→ Michael Repacholi, former coordinator of the WHO’s programme on potential conflict of interest in industry funding research

Alexia Barakou

He addressed Investigate Europe’s questions on a range of issues, including a potential conflict of interest in industry funding of research, and an appeal by leading scientists, experts and citizens to halt the 5G roll-out. But we began by asking him about possible harm from 5G’s use of many small base stations relaying strong “millimetre waves” in a higher radio frequency range (24 to 86 GHz) than 4G’s existing [LTE] frequency range of 600 MHz to 6 GHz.

* Please note the following abbreviations used in the interview: RF is radio frequency, LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, NTP is the US National Toxicology Program, and FDA is the US Food and Drug Administration.

Professor Michael Repacholi: “While 5G will commence by using the LTE frequency range, and mostly existing base station infrastructure, the number of base stations will have to increase substantially because RF millimetre wave signals (24-86 GHz) do not travel far before being absorbed in air.

“These base stations need to be close to each other for the network to function. The number of base stations will mushroom, as you say. However, with increasing numbers of small base stations, people will be exposed to more uniform RF fields that will generally be lower than those from existing [4G] base stations.

“While very little research has been conducted at frequencies between 24-86 GHz, it is wellknown that the RF energy at these frequencies is absorbed almost entirely within the skin and does not reach underlying organs or tissues.

“The action of RF at these frequencies is very similar to infrared radiation radiated from hot objects, and so you would certainly expect similar effects to occur. Effects would range from a feeling of warmth to wholebody heat stroke at very high RF intensities. Effects of infrared have been studied years ago and so no adverse health effects would be expected below ICNIRP guideline limits.

Professor Repacholi: “Recently, both WHO and ICNIRP have conducted a detailed review of the RF scientific literature and have concluded no adverse health effects below ICNIRP limits. While the WHO review is still going through its final stages leading up to a task group assessment, ICNIRP has issued its draft review. It addresses long-term effects and found there were none established. Even the latest NTP animal studies failed to provide any convincing evidence of cancer according to ICNIRP and the US FDA.”

The 5G Space Appeal is signed by scientists, doctors, environmental organizations and citizens from 202 nations and territories and calls for a halt to the deployment of the 5G, including 5G from space satellites.

They argue 5G will “massively increase” exposure to radio frequency radiation on top of the 2G, 3G and 4G networks, and that “radio frequency radiation has been proven harmful for humans and the environment.” 

Their appeal says further, Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is abundant evidence of harm to diverse plant and wildlife”. 

To date (12 February 2020) the appeal has collected just over 201,100 signatures.

Investigate Europe: “The 5G Space Appeal calls for a moratorium until health issues are determined, and is about those who call 5G a giant public health experiment. Where do you stand on their conclusions?”

Professor Michael Repacholi: “The same type of appeal occurred with LTE frequencies when mobile phones first came out and, while the concern was genuine, some knowledge of RF effects were known and so this appeal was found to be unwarranted. 

“While it is true that technological advances are racing ahead of the ability of scientific research to properly assess possible health impacts, there would be good reason to restrict technological advances before introducing them on populations if we know little or nothing about potential impacts, and there was some evidence to suggest they could cause unintended consequences.

“However, hundreds of millions of dollars of research have been carried out on RF and we know a huge amount about how it acts on the human body.

“The fact that the ICNIRP guideline limits have changed very little over the past 20 years, even with this huge amount of research, attests to the fact that ICNIRP is offering good advice. ICNIRP’s limits have a large measure of precaution built into the them already, and so are very safe.”

Professor Repacholi also addressed the controversy surrounding industry involvement in often long and expensive trials.

Professor Michael Repacholi: “Regarding industry funded research, it is well-known that the tobacco and drug industries influenced research, but this was eliminated in EMF [electromagnetic fields] because both WHO and the EU required “fire-wall” committees to manage funding and communications with researchers to keep industry funders away.

“All I can say is that people should listen to the highly trained and knowledgeable scientists at WHO and ICNIRP for their information. There are a great many web sites that offer misinformation to suit their own ends, doing a great disservice to the unknowing general public.

He concludes: “Remember both the INTERPHONE and my pim-1 mouse study produced positive results and were industry funded. There has been such criticism of industry funded research that the industry now doesn’t fund research. Yet they are the ones causing the concerns about health. Who has lost from this situation?”