5G High Speed – Radiation for The Nation?

Bel Jacobs & Tia Grazette investigate the controversy surrounding 5G wireless technology, being trialled this weekend at Glastonbury Festival, as a new campaign against ‘Radiation for the Nation’ is launched.

This weekend, festival goers at Glastonbury will be enjoying four days of fun, music and festivities – as well as hitherto undreamed of connection speeds. What they may not realise, however, is the controversy behind the new tech. Earlier this year, the West of England Combined Authority secured £5 million to trial a super fast 5G network in Bristol, Bath – and Glastonbury Festival.

Local residents are up in arms, with one scientist Christopher Baker speaking passionately to Glastonbury Town Council about the potentially “debilitating” effects of 5G. Baker, an electromagnetic field consultant, argued that 5G has been developed without “adequate testing of the long term effects” on human health and urged councillors to “halt the installation of 5G” until the technology has been evaluated. “I care about the Glastonbury community, especially the young generation who are at a greater risk,” he said. He’s not alone. Last July, the Belgium government cancelled an agreement with telecom operators to relax strict radiation standards in Brussels – a necessary precursor to 5G. “I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not,” Environment minister Céline Fremault said. “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit.” 

An appeal launched by Santa Fe-based consultant and lecturer on electromagnetic radiation Arthur Firstenberg to halt the deployment of the 5G network has reached over 100,000 signatories including scientists, doctors and environmental organisations. They are now calling on the UN, WHO, EU, Council of Europe and governments to halt 5G.

Their argument? Human health, pure and simple. The fifth-generation wireless network (5G) has been billed as instant access to super high speed, wireless communications from any point in the planet – but naysayers are raising all kinds of red flags. “Despite widespread denial, the evidence that radio frequency (RF) radiation is harmful to life is overwhelming. 

“The accumulated clinical evidence of sick and injured human beings, experimental evidence of damage to DNA, cells and organ systems in a wide variety of plants and animals, and epidemiological evidence that the major diseases of modern civilisation – cancer, heart disease and diabetes – are in large part caused by electromagnetic pollution, forms a literature base of well over 10,000 peer-reviewed studies.”

And it’s not just human health at risk. In order to operate effectively, 5G requires grid systems of radio frequency transmitters that encompass “millions of new 5G base stations on Earth and 20,000 new satellites in space [and] 200 billion transmitting objects.” That’s a lot of RF radiation being passed invisibly back and forth, with unquantified effects.

The petition continues: “If the telecommunications industry’s plans for 5G come to fruition, no person, no animal, no bird, no insect and no plant on Earth will be able to avoid exposure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to levels of RF radiation that are tens to hundreds of times greater than what exists today.” 

It was in 2015 that 215 scientists from 41 countries first communicated their alarm to the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO). Nonetheless, very little independent testing has been conducted – except for one controversial incident in the The Hague, in which hundreds of birds dropped dead near a new 5G mast.

Not everyone is worried though. “5G Hysteria is Coming” says one article on Australian news network ABC. Bird-killing, cancer-causing 5G is the internet’s new favourite conspiracy theory, says another in Wired. Fears around RF radiation have been around since the 1980s, they say, but that, while the number of mobile phone users increased by 500% between the 1990s and 2016, the number of brain tumour diagnoses in that period only went up by 34%, due to better detection and reporting. Tricky.

The answer for concerned consumers is to read the headlines – and then dig deeper to discover their provenances. Dr Frank DeVocht advises the government on mobile phone safety. While he doesn’t think it’s likely that 5G is dangerous, he says: “If discussions are not settled on this, then there may be increased cancer risk from current mobile networks. The 5G will come on top of that and has a higher frequency so will increase people’s exposure.”

The debate rages on. But as Livia Firth points out: “Let’s not find ourselves in 10-20 years time wishing we had listened to all the experts and insurmountable evidence and instead halt the rollout of 5G and conduct proper health & safety checks to understand whether the 5G technology is safe before we take away the public’s right to govern their own health. It is astonishing that social justice is always an after thought.”

With all this in mind, a number of artists, actors and musicians including Jaime Winstone, Tia Grazette, Too Many Ts, Aruba Red, Hobbit (Beatbox Collective), Paul Richards (Save The SouthBank) have come together to form an awareness campaign using the hashtags #radiationforthenation? and #bury5Gglasto in order to highlight the many issues and questions wireless technology and, in particular, 5G are facing. Too Many Ts and Hobbit have launched the campaign with a new rap called ‘Radiation for the Nation’ which questions the onslaught of 5G and wireless technology. The campaign will continue throughout and after Glastonbury.

Heading to Glastonbury? Read our festival essentials guide for partying without plastic.