• 17 MAY 19
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    Calls for review of 5G technology amid health concerns in Auckland New Zealand

    The latest cellular network technology 5G could pose a risk to people’s health, critics say. Waiheke Local Board chairwoman Cath Handley has written to Auckland Council’s environment and community committee calling for an independent safety assessment of the fifth-generation service. “The board’s request is that a precautionary approach should be adopted until evidence of effects is fully documented and well understood,’ she wrote. “As the largest and most densely populated city in the country, Auckland should take a leadership role in ensuring the safety of the proposed network.”

    University of Auckland psychology professor Susan Pockett said radio frequency emissions were linked to many health problems. “Approximately 600 peer-reviewed research reports from a range of international scientists show us that radio frequency radiation is linked to infertility, diabetes, various kinds of cancer and psychiatric disorders,” she said. “The present situation is already bad and adding 5G on top of it will hugely increase the amount of radiation to which everyone is exposed and make the whole situation much worse.” A 2018 article by Pockett in the New Zealand Medical Journal said evidence existed that radio frequency emissions at some intensities could impact people’s health. “The biological effects of radio frequency emissions are clearly complicated, but there is no longer any reasonable doubt that under some circumstances, levels common in the present environment do have harmful biological effects.” The paper concluded until more was known about the effects, a “precautionary approach” in the rollout of cellphone and WiFi technology was justified. Overseas, more than 200 scientists have written to the United Nations and the World Health Organization expressing concerns about potential health risks from the technology.

    Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi said he had not received any advice suggesting a link between adverse health effects and exposure levels associated with radio communications. “On that basis, the government will continue the roll out of the 5G network next year as planned,” he said. “We are on track and keeping pace with other countries with the spectrum being progressively allocated, companies can start rolling out 5G from 2020.” A Spark spokesperson said overwhelming evidence indicated 5G presented no risk to human health. “Most scientific opinion shows no clear evidence from the thousands of scientific studies undertaken to date that mobile phones or base stations present risks to human health,” he said. “Spark will continue to test and comply with all national and international safety limits and always ensure we incorporate substantial safety margins.”

    However, Pockett said the current guidelines regarding safe levels of radio frequency were flawed. “The present guidelines for safe levels of exposure assume that the only biological effect of radio frequency is tissue heating. So if it’s not intense enough to actually cook you, the Ministry of Health and the wireless industry are telling us it’s fine,” she said. “In fact though, there are multiple proven mechanisms by which radio frequency damages all biological organisms, at intensities a tiny fraction of those needed to heat tissue.” The Ministry of Health monitors overseas research on radio frequency emissions and reports to the director of health every six months. In 2018, a report concluded that any risk to health was low. The council’s environment and community chair Penny Hulse said she was seeking information from Faafoi about the government’s response to any health risks.




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