January 27, 2020 at 8:08 p.m.
The National Agency for Health Security (ANSES) noted Monday a lack of scientific data on the health effects of exposure to certain frequencies of electromagnetic waves, in a preliminary report on the impact of 5G which should begin to be deployed soon. Enabling the transmission of very large amounts of data much faster than current mobile telephony, 5G promises the development of futuristic technologies, autonomous cars, remote surgery, automated factories and connected objects. But it also raises many concerns related to its potential health or environmental impact, which have led NGOs to announce a legal action to request the cancellation of the call for candidates launched in December for the allocation of frequencies. “These technological developments will modify the methods of exposure of the population, and will require adapting the methods of measurement and evaluation”, said ANSES Monday, in a report which identifies two “fields of expertise” in deepen.
The first concerns radio frequencies around 3.5 gigaHertz (first auctioned before marketing begins this summer) for which the agency “has highlighted a lack of scientific data on potential biological and health effects”. ANSES should therefore try to “extrapolate” the results of previous expert reports on other frequencies. The second concerns higher frequencies, called “millimeter”, which will be used later and for which the data are “more”. “Today, nobody is able to predict with certainty how many people and when will use these 5G networks,” commented Olivier Merckel, expert at ANSES. “We can still establish scenarios (…) to give indications in terms of exposure and potentially in terms of risk”, he explained to AFP, noting that it was necessary to have the the most precise information possible from operators. Today there are exposure limit values for all frequencies, he said. But if the analysis whose publication is planned for the first quarter of 2021 should highlight “particularly worrying effects” for certain frequencies, the Agency could possibly recommend a modification of the thresholds, he said.
ANSES must also soon launch another assessment of all the other potential health impacts of this technology that promises a hyperconnected society. This could range from physiological effects (musculoskeletal disorders linked to less physical activity), to cognitive and developmental effects (impact of screens on children’s learning) or even psychosocial (relationships with others). “We think about which population we will be interested in first, workers, children, adolescents, adults, etc.,” said Merckel, noting that given the magnitude of the task, everything could not be dealt with in parallel.