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Radio wave limit update amid 5G ‘hysteria’

Australian radiation experts admit they face an uphill battle to counter 5G “hysteria”, despite playing it safe with the nation’s new radio wave exposure limit.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency updated its radio frequency safety standard on Thursday, setting the threshold 50 times below where it is known to cause health problems.

Revised just once since ARPANSA first set down its guidelines in 2002, the new standard covers the general public and workers in high-risk fields including telecommunications, manufacturing, healthcare and the military.

It takes into account cumulative sources, prolonged exposure and all types of radio waves including 5G.

ARPANSA program director Sarah Loughran said the federal regulatory agency needed to effectively communicate the conservativeness of the exposure limit to win over 5G detractors.

“The difficulty is that strong opponents of this technology have very deep-seated beliefs and changing people’s beliefs is one of the things we know is the hardest to do,” Dr Loughran said.

“Coming at it with different information and compelling information is a really good start to hopefully countering some of this anti-5G activism.”

A 2017 ARPANSA study of 23 schools across Australia put exposure levels into perspective.

Exposure from Wi-Fi (100 million), television towers (three million), mobile phone stations (500,000) and AM radio waves (50,000) were all shown to be well below the threshold where they can cause harm.

Dr Loughran said opposition to new forms of telecommunications was nothing new, with 5G thrown into the spotlight in the age of social media.

“There has been a lot of hysteria around 5G and I think it’s fair to say that actually, there was hysteria around previous generations of this technology as well,” she said.

“Social media, in particular, is a much bigger thing than it was in the past and basically didn’t exist when 2G came out.

“So people that were concerned didn’t have as many platforms, didn’t have a straight voice to express their concerns.”

Ken Karipidis, assistant director of assessment and advice at ARPANSA, said the new threshold was not designed to curry favour with the anti-5G crowd.

“Our standard is science-based,” he said.

“The conservatism, in other words, that precaution … is also science-based. We don’t support arbitrary conservatism.”

Dr Karipidis added that the new rules gave the Australian community “more refined protections” compared to the 2002 guidelines and drew on more than 8000 radio wave studies.

“Some of them (exposure limits) are slightly higher, some of them are slightly lower,” he said.

“That’s to account for greater knowledge on how radio waves are absorbed within the body. It’s not one number. The standard is frequency dependent.”

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