More health studies are needed before Malta introduces 5G technology, the Superintendent of Public Health has warned.
In comments to Lovin Malta about the technology, Prof. Charmaine Gauci cited the World Health Organisation and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks who said that should the overall population exposure to electromagnetic frequency (EMF) remain low, no public health consequences should be expected.
“Given 5G devices and networks are a new concept, the potential increase in overall exposure to EMF is unclear,” she said.
“In view of the uncertainty of potential exposure from 5G and the possible resulting health effects especially in the long term, and considering the high level of urbanisation in Malta, the precautionary principle underlining public health should be upheld and more time allowed for international studies to be carried out and updated guidelines from the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection ) which are currently being revised, be issued.”
5G, the next generation of internet connection speed, promises lightning-fast data download speeds, up to 100 times as fast as the current 4G. It will also also be able to simultaneously support over a million devices per square kilometre, a leap over the 60,000 devices that 4G can use, a crucial development for a world which is starting to embrace Internet of Things technologies.
Some scientists and doctors have flagged potential health scares as a result of 5G, including Partit Demokrariku leader Godfrey Farrugia, who has questioned whether he developed prostate cancer early in life because he used to carry his phone in his pocket.
However, the WHO has stated that there exists no conclusive research which establishes such links. Malta’s mobile service providers have already started upgrading their networks to be compatible with 5G when it eventually rolls out.
Malta’s mobile network providers in praise of 5G
A spokesperson for Vodafone told Lovin Malta that 5G is designed to comply fully with existing international EMF exposure guidelines, providing protection for everyone, including children, against all established health hazards.
“These guidelines are regularly reviewed and issued by independent public health authorities and expert groups including the ICNIRP and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and reflect decades of research,” she said.
“In July 2018, the ICNIRP reviewed the science published since its last exposure guidelines were produced, concluding that 5G spectrum does not require additional protection measures.”
She also cited the WHO’s stance that no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.
“Vodafone complies with national regulations, and will continue to do so across the range of possible future 5G devices, new radio masts and small cells,” she said.
A spokesperson for Melita similarly played down health fears.
“The launch of 5G will herald a new era of connectivity, not only delivering a better and faster internet service, but also enabling a whole new range of services in areas ranging from home security to healthcare and traffic management. These will transform our daily lives for the better.”
“Mobile customers in Malta can rest assured that all operators, including Melita, who choose to roll out 5G will be acting within the parameters set out by the regulatory authorities, both national and international, and the EU Commission, and that these parameters are based on thorough scientific research and analysis in order to safeguard consumers across the Continent.”
The third mobile service provider, GO, has not responded to a request for comment as of the time of writing.
Parliament’s health committee is set to discuss 5G technology with various stakeholders, in the coming months following a request by parliamentary secretary for the digital economy Silvio Schembri.