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Scientists warn of potential serious health effects of 5G (2017) [pdf] (ehtrust.org)
116 points by ahsanejaz 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

Is this credible? Can someone with more experience weigh in on the mechanism behind this?

My understanding of physics is that 5G wavelength is much longer than visible light (millimeter vs nanometer magnitudes) and visible light only really starts to get harmful in the UV+ spectrum.

How can electromagnetic radiation in the millimeter range do anything but heat the tissue to a minimal degree? How can it be harmful?

Just browsing the papers linked in the article you can find some relevant things:

[Effects on trees and plants]

The microwaves may affect vegetables. In the area that received radiation directly from “Location Skrunda Radio Station” (Latvia), pines (Pinus sylvestris) experienced a lower growth radio. This did not occur beyond the area of impact of electromagnetic waves. A statistically significant negative correlation between increase tree growth and intensity of electromagnetic field was found, and was confirmed that the beginning of this growth decline coincided in time with the start of radar emissions. Authors evaluated other possible environmental factors which might have intervened, but none had noticeable effects [103]. In another study investigating cell ultrastructure of pine needles irradiated by the same radar, there was an increase of resin production, and was interpreted as an effect of stress caused by radiation, which would explain the aging and declining growth and viability of trees subjected to pulsed microwaves. They also found a low germination of seeds of pine trees more exposed [104]. The effects of Latvian radar was also felt by aquatic plants. Spirodela polyrrhiza exposed to a power density between 0.1 and 1.8 μW/cm2 had lower longevity, problems in reproduction and morphological and developmental abnormalities compared with a control group who grew up far from the radar [105].

[source] https://www.pathophysiologyjournal.com/article/S0928-4680(09...

My immediate problem with this study is that they personally selected a sample of 60 damaged trees near radio transmitters to compare to a selected sample of healthy trees away from radio transmitters. The conclusions is effectively built into their sampling.

Huh. This does sound bad and honestly quite scary. Is there any theorizing made on how these plants get affected by radar? What exactly is the biological mechanism at play here?

This article from a separate comment lists a few candidate mechanisms, plus another few preoccupying effects for millimeter wavelengths:


> 3.3.1. Oxidation mechanism of cellular harm

> A well-studied potential mechanism of harm from radiofrequency radiation is one of cellular oxidation. Healthy biological systems require a balance of oxidation and antioxidation to fight infection and prevent disease (44, 45, 46). A review of the literature by Yakymenko et al. (2016) confirmed that in 93 of 100 studies, non-ionizing radio- frequency radiation caused a cellular stress response with excessive reactive oxygen species. He concluded, “oxidative stress induced by RFR exposure should be recognized as one of the primary mechanisms of the biological activity of this kind of radiation.”

How do you get mm-wave radiation to an aquatic plant? Skin depth at that frequency is tiny. Are they doing studies on duckweed? (Look up the plant, indeed, they are.) And I can see how pine needles might be more affected, what with size and pointy tips.

> a lower growth radio

Lol, freudian slip?

You didn't post any causal explanation, just correlation.

Assuming the correlation was significant, maybe low magnetic fields along the radar are responsible, or transient spikes, high frequency (dys-)harmonics - because it says "pulsed" but I don't know whether it means square pulse or rather probably not. Might latvias Equip is slightly out of tune, who knows. Noisy relais is no rarity at all.

Before conducting controlled experiments (which can verify causality) it's usual to conduct compared studies, which find the experimental factor occuring in a population and study its outcome. It's enough to establish correlation, much cheaper, and you can do it today instead of waiting however long it takes for the experiment (years if you have to grow trees while exposing them to microwave radiation)

True, but when you find a lot of random change correlations that are not really there.

It's known in the ham community that pine needles diminish the range of UHF radios, so it fits with pre-existing knowledge.

Reportedly needles are about the same length as a UHF antenna, and so they tend to absorb the radiation.

5G is, I believe, somewhere in the UHF spectrum.

Trees are quiet good at scattering RF mostly do to the water in them, their density of leaves/needles and the random orientation that they grow in. This leads to significant attenuation of the signal even if it isn't absorbed by anything. It's also worth noting that dried wood is almost RF transparent.

What do you mean by credible? They are asking for:

To... halt the 5G RF-EMF expansion until independent scientists can assure that 5G... not be harmful

To appoint...independent, truly impartial EMF & health scientists... to re-evaluate the health risks and...study the total and cumulative exposure

Among other things, they are asking for scientific voice in the public policy space rather than the only voice being corporate lobbyists. What's wrong with this again?

