News & insights
What I learned from Michael Mansfield KC about the safety guidelines followed by our Government to protect our health from 5G
By Gillian Jamieson
Earlier this week I spent a day and a half in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice, listening to a Judicial Review in which Michael Mansfield KC challenged the Government for its “failure to give adequate information to the public about the risks of 5G and to explain the absence of a process for investigation of any adverse health effects.” These failures are deemed to be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 due to positive obligations to protect human life, health and dignity as stated in Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
I was fascinated by Mr. Mansfield’s take on these issues. Those of us who have concerns about the adverse health effects of radio-frequency radiation (RFR) such as 5G, usually argue, that the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) safety exposure guidelines relied upon by Government to protect our health, are woefully inadequate because they only recognise the heating of tissue as potentially harmful and because thousands of studies have shown harm below the heating threshold.
However Mr Mansfield pointed out that ICNIRP does not say that RFR is safe. In Appendix B of the 2020 safety exposure guidelines, adverse health effects are considered. In most cases it is stated that insufficient, high quality research has been done or that results of studies conflict and that therefore that particular adverse health effect of RFR has not been substantiated. This is very different to stating that RFR will not cause this adverse effect or that it is safe. The ICNRP website (now changed) is equally uncertain, only suggesting that health harms are “unlikely”.
This uncertainty is reflected in the imprecise language used in UK Government documents e.g. in its guidance for reducing exposure we read, “excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged” or on its webpage on 5G and health, the Government optimistically tells us that “there should be no consequences for public health” and then says vaguely, “it is possible that there may be a small increase in overall exposure.” But what is “excessive use” or a “small increase”? Surely the public needs to know.
Indeed the main thrust of the case put forward by Mr Mansfield was that the Government has a duty to inform us of the full spectrum of risk from RFR, whether or not the risk is substantiated or proven. This information must be full and clear so that each individual can make an informed choice about their level of exposure, if this is even possible. Providing access to information via a website is insufficient.
Because, as we will see, the Government denies that there are any potential health risks from RFR, there is no process for reporting, investigating or monitoring possible symptoms from exposure. Mr Mansfield stated that there is a need for environmental impact assessments. It is not enough to measure radiation from masts, but their impact on people must be assessed. The situation has become more urgent with the advent of 5G and new technologies.
Although the Government claims that the new higher frequencies to be used by 5G are covered by ICNIRP, Mr Mansfield argued that 5G was a game changer, because it ratchets up exposure. When the higher frequencies are allocated, small antennae will need to be placed on every third lamppost. This will involve the use of targeted beams and pulsation.
It is acknowledged that little research on this combination of new technology and various frequencies has been carried out. Considering that this radiation will be everywhere and will be emitting all the time, it is negligent to ignore the risks. Those who do not consent to accepting these risks will not be able to avoid them.
Mr. Mansfield spoke for around 5 hours on the first day to a full courtroom with around 70 members of the public present, while many more supported outside. On the second day we heard the Government’s defence, but not before they had been firmly reprimanded by the judge for not following basic procedures as regards submitting supplementary documents.
The Government’s position became clear, when Judge Stacey asked them to state what they thought the obligation of the Government was as regards informing the public of the potential health risks of RFR. They answered, that the Government needed to say nothing, because there were no health risks from RFR or 5G. The judge restated Mr. Mansfield’s opinion that the Government should inform the public that there are different opinions as to the risk, to which the reply was that the Government had no obligation to provide commentary on different opinions. When the judge asked about the recommended investigative process, the Government replied that there was no failure in process because they had established there was no risk with the help of international bodies such as ICNIRP.
At this point I’d like to refer to another earlier revelation from Mr Mansfield about ICNIRP’s guidelines. It turns out that they do not apply to those with metal implants, nor to those with devices such as pacemakers, nor to those affected by medical treatment using radio-frequency radiation (page 2). This is left to doctors to manage. Do the affected people know this? Are doctors well enough informed to advise their patients?
Mr Mansfield summing up, noted that it was misleading to say there was no risk from RFR and stated that the Government had misinterpreted the ICNIRP guidelines. It was the Government which had made a choice to promote 5G and this choice brought a responsibility to be fully transparent with the public about all the risks. It is wrong to state that there is no risk, just because that risk cannot be fully proven due to inadequate research. The public needs to know about possible risks, not just proven risks, as well as the location of these risks. The WHO has admitted “Given that the 5G technology is currently at an early stage of deployment, the extent of any change in exposure to radiofrequency fields is still under investigation”. Again, the public needs to know about the experimental nature of the 5G rollout.
Judgment is awaited from the Administrative Court in due course.