From 7 May, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) began accepting views from Singaporeans as part of its second feedback round on the implementation of fifth-generation (5G) network.
Upon gathering the results from the public consultation exercise which ended last Tuesday, it was revealed that the public is concerned about the health impact of 5G mobile networks, with some urging the Government to scrap the move completely or postpone it temporarily until more extensive tests are done.
However, IMDA said that the ambient level of radiofrequency radiation in the Republic is “very low”. In fact, it mentioned that it is below international guidelines.
IMDA added that even the World Health Organisation has noted that “no convincing scientific evidence of adverse health effects from very low radiofrequency exposures to populations or individuals”.
Public’s health concerns
Based on responses received from IMDA’s latest public consultation exercise, Singaporeans have repeatedly urged the authorities to hold their 5G plans until in-depth tests are done as they felt that “they are not enough studies yet to suggest it’s safe”.
Some said that they were “concerned citizens and not experts in the field”, while others requested the Government to consider recommendations raised by over 200 scientists who appealed to the United Nations (UN), World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Environment Programme and UN member states to safeguard humans from non-ionising electromagnetic radiation.
A number of respondents also called for Singapore to scrap the idea altogether, citing that they were “concerned about the potential danger of 5G to the youngest generations – young children”.
This is because there are worries that the exposure to electromagnetic radiation could harm one’s health as the signals that depends on radio waves, which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, support 5G network.
However, the Government suggested that for a start they will station at least two nationwide 5G network from 2020.
The IMDA published the views, which consist of people from mobile network operators, industry associations, and network and equipment vendors on its website on Monday (15 July).
In its feedback, IMDA explained that the ambient level of radiofrequency radiation in the country is “very low”, which is “typically below 0.7 per cent of…International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines”.
The ICNIRP is an independent international organisation that comes up with scientific advice and guidance on the health and environmental effects of non-ionising radiation.
In case you don’t know, the radiation emitted by mobile networks is non-ionising. This means that although it is not powerful enough to destroy human DNA, overexposing yourself to it may cause tissue damage, though this is uncommon.
“With 5G services, Singapore will continue to take guidance from ICNIRP. IMDA and the National Environment Agency will continue to closely monitor developments and consult health experts, as appropriate,” IMDA said.
Warning from international scientists
Echoing the same concerns as Singaporeans, more than 200 scientists and doctors from 36 countries have also appealed to the European Union, highlighting the danger of 5G, which they say will result to a massive increase in involuntary exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
In their 5G Appeal, the scientists want the EU to adhere to the Resolution 1818 of the Council of Europe, calling for an independent task force to re-look at the health effects.
“We, the undersigned scientists, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. 5G will substantially increase exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on top of the 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi etc. for telecommunications already in place. RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment,” said scientists in the appeal.
It appears that the expansion of the 5G network, which aims to enable faster wireless transmission of larger amounts of data, requires the installation of more antennas in the cities.
As such, the scientists argue that “there is no longer anyone escaping the potentially harmful effects of radiation. After all, we are already exposed to 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi radiation”.
The scientists also mentioned that “numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines”.
Some of the effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, genetic damages, changes in the reproductive system, increase in harmful free radicals, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, as well as negative impacts on the general well-being in humans.
In fact, it goes beyond just humans as “there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plants and animals”.
In Singapore, the health concerns were raised following Brussels’ decision in April to stop its 5G plans due to health fears. In the same month, Switzerland also noted that it would introduce a monitoring system to calm public concerns over 5G mobile frequency emissions.
Besides that, protests and petitions against 5G networks have also been seen in countries like the Netherlands, Rome, Germany, New Zealand and the United States.