Will you grow an extra ear from too much Snapchatting?

This week Telecoms.com has 16 year-old Shannon O’Connor joining the team for work experience, and today she looks at the potential for damage of radio frequency radiation on society. Here are her thoughts.

Telecommunications has been evolving significantly in recent years. With an increased pressure for increased connectivity in major cities, many people in the suburbs and poverty stricken areas are at risk of being left behind. However, it can said that the major issue surrounding wifi, and wireless on the whole, progress is the lack of care being taken to support the healthcare of society’s vulnerable.

The US National Toxicology Program tested on lab rats and mice to find what affects radio frequency (RF) energy used in cell phones could have on individuals in the long term. The lab animals were exposed for approximately to 2G and 3G frequencies nine hours a day, starting before birth and continuing for up to two years on large groups of rats and mice.

A draft of the final results was published in February 2018. It showed that an increased risk of ‘malignant schwannomas’ (rare heart tumours) was found in the male rats open to RF radiation. Interestingly, the majority of exposed male rats lived longer than rats who were not open to RF radiation. While these are shocking results, the two conflicting statements call the validity of the research into question. What results like these could mean for people is questionable, but there clearly is an impact on the health of living organisms.

When speaking to Tiago Rodrigues, (General Manager) from the Wireless Broadband Alliance earlier this week, questions began to arise from the innovations suggested by the company in exposing a larger amount of people to wifi radiation signals. He began to explain the larger concept of the company’s work but failed to mention the safety checks carried out.

In response to questions regarding the impact of RF radiation on people, Rodrigues stated the organization had not done any specific research and was not on the charter of the Alliance. On a personal note, he suggested that the industry needed some common level of agreement on assessing the radiation impacts. A concise and collaborative approach needed to be taken as there were no consistency in the way results were actually developed.

It has become apparent through speaking to Rodrigues and taking up further research into this matter that someone needs to take the lead and a conclusive decision needs to be made in standardizing how to measure the health risks attached to radiation from our networking devices.

While there does seem to be some concerns regarding the health impact today, with 5G on the horizon, the number of cell towers is certainly going to increase. In Germany for example, Deutsche Telekom’s CFO Thomas Dannenfeldt has suggested the number of towers could increase to 50,000 from 28,000 today. And this is just DT’s towers, what about the other German companies?

There is an increased need for answers, perhaps something which the World Health Organisation, European Commission or the United Nations could kick start? These conclusive tests could finally provide an explanation as to how this may impact those in the future such as myself.