> What's wrong with this again?

That they make bogus claims like: "RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment."

while providing no evidence for that claim or even a hypothesis about a mechanism that could potentially cause harm. Wireless technology wasn't invented yesterday, we have been studying it for decades. If they had actually found something new, they'd publish it in a respected journal (no, Bioinitiative is not one, it's pretty much the opposite).

But they didn't do that, because they already knew what the result would be. Their statement that they want "truly impartial EMF & health scientists" simply means they want scientists who agree with their stated opinion, nothing more.

They do back up their claims, and they give careful citations.

> The world’s largest study (25 million US dollar) National Toxicology Program (NTP), shows statistically significant increase in the incidence of brain and heart cancer in animals exposed to EMF below the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) guidelines followed by most countries. These results support results in human epidemiological studies on RF radiation and brain tumour risk. A large number of peer -reviewed scientific reports demonstrate harm to human health from EMFs.

And their first citation in that paragraph [0] is a study from the U.S. National Toxicology Program.

Don't say stuff like "they make bogus claims", please - you don't know that, and it's unprofessional.

[0] https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/02/01/055699

They give citations alright, but citations don't equal evidence. The results of the particular study you linked has been heavily criticized for example, see [0]. The fact that this paper wasn't published in a respected peer reviewed journal is also troubling, as it hides the opinion of the reviewers.

> Don't say stuff like "they make bogus claims", please - you don't know that, and it's unprofessional.

It's unprofessional to tell people they're wrong, when the scientific consensus says they're wrong? So you can't tell flat earthers the earth is round because that would be 'unprofessional'?

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26420225

> So you can't tell flat earthers the earth is round because that would be 'unprofessional'?

I mean, that's exactly what Columbus did a few hundred years ago. Should he have followed the 'scientific consensus'?

edit, since I can't reply: yes, I know that Eratosthenes measured the circumference in something like the 2nd century BCE. Swap in galileo & heliocentrism if you like, the point still stands.

> yes, I know that Eratosthenes measured the circumference in something like the 2nd century BCE.

That's not the point, the following quote from the article roywiggins linked you is:

“no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.”

> I mean, that's exactly what Columbus did a few hundred years ago. Should he have followed the 'scientific consensus'?

Besides being wrong, see above, that's not at all what I claim. If you think the scientific consensus is wrong, then prove it is wrong with evidence, write it up in a paper and submit it to a respected peer reviewed journal where it can be scrutinized. And don't try to circumvent review by presenting your work to the general public, who has neither the knowledge or the expertise to review your claims.

But until you've done that, your claims are just your opinion, and claiming they are 'proven' is bogus.

The better analogy would be a bunch of flat earthers preventing Columbus from sailing until he proved to their satisfaction that sailing too close to the edge wouldn't cause the earth to flip over.

Results in SD rats aren't useful. They're misused widely in research.

The results so far (surveyed across the literature; I'm a biophysicist who is familiar with all sorts of radiation and biology) are not convincing. most studies lack controls, or have poor study design.

Sure they're misused; but they're still relevant as a first-level analysis. If the results are promising, more studies can be justified. No one is claiming that humans and rats have more than the most minor physiological similarity.

But just because 'most studies' into EMF radiation at this frequency are not convincing, does not mean that they all are not. Those poorly conducted studies should be ignored, not used as mud thrown onto good studies.

I thought this one was interesting. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376454/

I don't think rats that are highly prone to getting cancer for reasons that are specific to that rat subspecies' biology means they're relevant as a first-level analysis.

As for ignoring poor studies: that's the first and best thing you should do, because otherwise, you'll spend a bunch of time trying to hypothesize your way out of a morass of contradictory, confusing, and ambiguous data.

Let's not confuse absence of evidence with evidence of absence.

My proposal, whatever maximum dosage regulators approve, they will get a tower installed next to their house that exposes them to that dosage. Align the incentives.

that sounds petulant.

that sounds ad-hominem

> That they make bogus claims like: "RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment."

Ever had an RF burn from an antenna? I have. It can definitely be harmful.

This is much less convincing than a peer reviewed article would be. This is basically a list of concerned people.

Those people would be the ones doing the peer review of such a paper. If you want research literature, you can just click the links. Some of them are pointing to papers. Other to lists of scientists which you can then look up and read their works.

A list of concerned people who area also engineers, scientists, and understand the field. And why shouldn't we demand that a new technology that affects large blanket areas populated by millions of humans be proven safe before it is deployed?

>A list of concerned people who area also engineers, scientists, and understand the field.

