The Panel for the Future of Science and Technology of the European Parliament held a workshop on the potential health impacts of 5G on December 7, 2020. 

The workshop included testimony from the chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and from five experts.

The ICNIRP chairman claimed that ICNIRP’s exposure guidelines for radio frequency (RF) radiation are adequate to protect against all health threats to humans, not just short-term or thermal effects, and that a wealth of research shows that 5G will not cause health problems.

In contrast, the five experts discussed potential impacts of 5G to humans, wildlife and the natural environment. Each of the experts raised concerns about the adequacy of ICNIRP’s
RF exposure guidelines to protect health. Both members of Parliament who chaired this meeting called for a moratorium on 5G deployment until these concerns are resolved.


  • Michèle Rivasi, Member of Parliament (MEP) and STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) Panel member

  • Ivo Hristov, MEP and STOA Panel member

Health Impact of 5G

  • Fiorella Belpoggi, Research Director, Ramazzini Institute, Bologna, Italy

  • Elisabeth Cardis, Head of Radiation Program, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain

  • Rodney Croft, Chairman, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP); Professor of Health Psychology, University of Wollongong, Australia

  • Franz Karcher, DG Sante, European Commission

Environmental Impact of 5G

  • Arno Thielens, Professor of Engineering, Ghent University, imec, Ghent, Belgium

  • Gerard Ledoigt, Professor of Biology, Clermont Université, Clermont-Ferrand, France

 Q&A from Audience and Closing Remarks

  • Ivo Hristov, MEP and STOA Panel Member

  • Michèle Rivasi, MEP and STOA Panel Member
  • Moderator: David Gee, Institute of Environment, Health, and Societies, Brunel University, London, UK; former senior advisor to European Environmental Agency

5G Workshop Summary

Note: For the following summary I relied on the English translator so my notes may not accurately reflect the speakers’ testimony. I apologize in advance if I misconstrued anyone’s comments.

Ivo Hristov (MEP): The recent ICNIRP review of the literature and recommended radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines suffer from a conflict of interest as they were “co-written” by members of industry. 5G should not be deployed until there is a risk assessment and until we have the tools to minimize the risks.

David Gee (moderator, Brunel University): Posed three questions to the panel of experts:

1. Is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection’s (ICNIRP) 2020 risk assessment of the health and environmental effects of electromagnetic fields sufficiently robust and reliable to define protection policies?

2. Are the exposure limits recommended by the ICNIRP for electromagnetic fields, which are based primarily on short-term tissue warming effects, sufficiently protective to avoid damage from exposures at lower levels and over the long term that are below the ICNIRP limits?

3. Is there sufficient independent research on the health and environmental effects of 5G that would help to reassure the public and minimize future liability?

Rodney Croft (ICNIRP Chairman):

Denied any industry involvement in the ICNIRP review of the literature or the development of RF exposure guidelines. Careful consideration was given to all public input that ICNIRP received.

Science is imperfect and results of a study are not completely reliable. Need to look at the body of research as a whole. The National Toxicology Program rat study is a good example of this. That the study made more than 10,000 statistical comparisons rendered the statistically significant outcomes meaningless. Thus, another study must be conducted to confirm the results.

 ICNIRP recognizes some biologic effects but does not believe there is sufficient data to indicate harm to animals or the environment.

The ICNIRP RF exposure guidelines protect against all health threats to humans, not just short-term or thermal effects.

A wealth of independent research shows 5G will not cause health problems. 5G is a new transmission protocol using RF fields and knowledge about RF is substantial. The RF mechanisms are well known. Science does not find differential effects for different modulations. The effect of frequency is already understood so it doesn’t matter that some 5G frequencies are different from 4G.

Elisabeth Cardis (Barcelona Institute for Global Health):

Some recent experimental animal studies and epidemiological studies find harmful effects from low-level RF exposure. ICNIRP dismisses NTP study and epidemiological case-control studies. These observations raise the possibility that the ICNIRP 2020 guidelines provide inadequate protection. However, the evidence is not conclusive.  The widespread use of wireless technology warrants use of an ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) policy.

There is insufficient research on 5G, especially millimeter wave (mmw) effects, and an absence of epidemiological research. Research is also needed on measurement protocols, especially for 5G’s massive-MIMO and beam-forming technology; on exposure assessment and mechanisms.

Fiorella Belpoggi (Ramazzini Institute):

We need a risk assessment on 5G (700 – 3500 MHz; 26 GHz). There have been thousands of studies on the lower frequencies; some found biological effects, and some studies of mobile phones on men. ICNIRP guidelines do not sufficiently protect us from these lower frequencies, but this is a low risk.

The Interphone study found an increase in brain tumors and tumors on the acoustic nerve.

It is difficult to quantify exposures. There is uncertainty about the long-term effect of mmw’s.

5G constitutes a major experiment on the human population. New technologies are being deployed without safety information.

If everyone is exposed to 5G, we will not have an unexposed comparison group in future studies.

We need safer mobile phones, especially for children and women.  Up to 5 volts per meter may be safe at least from carcinogenic effects.

 We need research on the combined effects of mmw’s with frequencies in current use.

 Franz Karcher (DG Sante, European Commission):

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The European Commission (EC) is reassessing the situation following the ICNIRP new review and guidelines. EC provides guidance to EU countries but does not mandate policies. EC relies on a wide range of advice from more than 100 academies and 40 countries — free of conflicts of interest.

