On September 2, 2020, the Health Council of the Netherlands has published opinion on 5G and health. The opinion is being translated to English and will be available in this language in October 2020. Right now, only the executive summary of the opinion is available in English.
This opinion of the Netherlands’ Health Council is significant for its membership overlap with ICNIRP:
- It is first opinion on 5G and health published after the ICNIRP published its updated safety guidelines for EMF exposures.
- The chair of the ICNIRP during the preparation of the 2020 guidelines was Eric van Rongen who is also listed as one of the two secretaries of the Netherlands’ committee on EMF (highlighted red)
- Another member of ICNIRP, Anke Huss, is also member of the Netherlands’ committee on EMF (highlighted red)
- As an invited expert, the Netherlands’ committee on EMF invited Zenon Sienkiewicz who was member of ICNIRP during the preparation of the ICNIRP 2020 guidelines (highlighted red)
- Of interest is that during the preparation of the opinion the committee had continuously observer from the The Dutch ‘Agentschap Telecom’ that is part of the Ministry of Economical Affairs and Climate. (highlighted blue)
This is the Composition of the Electromagnetic Fields Committee of the Netherlands’ Health Council for the advice 5G and health:
- H. Kromhout, Professor of Epidemiology of Health Effects from Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields Exposure, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, University of Utrecht, chairperson
- A. Aleman, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, University of Groningen
- A. Huss, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, University of Utrecht
- S. Le Cessie, Statistician, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Department of Medical Statistics, Leiden University Medical Center
- R.M.C. Mestrom, assistant professor, Eindhoven University of Technology
- M.M. Paulides, assistant professor, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam
- H.F.J. Savelkoul, Professor of Cell Biology and Immunology, Wageningen University
- R. van Strien, Epidemiologist, Municipal Health Services, Amsterdam
- G. Kelfkens, Physicist, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, structurally consulted expert
Occasionally consulted expert:
- Z. Sienkiewicz, Oxford
- M.J.M. Pruppers, Physicist, Knowledge Platform Electromagnetic Fields, Bilthoven
- J. Robijns, Agency Telecom, Groningen (observer till July 1, 2020)
- J.P.M. van Assche, Agency Telecom, Groningen (observer after July 1, 2020)
- E. van Rongen, Health Council, The Hague
- H.F.G. van Dijk, Health Council, The Hague
Selection of quotes from the Executive Summary of the opinion of the Health Council of the Netherlands [bold or color emphasis added DL]:
- “…The rollout of 5G networks has only just begun. Therefore, there are no studies as yet into the health effects of (long-term) exposure to electromagnetic fields with the frequencies that are reserved for 5G…”
- “…As yet, the committee is unable to answer the question of whether exposure to 5G frequencies actually poses risks to human health. There are two reasons for that. The first is that such a statement requires knowledge of the level of exposure that can cause health damage to humans. That requires a more detailed analysis of the scientific data than the committee was able to carry out. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently performing such an analysis and it is anticipated that it will be completed in 2022. Secondly, it requires knowledge of what the actual exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields will be after the introduction of 5G. That is not yet known, because the use of 5G, as stated earlier, has only partially started…”
- “…Therefore, the committee has investigated whether there are indications that electromagnetic fields with the frequencies of 5G have the potential to harm health…”
- “…According to the committee, it cannot be excluded that the incidence of cancer, reduced male fertility, poor pregnancy outcomes and birth defects could be associated with exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. However, the committee deems the relationship between exposure and these and other diseases or conditions neither proven nor probable…”
- “…It is probable that changes in electrical activity in the brain are associated with exposure, but it is not known whether that is favourable or unfavourable in health terms…”
- “…For the majority of other biological processes it has neither been demonstrated nor is it probable that changes in them are associated with exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, although this cannot be excluded…”
- “…Only for changes in the immune system and hormone levels, no relationship was found…”
- “…There has been almost no research into the effects of exposure to frequencies around 26 GHz…”
- “…The committee recommends not using the 26 GHz frequency band for 5G for as long as the potential health risks have not been investigated…”
and finally (a trade off with ICNIRP?)…
- “…the committee recommends using the latest guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) as the basis for exposure policy in the Netherlands. Because it cannot be excluded that exposure under the latest ICNIRP standards also has the potential to affect health, the committee recommends taking a cautious approach and keeping exposures as low as reasonably achievable.
The quotes from the Executive Summary clearly show the dilemma of the committee. On one hand the committee claims some things that are in line with ICNIRP opinions but, on the other hand it admits that has not enough evidence to exclude that effects might be happening:
- it cannot exclude possibility of certain health effects but, in the same sentence claims the opposite that the health effects are neither proven nor possible
- effects on electrical activity of brain are probable but it is not known if they are health risk
- majority of biological processes effects were not demonstrated are not probable but these effects cannot be excluded
- the committee unequivocally stated that there is nearly no research on spectrum close to mm-waves that will be in the first place used by 5G networks (26 GHz)
- in the final conclusion the committee recommends use of ICNIRP 2020 guidelines but, at the same cautions that using ICNIRP 2020 guidelines might be associated with some health risk and that the exposures should be as low as possible – this in practice means recommendation for ALARA principle.
ICNIRP was more confident and more blunt when in the 2020 guidelines it stated that the general public, no matter how old or how young, how sick or how healthy, will be protected by the ICNIRP 2020 guidelines. ICNIRP is really confident and forceful in their opinion, leaving no room for any doubt or suspicion…:
- “…The general public is defined as individuals of all ages and of differing health statuses, which includes more vulnerable groups or individuals…”
- “…The only substantiated adverse health effects caused by exposure to radiofrequency EMFs are nerve stimulation, changes in the permeability of cell membranes, and effects due to temperature elevation. There is no evidence of adverse health effects at exposure levels below the restriction levels in the ICNIRP (1998) guidelines and no evidence of an interaction mechanism that would predict that adverse health effects could occur due to radiofrequency EMF exposure below those restriction levels.…”
The discrepancy between opinions expressed by ICNIRP and by the Health Council of the Netherlands is not surprising, even though there is some membership overlap between both groups.
ICNIRP is a ‘private club’ where new members are selected by the ICNIRP membership and only scientists with the same opinions as the current ICNIRP membership has, are admitted to join. This is not the case for the Health Council of the Netherlands, where membership is decided elsewhere, and not by the members of the committee themselves.
This suggests that in the committee formed by the Health Council of the Netherlands are scientists with diverging opinions, not only ICNIRP opinions, and the final outcome of the debate is some scientific compromise.
This real scientific debate is not happening in ICNIRP where all members are selected to have the same opinion and the consensus is… given, and not an outcome of the real scientific debate.
How it is possible that the same members of ICNIRP and of the Health Council of the Netherlands vouch for quite differing opinions on EMF exposures and health?