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On September 14, 2016, the European Commission launched its strategic plan for the deployment of fifth generation (5G) mobile telecommunications infrastructure and networks. The ambition was, thanks to a partnership between the Commission, Member States and industry, to make 5G operational in Europe by 2020 at the latest.

The timetable seems to have loosened up a bit in the meantime as, again according to the Commission, every country will have to have at least one city covered by 5G by 2020. In Belgium, the Brussels Region wants to be the best in the class. The Brussels government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the three mobile operators to establish a 5G network in a timely manner. Small problem: these same operators require that the exposure limits to electromagnetic waves be raised to allow the new network to operate. But what purpose can this new telecommunications network serve, when the current network (4G) is not yet fully present? The explanation is simple. The vision of the future widely shared by the European technocracy and industrial lobbies, and endorsed by a dazzled political class, demands that everything be done to promote the technological surge that guarantees economic growth.

In this case, it is to generalize the Internet of Things, to commercialize the autonomous car and to promote the permanent use of artificial intelligence. All this implies a quantitative and qualitative leap (given the new types of usage) in mobile telecommunications, hence 5G. Because 5G should allow speeds of 10 Gbits per second and a greatly reduced connection time. This last asset is essential for many connected objects, especially for autonomous cars. What is not mentioned at all is that this implies a greatly increased exposure to radio frequency radiation, since the radiation from 5G will be in addition to that from 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, etc.

We also know that 5G uses millimeter waves (frequencies are higher than 6GHz). These waves have a lot of difficulty to cross solid obstacles. Clearly, the transmission, to be effective, requires the establishment of many antennas including inside shopping malls, hospitals and offices, especially in urban areas. We are talking about one antenna for every 10 to 12 houses, which means a generalized irradiation of all residents. It is important to specify that millimeter waves were until now reserved for military use. The reasons for this are certainly the difficult transmission in the presence of solid obstacles and in rainy weather. But also the fact that the effects on health have been little investigated. As noted by the International Society of Doctors for Environment(1), there is sufficient data currently available to suggest that there is a high probability of human health effects, particularly for the most vulnerable, i.e. children and pregnant women. For frequencies above 30GHz, exposure is likely to alter genes, stimulate cell proliferation and is capable of modifying the synthesis of proteins involved in inflammatory and immunological processes. Logically, this association of physicians believes that it is unethical to ignore these health risks and to subject populations to dangerous experiments. Last April, she asked that public institutions in charge of environmental health be actively involved in all decisions in this area.

« The data currently available are sufficient to believe in the high probability of human health effects »

This stance only reinforces the request for a moratorium sent in September 2017 to the European Commission by more than 170 scientists and physicians from 37 countries. Considering that the dangers of exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields are already demonstrated for exposure levels well below the limit values adopted in the European Union, these scientists express their  » serious concern  » about the permanent and universal increase in exposure to these electromagnetic fields resulting from 5G. They therefore call for a moratorium on its deployment until serious and independent health and environmental impact studies have been carried out prior to any marketing. This call was ignored by the European Commission. Obsessed with the economic growth prospects it claims to be able to expect from 5G, there is no question of it putting obstacles in the way of progress under the pretext of possible health inconveniences.

What about Belgium? The positions taken by the various political families leave little doubt as to their level of perception of the issues. On October 11, to the question asked by the editorial staff ofLa Libre Belgique:  » Should 5G be imposed on the territory of all municipalities ? « … the Francophone parties have been clear. All of them have declared themselves in favor of the principle of a generalized deployment, even if some of them do not appreciate the term « impose » and propose a consultation with the inhabitants and the communes (Défi, PTB and Ecolo).

The concern for public health is timidly evoked by the PS and the PTB, for whom it is necessary to study the impacts on health during or after its deployment (all guinea pigs). For Ecolo, 5G must replace all other technologies  » so as not to accumulate sources of electromagnetic radiation « . This impossible condition aims at solving a problem of cognitive dissonance: it is a question of not saying no to « progress », i.e. of saying yes, while refusing its inevitable damage.

So… Is it too late to refuse the guinea pig status that is once again being imposed on us?

To paraphrase a famous former minister, I would say:  » It’s not too late, but it’s time « . The 5G is presented as a new indispensable tool, they claim in chorus? I suggest asking policymakers two questions. Do you think that the autonomous car will solve the problems of traffic jams, air pollution and CO2 emissions and reduce the risks of accidents caused by traffic?

Do you think that connected objects meet the real needs and wishes of our fellow citizens? Personally, I have yet to meet anyone who has answered these two questions positively.

Paul Lannoye, President of the Grappe

Notes et références
  1. International Society of Doctors for Environment : « 5G networks in European Countries : appeal for a standstill in the respect of the precautionary principle », April 2018.

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