The EC asked the committee on new emerging health risks to review the evidence. The last review 5 years ago concluded that 1999 exposure limits are still valid including a 50-fold safety factor for the general public and 5-fold for occupational workers. EC member states follow these guidelines or have adopted more rigorous limits (e.g., Italy).

We need more studies as existing studies are inconsistent. EC is funding more research.

EC is aware of public concerns re: 5G.

French study: 5G’s massive MIMO is likely to cause a minor increase in RF exposure but much less than current ICNIRP guidelines.

David Gee summary:

1) Exposure guidelines are often too weak to be protective, e.g., with more research chemical exposure limits are usually strengthened over time.

2) The science is complex and uncertain.

3) Not much is known about 5G; we have substantial research on 2G-4G.

4) The Ramazzini Institute never found a cancer effect in animals that did not affect humans.

5) An ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) policy is wise.

6) We need more research. Use ALARA policy in the interim.

Arno Thielens (Ghent University):

The ICNIRP RF exposure guidelines do not consider the scientific literature regarding effects on non-human animals and plants that are unrelated to human health.

The effect of heating is the same in all organisms, but the amount of heating varies. The ICNIRP guidelines only address humans.

The main human exposures come from base station antennas and personal wireless devices. Normal wireless users may have much greater whole-body exposure to RF after 5G deployment. 

Non-user exposures (including other species) may decrease with deployment of 5G over time due to beam-forming. However, some novel wireless applications may increase non-human exposures (e.g., tracking devices). We need to quantify this.

Most of the animal/plant/fungi research is on frequencies less than or equal to 6 GHz.  Little research has been conducted on the effects of frequencies above 6 GHz.

Below 6 GHz, biological effects have been found on invertebrates, plants, especially low frequency fields, but not necessarily harmful.

Gerard Ledoigt (Clermont Université):

RF radiation has important effects on the environment. Bee behavior is affected after 35-45 minutes exposure to mobile phone radiation.

Serious effects on plants after 48 hours of exposure.

Various animals and plants are affected by 1 Volt per meter. Some plants were affected after 10 minutes of exposure including non-thermal effects on plants (900 MHz). The physiological effects in plants depended on modulation of the signal.

There is a risk from long-term exposure to health. Pregnant women and children are more vulnerable. Brain tumor risk increases with long-term exposure. The research is robust. There is a cause-effect relationship.

Increased stress on organisms. Effects on DNA, quality of sperm reduced. Organ damage, liver, affected in newborn. Not due to thermic exposure. Epigenetic responses related to types of RF signals. Cellular division is changed. DNA repair is also affected leading to cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

5G causes stress proteins and affects cellular membranes. The immune system, the heart and brain will be affected.

Genotoxicity. Prenatal effects in mice and rats.

He advocated for a moratorium on 5G and conduct of research fully independent from any pressure groups.

David Gee (summary):

1) ICNIRP evaluation and guidelines mainly focus on health, not the environment.

2) All life forms are affected by RF and often below ICNIRP levels.

3) 5G may decrease RF exposure for non-users and increase it for users.

4) The evidence is not convincing, but certainly concerning.

5) How much evidence is needed before policy makers take action?

Q&A session

MEP: Asked panelists to compare safety of 5G to 4G.

Rodney Croft: There is very good science. There is no uncertainty re: safety of 5G. All ICNIRP commissioners are 100% independent and can say whatever they like.

David Gee: James Lin, a former ICNIRP commissioner, thinks animal evidence of carcinogenicity is clear and convincing.

Rodney Croft: Lin has not provided a good reason to believe this.

Elisabeth Cardis: Has questions about beamforming — hotspots for users? Recommends periodic surveys of uses and exposures in different countries.

Professor Tom Butler: Asked panelists to compare the strength of evidence re: RF carcinogenicity in 2011 (IARC review) to now.

Elisabeth Cardis: Largest new evidence is experimental (NTP, Ramazzini). We need to wait on the next IARC review to determine the risk of carcinogenicity.

Rodney Croft: Fifteen years of research in “great detail” finds no evidence of different health outcomes from RF exposure as a function of age or in any sensitive population.

Elisabeth Cardis: Some time ago some countries recommended the use of cabled internet in kindergartens in primary schools. Not sure if this still applies.

Fiorella Belpoggi: NTP Program and Ramazzini Institute looked at gestation in mothers with exposures greater than ICNIRP limits. Mothers and embryos need to be studied further.

Concluding Remarks

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Ivo Hristov (MEP): 

This very interesting debate has shown that 5G is likely to have an adverse impact on humans and the environment. The lack of research on 5G is very important. A plan of action for 5G should take account the recommendations of the research community.

Michèle Rivasi (MEP): 

ICNIRP says no there is no uncertainty about 5G, and that everyone is protected. But ICNIRP only deals with humans, not the environment. There are major gaps in the research on 5G, especially mmw’s.
Paris airports have banned 5G due to a technical incompatibility. The NTP and Ramazzini studies show robust evidence of carcinogenicity. It cannot be true that there is no uncertainty. We should set up a group of experts in Europe to conduct a robust evaluation by an independent committee. We need to do this to restore consumer confidence in 5G. Impose a moratorium on 5G until this is done.