This is false. Just look at the list. It's full of homeopaths, electrosensitive people, 'independent researchers', people totally outside their fields, retirees, or people with degree but no research records in the field.

As a Finn I looked at people from Finland in the list. All cranks.

I was curious, and did a google scholar search on the Finland folks. Didn't see anything to back up your claim. Just people who have expertise in related fields. Care to elaborate?

Each of them are proponents of the Electromagnetic hypersensitivity theory. EHS has no scientific basis. It's either imaginary illness or not related to EM radiation.

Prof. Osmo Hänninen has solid science background. After his retirement he has become a pseudo science crackpot. He supervised Dowsing PhD thesis in University of Oulu called "SPONTANEOUS MOVEMENTS OF HANDS IN GRADIENTS OF WEAK VHF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS". It caused a scandal and the PhD thesis was rejected as pseudoscience. http://jultika.oulu.fi/files/isbn9789514297601.pdf

Excuse my ignorance; You used quotation marks around independent researcher. Is that because these are “regular” people who are doing research outside their expertise?

I’ve always thought that an independent researcher was someone who studied within their field just had no monetary backing. Ex: a person with a PhD in X that does research on a subset of X, in their free time.

your understanding is roughly correct.

I met an independent researcher (Bob Edgar) who had sold his company to Intel and was bored. He started to attend seminars at Berkeley to find people who wanted his help, met a few folks, and ended up being one of the top people in the field of protein sequence alignment. At first, my advisor helped him by giving him an arbitrary appointment at Berkeley because otherwise journals wouldnt accept his papers because he was "independent". Eventually he reached the point where he could publish with his email address as affiliation (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15034147). Of course, these days, he'd just publish to biorxiv and put the code in github.

Thank you for the explanation.

Reading his CV (http://www.drive5.com/papers/resume.html), it seems that even though he is a peer reviewed "Computational Biologist", his PhD is in Theoretical High-Energy Physics, who became a systems developer.

Isn't your point some sort of ad hominem?

It is, but ad hominem arguments are not always fallacious; in fact, they're probably valid as often as they're not. A list of experts vouching, with their credentials, for a concern is about as far from "fallacious" a setting you can get for an ad hominem argument.

What 5G wavelength? Last I remember it can be operated in several different frequency bands ie 700 MHz to 5 GHz.

Using the generic title "scientists" instead of a more specific demonym belies a lack of authorial credibility.

Health "science" is rarely either.

It's useful to have some background on where the existing regulations came from when thinking about these things. There is quite a pile of inconclusive research on the medical effects of microwave exposure, and as such none of it could be used for a scientific approach to regulation. At the end of the day, a limit needs to be selected.

Instead, IIUC, what happened was the regulators took existing finding on the "work stoppage limit" for mice/rats (in watts/kg, this is where bad things start happening like significant temperature rise and no longer moving), made it 10x lower for occupational exposure, and then made it 5x lower again for the general public. In the face of uncertainty regarding non-thermal effects, the current regulations adopted an "innocent until proven guilty" style approach because any nonthermal effects had not (and to my knowledge, have not) been demonstrated consistently.

It seems reasonable to me that certain people would prefer a precautionary approach.

https://www.icnirp.org/cms/upload/publications/ICNIRPemfgdl.... (I'm aware this organization is criticized in the posted article. Nevertheless, it's guidance is widely used by regulatory bodies.)

In the sign list, for France : Dominique Belpomme is known for fake science bias, as Marc Arazi. https://www.sciencesetavenir.fr/sante/e-sante/electrosensibi...

For the unfamiliar, this current of concern is on the conspiratorial thinking side, and these people are in the minority of scientists familiar with the issue. For a skeptical counterpoint, here are a bunch of related articles from the Science Based Medicine folks: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/tag/cell-phones/

> this current of concern is on the conspiratorial thinking side

I wish that it could be possible to address the questions of science directly, without mudslinging. It's a simple question of what the effect of EMF radiation is on the environment and the human body, and the risk we run to our detriment if the questions are ignored.

> these people are in the minority of scientists

That is not a problem in science. Science isn't a democracy, it's a fact-finding expedition. Who cares if only a few people got it right? The point is to figure out if they did, and to keep a humble mindset just in case.

The questions have been addressed, to the satisfaction of most scientists and medical researchers. When a particular group of scientists refuse to engage with the preponderance of evidence in a good-faith manner, I think we have to point out that is the case.


I mean this sincerely. Is there actually any polling of the scientific community on this issue, or on what basis are you saying this?

