology at MedUni Vienna, and then, in turn, to Kundi as experts in this field. "The opinion of the FMK that the increase in brain tumor incidence should show whether there is a risk of cell phone use is incorrect." In countries with up-to-date brain tumor registries, there have been massive increases in the last 10 years for particularly malignant brain tumors: In Austria, a brain tumor registry has only existed for a few years, so Austria cannot carry out a long-term investigation,"says Kundi when asked by the RMA.

"Unwanted biological effects"

The appeal cites a lot of research that has shown that RF EMFs have effects on living organisms far below the limits. "There are unwanted biological side effects," said Wilhelm Mosgöller, physician and coordinator of the ATHEM-2 study published on behalf of the Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt (AUVA) in 2016, which confirms DNA breaks caused by mobile phone exposure. "DNA breaks are completely harmless or a potential precursor to cancer, so to be on the safe side, we need more research," he tells the RMA.

Ministry of Health recommends headsets

A leaflet published by the Ministry of Health in 2017 states that the effects of mobile telephony on health have not been unequivocally clarified. A prudent approach is advised, especially for children. It is recommended, for example, to be brief on the phone and to use headsets or hands-free kits.

Problem of cell phone addiction

For Kundi, the problem goes beyond technology: "Usage behavior plays a major role." Mosgöller agrees: "Cell phone addiction is a big problem." He points to the recently introduced mobile phone ban in schools in France. "The Internet and smartphones are not fundamentally bad, it's certainly bad if you overuse them." Which dose is safe, is still open.

Original article in German:

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