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Case study 1: 5G and ARPANSA

During the 2019–2020 financial year, ARPANSA experienced an increase in contact and enquiries from members of the public on the topic of the fifth generation of the mobile telecommunications network – known as 5G.

As part of ARPANSA’s role in radiation protection, the Agency maintains the electromagnetic energy (EME) safety standard, which establishes exposure limits for all frequencies of radiofrequency (RF) EME including those used by 5G. The safety standard is based on scientific evidence, aligns with guidelines set by the International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and provides protection for people of all ages and health status from all known health impacts of RF EME.

Public enquiries on the topic of 5G dominated engagement on ARPANSA’s social media channels and Talk to a Scientist (TTAS) program, and the topic was a common theme of media enquiries and ministerial correspondence.

During February-March 2020, ARPANSA posted a series of six informational posts on 5G on the ARPANSA Facebook page. This small campaign, entitled ‘Get the Facts on 5G’ was prepared in response to key themes and questions raised by members of the public, some of whom were concerned about possible health impacts of EME from mobile phones and associated infrastructure. The posts reached an audience of more than 35 900 people and attracted more than 7800 engagements.

ARPANSA’s TTAS program provides a unique opportunity for members of the public to connect with scientists from ARPANSA to ask questions about radiation. TTAS is available by phone or email with the exception that phone access was unavailable for the later part of this year (from 23 March 2020) due to the change in operations in response to COVID-19. During 2019–2020, the program fielded 996 email enquiries – double the number of emails received last year – and 479 phone calls.

During the period March to June 2020, the TTAS team fielded a number of questions relating to theories around a connection between COVID-19 and 5G. There is absolutely no evidence of any connection between viral transmission and EME and, in fact, no substantiated evidence of any health impacts from EME at the low levels from wireless telecommunications, including 5G.

In late 2019, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts commenced a Parliamentary inquiry into 5G mobile network technology. This inquiry, along with activities among groups of concerned citizens, led to an increase in ministerial correspondence on the topic of 5G. ARPANSA’s submission to the inquiry can be viewed at: https://www.arpansa.gov.au/news/arpansa-contributes-5g-inquiry.

The final report, The Next Gen Future, can be viewed at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Communications/5G/Report