[Let's also not include non-researching medical community as data-points]

FWIK 5G is going to use mostly the spectrum bands freed by the move from analog to digital TV, or at least that's what I've read briefly on the argument, so there's something that I'm missing that makes phones more dangerous than TVs?

Well other than having more cell towers than TV repeaters...

Probably that your device must send too.

Yeah that too, but I was wondering how different could be than current 3G/4G devices to be considered harmful...

almost all of their sources are from these papers http://www.bioinitiative.org/research-summaries/

The article is incredibly disingenuous.

The first paragraph is the typical goalpost of proving a negative. This is a common tactic of scare groups opposed to something. See also vaccine denialism demanding that it be proven that it is safe in all cases.

The second paragraph is just false and belays that they either do not have a technical understanding of the 5G framework or they are being intentionally misleading about it.

The third paragraph intentionally conflates 5G and IoT which are only tangentially related.

They spend a few paragraphs attacking researchers who published results contradicting theirs, but never address the methodology. They claim that anyone who has worked in or with either industry or the standards board cannot be trusted.

Finally, we look at the adverse health effects that they claim are caused by EMF. Brain cancer, heart cancer, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, negative impacts on general well-being in humans, Alzheimer's disease, male infertility, Common Electromagnetic hypersensitivity, headaches, concentration difficulties, sleep problems, depression, lack of energy, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms.

Shouldn't cancer rates among humans increase drastically in the 21st century since we shower the entirety of the US in 2G/3G/4G? Cancer statistics year over year show a steady decline of new cases even with population growth increasing, I assume this would be different with the hysteria this paper is claiming.

Actually, there are increasing rates of cancer diagnoses, and even population wide increases in cancer deaths. However, the individual likelihood of cancer death is lower than ever before.

https://ourworldindata.org/cancer https://www.medicaldaily.com/cancer-trends-2017-why-are-canc...

this is rigth on. if you get number of cancer deaths, then normalize the improvement of health overal, improvement in treatment efficiency, reduction of sun exposure, you will probably get a very step line increase wich will very likely correlate, or not, with new radiation emissions.

I don't believe they are this is from a study in 2015 written from Quora post in respects to a UK study.

I should have linked the US Nation Cancer Institute numbers


As you can see from the graph and numbers this is respects to year over year analysis from 1980's, so I differ they are not growing. Worldwide my opinion is the prognosis has been getting more accurate and with pre screenings are ability to detect cancer is better then ever.

> 5G technology is effective only over short distance

This is not really true. Yes, the signal range is reduced at higher frequencies used by 5G (>5 GHz), but this is mitigated by using beam-forming to concentrate output power where it's needed. This means that with same output power you get very similar range on high frequencies compared to low frequencies without beam forming.

There will be increased number of cells due to smart vehicles and IoT, not due to 5G technology.

I don't know anything about health effects, though. I belive mmWave won't be built into mobile phones for some time, it's currently needed for high-bandwidth connections towards buildings, vehicles and portable hotspots.

Beam forming doesn't help it penetrate foliage or even humid air.

That all depends on the frequency used.

I would be really skeptical of this; people have argued for decades that mobile phone levels of radiation are harmful, with no real evidence.

This paper from a separate comment has an overview of the research on the demonstrated or suspected effects of current and 5G wavelengths:


I'm not savvy enough in the related biological fields to comment on the soundness of the research and the results, but FWIW there were a few claims made about millimeter wavelengths (to be used by 5G) that gave me pause.

Submission statement: I have just submitted the pdf because it was interesting and I was concerned. I do not support or oppose it.

Petitions are not science.

Here's[1] a recent article that supports the OP's point-of-view.

Interestingly, Environmental Research "publishes original reports describing studies of the adverse effects of environmental agents on humans and animals," which seems to exclude any research to the contrary.

[1]: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.016

If it's not ionizing radiation, near the excitation frequency of water, or extremely high power - it's total B.S.

Related discussion on HN yesterday about Mill Valley banning 5G: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17956130

As far as my understanding of physics goes, if an EMF is not powerful enough to cause acute physical pain, then it isn't powerful enough to do any damage. The same as sitting next to a campfire.

Is that mistaken?

Note your argument could apply to radium radiation - painting my entire hand with radium-based paint each day would not cause me to feel acute physical pain... until a few months to a year later, when the bones in my hand would disintegrate.

I like how they list these people and their degrees as if a degree is a "Certificate of Sanity"

I'd posit that the stressor hormones released when worrying about the effects of cell phones cause more damage to your body than the small amounts of electromagnetic radiation that are given off.

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