Health Council of the Netherlands: rollout 5G can go ahead, but more research is needed

It is safe to roll out the 5G network that will become available in the Netherlands in the coming years. That is the opinion of the Health Council of the Netherlands, which carried out research into this at the request of the Lower House of Parliament. Things are still unclear, however, and that calls for further research.

The council calls the report a “first step”. It emphasizes that it does not provide the answer as to whether 5G actually poses health risks. So this is not the research that will put an end to all doubt about 5G, says chairman Bart-Jan Kullberg.

The report comes after masts were set on fire earlier this year and an action group had lost an injunction to stop the roll-out. The first part of the network has now been activated.

Health effects

President Kullberg says it is “not proven” and also “unlikely” that 5G can damage health. “There is no effect on hormones and no effect on the defence against infections. For a small number of other conditions, effects cannot be completely ruled out.”

The report is not about the risk of health damage in practice, but about the ‘potential’. In fact, this is the difference between theory and practice: because 5G is still so new, this information from practice is missing. For the frequencies that have been in use for some time, this is overcome by information from previous studies, but this is not possible in the 26 GHz band on which 5G will also work in the future.

The fact that 5G can now be rolled out is due to the fact that it partly uses frequencies for which a lot of research has already been done. “We can already say a lot about the frequencies of 3G, 4G and wifi. 5G largely uses frequencies in that part of the spectrum,” says Kullberg. In the coming years, the mobile network will operate mainly on 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz.

Additional research needed

The council does, however, emphasise that additional research is needed. According to Kullberg, this concerns two cases. On the one hand, the exposure of 5G in practice: ‘Because it is not well known whether it will be different with the current networks’ In the opinion of the Health Council of the Netherlands, this measurement is therefore important.

At the same time, the advice is to wait with a part of the network that uses a higher radio frequency than other parts: the 26 GHz. “Relatively little research has been done into health effects in that frequency band. We also have no reason to assume that there are harmful effects,” says Kullberg. For the time being there is no clear plan in the Netherlands to take this frequency into use.

The council also recommends setting up a research programme that will look at the relationship between exposure to 5G and the occurrence of cancer, reduced male fertility and birth defects. In addition, the advice is to look at the effects of exposure to 26 GHz on the skin.

Unrest in society

For some time now there has been unrest in a part of society about the advent of 5G. Some fear negative health effects; people claim to be affected by radiation from telecom networks and fear that this will increase with the advent of 5G.

It even led to a series of arsons earlier this year, in which the conspiracy theory was also circulating that there was a connection with the coronavirus. This connection does not exist, experts say emphatically. The police and the Public Prosecutor concluded at the beginning of June that there was no connection between the various arsons.

Provider KPN calls it “good” that this Health Council study “reconfirms that the current frequencies for mobile communication can be used via technologies such as 3G, 4G and 5G”. We endorse the studies recommended by the Council. “Health and safety are of great importance and we take concerns about radiation seriously”. T-Mobile and VodafoneZiggo do not want to respond to the report today.

Stichting Stop5GNL, which had previously tried to stop the rollout by means of summary proceedings, calls the advice contradictory. “You are not going to market something that has not yet been properly researched in practice,” says spokesman Martine Vriens. According to her, this is an experiment with health. “They advise using the precautionary principle, but that’s at odds with what they’re doing now. They should be careful not to make the place.”