The Malta Independent 22 August 2019, Thursday

Should we be worrying about radio waves and 5G?

Jeremy Micallef Wednesday, 17 July 2019, 09:03 Last update: about 2 months ago

5G is a cellular technology that relies on signals carried by radio waves that is expected to employ much higher frequencies and bandwidth than before – about 1,000 times faster than the current iteration of 4G – with rates of up to 10 Gigabits per second or 1,250 Megabytes per second.

Back in February, we spoke with a local academic to see whether there was any reason to raise the alarm, and he explained that, to date, there are no scientific studies that show any concern when humans are exposed to nanoWatt range electromagnetic radiation.


This gives cause for calm, but taking a closer look at the issue wouldn’t go amiss, particularly with 5G networks to be tested on the island through a deal and a total of three memorandums of understandings signed with Chinese tech-giant Huawei.

Not to mention that a number of countries and U.S. states have slowed or stopped 5G deployments due to health risks – for example, Belgium, home of the European Parliament, halted a 5G test in Brussels itself over the difficulty in measuring radiation emissions.

Electromagnetic radiation

As previously stated, 5G relies on signals carried by radio waves.

These radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are transmitted between an antenna and your phone, which incidentally would also emit electromagnetic radiation.

This means that we are constantly surrounded by electromagnetic radiation from various outlets and technologies such as mobile phones and microwaves, and even natural sources such as sunlight.

The further along you go along the spectrum the higher the frequencies of the wavelengths that interact with the human body, and the higher the frequencies of the wavelengths the more likely it is to increase the risk of illnesses such as cancer, genetic damage, damage to the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans – at least as outlined by a recent petition signed by around 250 scientists to the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2014 the WHO said that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”, with activities such as eating pickled vegetables and using talcum powder being classed as having the same level of risk, although they are undertaking a “high priority” study seeking a more definitive answer as radio waves are still a possible carcinogen.

The key term to look out for is “non-ionising” – meaning that the radio wave band lacks sufficient energy to break apart DNA and cause cellular damage.


Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (2019-2023)

A public consultation from the Office of the Prime Minister, specifically the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), is currently open for submissions, with the online page saying that the “five-year Radio Spectrum Policy Programme is a key part of the MCA’s strategy of consultation and constructive dialogue with public stakeholders, industry consumers and citizens alike”.

“A central purpose in publishing the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme is to provide spectrum users with an updated overview of the MCA’s spectrum management priorities. The MCA shall also endeavour to pinpoint the issues it sees arising over the near to medium term, together with the necessary plans to address them.”

The attached document features a couple of pages on the radiation issue, noting that “the MCA is also tasked with monitoring the public exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from electronic communications sources”.

They specified that whilst “people all over the world are constantly exposed to both environmental and man-made EMF to varying degrees”, and that the “MCA’s remit in this regard is to ensure that the levels of non-ionising radiation from the radio frequency transmission sources which fall under its oversight are within the levels applicable in Malta as determined by the relevant competent authorities”.

It is then specified that the MCA monitors and published the levels of EMF at various public locations around Malta and Gozo of which a summary of the results are publicly available on the MCA’s web portal.

The national competent authority with regard to the EMF effects on health is currently the Environmental Health Directorate.

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