Another welcome guest post from good friends across the water at NO5GNI:
Is 5G The next asbestos?
Many families in Northern Ireland have lost loved ones as a result of asbestos-related illness. Compensation for the victims and their families has not been easy to come by, particularly since the companies’ insurers have fought tooth and nail to limit payouts.
Now public health experts are warning that the new 5G technology could be “the next asbestos”.
What is 5G?
5G stands for “fifth generation mobile network” and is being developed because the existing 3G and 4G networks are becoming saturated due to today’s high demand for streaming, continuously updating apps on smart phones and so on.
The tech sector is very excited about the promise that 5G will be up to 100 times faster than 4G.
The industry claims 5G has the potential to transform our way of life from everything to facial recognition surveillance, to driverless cars and so-called “smart” appliances that allow you to communicate with your fridge or washing machine via your phone.
EE has announced that Belfast will be one of the first places in plans to launch its 5G service this year.
However, doctors, scientists and independent public health experts have expressed serious concerns about the safety of the technology.
More than 180 scientists and doctors from 35 countries have joined forces to call for an urgent halt to 5G plans because of safety worries.
5G signals can only travel short distances and will thus need an enormous number of new masts – some sources suggest that urban areas will have a mast on every lamppost.
The experts’ concerns centre around a massive increase in exposure that will come from so many new masts, and that there will be nowhere to hide.
5G is especially bad news for groups already known to be more vulnerable to electromagnetic fields and radio-frequency radiation, such as pregnant women and children.
Further concerns focus on the millimetre-wave frequency used by 5G.
These waves interact with our sweat glands, causing a range of symptoms including arrhythmias, heart rate variability, bacterial affects, antibiotic resistance, immune system affects, chromatin affects, teratogenic effects, altered gene expression and cataracts.
Public Health England (PHE) has rejected concerns and states that “despite much research, there remains no clear evidence of harm to health from exposure to radio waves below the internationally agreed (ICNIRP) guideline levels”.
Insufficient regulation over public health risks
PHE’s position does not appear to be supported by those undertaking and reviewing the research, however.
Dr Sarah Starkey has published a scathing report of the ICNIRP and accused Public Health England of conflict of interest and ignoring and misinterpreting evidence.
Last month, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a review of the scientific literature in which the authors reached the conclusion that this weight of scientific evidence refutes prominent claims about deployment of wireless technologies posing no health risks at the currently permitted non-thermal radio-frequency exposure levels.
Instead, the evidence supports the International EMF Scientist Appeal by 244 scientists from 41 countries who have published on the subject in peer-reviewed literature and collectively petitioned the WHO and the UN for immediate measures to reduce public exposure to artificial electromagnetic fields and radiation.
Devra Davies, president of the Environmental Health Trust and fellow of the American College of Epidemiology, is one of the signatories to the appeal. She says:
The history of public health is littered with examples where economic interests trumped scientific advice. Warnings about the potential dangers of lead in gasoline, X-rays in pregnancy, and the dangers of tobacco were all swept aside by industry interests who gained millions from these unwise products and unhealthy practices.
It was only after we had irrefutable evidence of sickness and death tolls that we got rid of these hazards. Could 5G be the next asbestos?
It is a timely warning given that 2020 marks the year which is predicted to be “peak asbestos”, after which the UK is finally expected to see a decline in the numbers of new cases of asbestos-related illness.
Furthermore, in an article in the British Medical Journal, Dr Peter Bartrip charts the dawning realisation of the dangers of asbestos, noting that suspicions began to emerge in the 1930s, with sufficient proof being established by 1955.
However, at that time the dangers of the substance were still underestimated, and the notion of a ban on asbestos was apparently dismissed as “completely futile and absurd”, right through the 70s and 80s.
Dr Bartrip also notes that much of the medical community supported the idea of precautionary measures rather than an outright ban on its use.
Many families in Northern Ireland paid a heavy price for the fact that industry and public health agencies were so slow to respond to the dangers of the asbestos.
Jonathan Duncan, an asbestos solicitor with Worthingtons, writes:
Up to and including the late seventies and beyond, many workers throughout heavy industry and ship building in Northern Ireland were exposed to asbestos on a daily basis in the workplace (primary exposure) without any or adequate protective equipment and without proper or effective warning of the dangers posed by exposure to asbestos.
Now campaigners are calling on government and public health authorities to learn from the past and adopt a precautionary approach to 5G.
No5GNI, a group established to raise awareness about the dangers of 5G says:
There are important lessons to be learned from asbestos when a new wonder-technology was introduced on a widespread basis without proper safety testing and which caused the deaths of thousands of people.
The same story can be seen in thalidomide, mercury, lead paint, DDT, agent orange and many other substances, which were allowed to wreak havoc before finally being proven unsafe.
However we have struggled to find a single example of something which was treated with unnecessary caution before being proven to be totally safe.
It appears that our government and public health authorities are intent on ignoring the calls from experts across the medical, academic and technological sectors and prefer to hold on to discredited, inadequate guidelines than face the uncomfortable truth.
Most concerning aspects of 5G
The most concerning thing about 5G however, is that everyone will be exposed all of the time.
The very fact that this is something which every single person will be subjected to, regardless of their age, health or ability to consent to such things means that the question of safety should be at the forefront of every decision.
It is simply not good enough to say that there is no clear evidence of harm – instead it should be incumbent upon those who stand to profit from such industry to prove that it is safe.
No5GNI urges public health authorities, local councils and politicians to re-examine the evidence and suggests that they ignore lessons from asbestos at their peril.
The insurance industry has learned the lessons of asbestos and recognises the weight of scientific evidence against 5G and there is already a blanket exclusion across insurers for any harm caused by wireless technology.
With asbestos, it wasn’t just manufacturers who were ultimately held to account for the harm that was being caused – it was also those who were responsible for exposing their employees and the public who ended up having to pay out millions in compensation.
In their role as commissioners of 5G services, as employers and as organisations with a duty of care towards the public including vulnerable groups, those associated with the industry will be held liable( financially as well as morally) should they ignore the evidence and fail to take steps to protect the public.
- Public Health England FOI response on 5G: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/525481/response/1260481/attach/html/3/PHE%20RF%20Advice%20Summary%2028%20Feb%202018.pdf.html
- Lancet: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30221-3/fulltext
- Sarah Starkey: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/reveh.2016.31.issue-4/reveh-2016-0060/reveh-2016-0060.xml
- Peter Bartrip: https://pmj.bmj.com/content/80/940/72