The 5th generation (5G): Attitude of organizations and states worldwide towards the health risk

The next generation of cellular communications, the fifth generation (5G), has been set by many countries, including Israel, as a destination for advancing and implementing technology. The 5G technology has numerous advantages; on the other hand, it raises concern about the health implications of using this technology. This concern is caused, among other things, by use of frequencies higher than those currently used (the millimeter wave range) and by increase in overall radio frequency exposure.



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Below is an overview of the attitudes of international organizations and states to health risk in the implementation of 5G cellular technology:


Attitudes of international organizations

The World Health Organization

Questions and Answers published in February 2020 state that the fifth generation technology would expand the use of frequencies to higher frequencies than those currently used, to approximately 3.5 GHz to tens of GHz (including the millimeter wave range). These frequencies are new to cellular networks, but have already been used for other applications, such as point-to-point microwave communications (microwave arteries) and human body scanners for security use (such as at the airport). At these high frequencies, the 5th generation cellular network will make use of a greater number of cellular sites and will allow more devices to be linked to it ("users" such as cell phones, tablets and laptops). In addition, "beam -forming" antennas will be used.


As for the expected exposure levels, the World Health Organization points out that, as of today, the exposure levels expected from the fifth generation networks with frequency about 3.5 GHz will be similar to those from existing mobile phone base stations. Using multiple beams technology (creating radiation beams aimed at the user for effective operation), the exposure may have greater variability as a function of the user's location and manner of use. Given that the 5G technology is at its early stage of deployment, the extent of change in the overall exposure to radio frequency fields and microwave (RF) exposure is still under Investigation.


Regarding the possible health risk from the 5th generation, the WHO's position is that no adverse effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technology to date. The health-related conclusions are drawn from the studies of non-ionizing radiation at radio frequencies, but so far only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by the fifth cellular generation.

Body tissue heating is the main mechanism of interaction between non-ionizing radiation and the human body. Exposure levels from current technologies result in a negligible increase of body temperature. As the frequency increases, there is less penetration to the body tissues, and energy absorption becomes more confined to the surface of the body (skin and eyes).

Assuming that general exposure levels remain below international exposure limits, public health implications are not expected.

The World Health Organization takes various actions in respect of health implications from the 5th generation:

  • WHO leads an assessment of health risks from non-ionizing radiation in all radio frequencies, including 5G frequencies, which will be published by 2022.
  • WHO will review scientific evidence related to potential health risks from 5G as more public health related data become available.
  • In 1996, WHO established the Project of Protection from Electromagnetic Fields (EMF Project). The project investigates the health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields in the 0-300 GHz frequency range and advises national authorities on the protection from non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation.
  • WHO supports further research on long-term health effects of cellular communication in all aspects. The organization identifies and promotes research priorities. In addition, the organization develops public information materials and promotes the dialogue between scientists, governments and the public, to increase understanding of health and mobile communication issues.


International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, ICNIRP

In March 2020, the International Commission on Radiation Protection updated its guidelines for protection from radiation in radio frequencies, including millimeter waves and current and future cellular frequencies and including the fifth cellular generation. The updated guidelines bring about scientific updates in exposure limits, especially in the high frequencies and the fifth generation technologies. The limitations are based on scientific updates and up-to-date physical models that provide a more accurate estimate of environmental exposure on the human body. In particular, they address the systems closest to the human body and short-pulse transmission (including thermal effects), especially for modern technologies that will use pulse transmission (such as the fifth cellular generation).

The International Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has made it clear that in setting its latest radiation exposure limits it has examined all possible health effects, including non-thermal effects. Nevertheless, recommendations in respect of exposure limitations relate to health effects, which, according to ICNIRP's position, are based negative health effects, mainly thermal effects and neural excitation. ICNIRP's position is that exposure limits (thresholds) can only be established when there is well-based and solid scientific knowledge in regard of these effects. Therefore, no separate thresholds for long-term non-thermal effects have been established.


The European Parliament (2/2020)

The European Parliament's attitude is that new digital technologies need to be implemented, but at the same time any possible negative impact must be considered, and as long as the technology is not tested, caution is needed. Implementing the 5th generation will use millimeter waves in addition to the frequencies used in previous generations. Closer antennas which will also need to be installed will increase the number of antennae and provide permanent exposure to the millimeter waves. New technologies such as beam forming will also be needed.


Is there any health risk?

While radio frequency radiation does not present a risk, for the 5th generation network, the study at this time does not indicate the level of exposure expected from implementation of the 5th generation network. Therefore, more research on the expected exposure is needed, as well as study cooperation between various research specialists, especially between doctors, engineers and physicists.

According to study conducted in 2019 (5G Deployment: State of play in Europe, USA and Asia) upon request of the European parliament, long-term research is needed on the 5G technology. The main problem with this study is that it is currently impossible to accurately estimate or measure the actual level of exposure.

The European Commission is not yet conducting research on the potential health risks of 5th generation technology.




Attitude of some countries to the health risk of implementing 5G technology

In a survey we conducted in several countries in the world (mainly governmental authorities for radiation protection) on the health risk of implementing the 5G technology, the attitude prevailing today is:

  • According to existing scientific knowledge, there is no evidence of human health implications of radio frequencies used in the 5G technology.
  • The fifth generation will operate at frequencies of current generations, as well as at frequencies 10 times and more higher, most of which belong to the millimeter wave field. Radiation at these frequencies has a relatively small depth of penetration to the human body (the penetration is mainly to the skin tissues). In some countries, these high frequencies are already used, for example, in airport inspection posts.
  • Further research on the health risk issue is needed, as well as laboratory and epidemiological studies (due to low population exposures at these frequencies).
  • Monitoring of expected exposure to radiation near the fifth generation sites is required, as well as of the expected exposure from devices that will support the fifth cellular generation (including cell phones, tablets, laptops, Internet of Things components, and more).
  • The existing ICNIRP exposure limits also cover the range of frequencies used in the 5th generation. There may be a slight increase in overall radio and microwave exposure, but overall exposure levels should still be much lower than the exposure limits.
  • Netherlands has noted that it is impossible to estimate degree of exposure change as opposed to the existing limitations.
  • Switzerland. Exposure limits are stricter than in the most European countries, including Israel (the installation limits). These limitations constitute a barrier to rapid and high-quality deployment of the 5th generation. In addition, the millimeter wave frequencies are not yet approved for use in Switzerland.


In details:


New Zealand



The Great Britain








  • The World Health Organization
  • European Parliament, Effects of 5G wireless communications on human health (2/2020)
  • New Zealand: Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, 5G in Aotearoa New Zealand (12/2019)
  • The Great Britain: Public Health England, 5G technologies: radio waves and health (10/2019)
  • Australia: ARPANSA- 5G: the new generation of the mobile phone network and health (3/2019), House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the ArtsInquiry into the deployment, adoption and application of 5G in Australia (11/2019)
  • Ireland: Environmental Protection Agency, 5G & Health
  • European Commission
  • NTP
  • Germany: website of Federal Radiation Protection Office (BFS)
  • Switzerland: Working Group Report on Cellular Communications and Radiation (18.11.19)
  • Canada: Government of Canada, Radiofrequency Energy and Safety Government of Canada, Radiofrequency Energy and Safety
  • Netherlands: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (01/2020)
  • Germany: BFS - Federal Radiation Protection Office (3/2019)


Updated: 1.6.2020