"... COMAR is an organization composed of physicians, biologists, epidemiologists, engineers and physical scientists who are experts on health and safety issues related to electromagnetic fields who work voluntarily and collaboratively on a consensus basis."
"While we acknowledge gaps in the scientific literature, particularly for exposures at millimeter-wave frequencies, [we judge] the likelihood of yet unknown health hazards at exposure levels within current limits to be very low, if they exist at all," according to the statement by the Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). As outlined by its Chair, Richard A. Tell, COMAR is an organization composed of physicians, biologists, epidemiologists, engineers and physical scientists who are experts on health and safety issues related to electromagnetic fields who work voluntarily and collaboratively on a consensus basis.
5G Networks Unlikely to Cause Exposure Above Current Safety Limits
The consensus statement seeks to counter the rise in alarming messages regarding mysterious health effects of 5G technology. "This misinformation together with activist websites expressing even more ominous consequences of 5G - ranging from cancer induction to being responsible for the current coronavirus pandemic - has created substantial and unnecessary public anxiety," comments Jerrold T. Bushberg of the University of California Davis School of Medicine and Vice-Chair of COMAR.
Fifth-generation wireless systems are expanding worldwide to meet the rapidly increasing demand for wireless connectivity. The new technology can transmit much greater amounts of data at much higher speeds, compared to previous 2G to 4G systems. That's in part because 5G uses the greater bandwidth available at higher frequencies, including the so-called millimeter-wave (MMW) band. Expansion of 5G "will produce a more ubiquitous presence of MMW in the environment," according to the report.
Because MMW do not penetrate foliage and building materials as well as lower-frequency signals, many lower-power "small cell" transmitters will be needed to provide effective indoor coverage. Some 5G systems will have "beamforming" antennas that transmit signals to individual users as they move around, which means that nonusers will have less exposure.
Tissue heating is the main potential harmful effect of exposure to RF fields. Most countries, including the United States, have adopted exposure limits similar to those recommended by the recent standards (2019) published by IEEE International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES) or the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). These guidelines seek to avoid harmful effects by setting exposure limits far below the threshold at which any adverse human health effects would be expected to occur. These standards only allow for low levels of public RF exposures for which the energy is deposited in the form of thermal heating.
The COMAR statement provides perspectives to address concerns about possible health effects of 5G exposure:
- In contrast to lower-frequency fields, MMW do not penetrate beyond the outer layer of the skin - and thus does not produce heating of deeper tissues.
- The introduction of 5G is unlikely to change overall levels of RF exposure. As is currently the case, most exposure will be mainly due to "uplink" from one's own cell phone or other devices - not from transmission from base stations.
- In nearly all publicly accessible locations, RF exposures from cellular base stations, including 5G stations will remain small - a fraction of current IEEE or ICNIRP exposure limits.
Bushberg JT, Chou CK, Foster KR, Kavet R, Maxson DP, Tell RA, Ziskin MC. IEEE Committee on Man and Radiation—Comar Technical Information Statement: Health and Safety Issues Concerning Exposure of the General Public to Electromagnetic Energy from 5G Wireless Communications Networks. Health Physics: June 22, 2020. doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000001301.
This COMAR Technical Information Statement (TIS) addresses health and safety issues concerning exposure of the general public to radiofrequency (RF) fields from 5G wireless communications networks, the expansion of which started on a large scale in 2018 to 2019. 5G technology can transmit much greater amounts of data at much higher speeds for a vastly expanded array of applications compared with preceding 2-4G systems; this is due, in part, to using the greater bandwidth available at much higher frequencies than those used by most existing networks. Although the 5G engineering standard may be deployed for operating networks currently using frequencies extending from 100s to 1,000s of MHz, it can also operate in the 10s of GHz where the wavelengths are 10 mm or less, the so-called millimeter wave (MMW) band. Until now, such fields were found in a limited number of applications (e.g., airport scanners, automotive collision avoidance systems, perimeter surveillance radar), but the rapid expansion of 5G will produce a more ubiquitous presence of MMW in the environment. While some 5G signals will originate from small antennas placed on existing base stations, most will be deployed with some key differences relative to typical transmissions from 2-4G base stations. Because MMW do not penetrate foliage and building materials as well as signals at lower frequencies, the networks will require “densification,” the installation of many lower power transmitters (often called “small cells” located mainly on buildings and utility poles) to provide for effective indoor coverage. Also, “beamforming” antennas on some 5G systems will transmit one or more signals directed to individual users as they move about, thus limiting exposures to non-users. In this paper, COMAR notes the following perspectives to address concerns expressed about possible health effects of RF field exposure from 5G technology. First, unlike lower frequency fields, MMW do not penetrate beyond the outer skin layers and thus do not expose inner tissues to MMW. Second, current research indicates that overall levels of exposure to RF are unlikely to be significantly altered by 5G, and exposure will continue to originate mostly from the “uplink” signals from one’s own device (as they do now). Third, exposure levels in publicly accessible spaces will remain well below exposure limits established by international guideline and standard setting organizations, including ICNIRP and IEEE. Finally, so long as exposures remain below established guidelines, the research results to date do not support a determination that adverse health effects are associated with RF exposures, including those from 5G systems. While it is acknowledged that the scientific literature on MMW biological effect research is more limited than that for lower frequencies, we also note that it is of mixed quality and stress that future research should use appropriate precautions to enhance validity. The authorship of this paper includes a physician/biologist, epidemiologist, engineers, and physical scientists working voluntarily and collaboratively on a consensus basis.
COMAR(Committee on Man and Radiation)
IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology SocietyThe Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) is a group of experts on health and safety issues related to electromagnetic fields, from powerline through microwave frequency ranges.
COMAR is a Technical Committee of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It reports to the EMBS President and Administrative Committee.
COMAR's primary area of interest is biological effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. It examines and interprets the biological effects and presents its findings in an authoritative manner, usually in Technical Information Statements (TIS's) or Position Papers.
These papers are subject to an extensive review process within the Committee and represent the consensus of the Committee.
COMAR does not establish safety standards, but it has an interest in the standards activity within its scope.