Overseen by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, the reviews looked back at 138 previous studies and reanalyzed over 100 experiments to look for possible dangers in the millimeter wave frequencies (low-level radio waves above 6 GHz).
While the research and scientific analysis will likely continue, this in-depth look at what we know so far about 5G and its associated technologies points to it being perfectly safe at the kinds of levels that people would be exposed to it.
"In conclusion, a review of all the studies provided no substantiated evidence that low-level radio waves, like those used by the 5G network, are hazardous to human health," says Ken Karipidis, Assistant Director of Assessment and Advice at ARPANSA.
While frequencies above 6 GHz have regularly been used in radar, medical instruments, and security equipment – like the airport screening scanners you have probably walked through – they're about to be used much more widely as 5G networks get rolled out worldwide.
Combing through the data and the reported results on genotoxicity (mutations), cell proliferation, gene expression, cell signalling, membrane function, and other biological effects, the researchers could find "no confirmed evidence that low-level RF fields above 6 GHz such as those used by the 5G network are hazardous to human health".
Where some biological effects were noted, they were generally not independently replicated, and they were in studies that lacked rigorous quality control methods, the researchers say – though we can surely expect even more, ongoing assessments into 5G in the years ahead.
"We recommend that future experimental studies improve their design with particular attention to dosimetry and temperature control, and that future epidemiological studies continue to monitor long-term health effects in the population related to wireless telecommunications," says Karipidis.
The team's findings were consistent with the safety standards set out by the The International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and widely adopted around the world.
A newly updated standard has been put together by ARPANSA, emphasizing the limit at which radio waves used in wireless communications could be harmful: exposure from WiFi is 100 million times below this standard, while exposure from mobile phone towers is 500,000 times below.
Concerns about the safety of the new technology are valid and understandable, the researchers say – but despite what you might read on social media, all of the hard evidence that has been collected so far points to 5G being safe to deploy.
"One of the main differences we have now is the resources in terms of communicating this hysteria, so social media, in particular, is a much bigger thing in the past, and didn't exist when 2G came out," ARPANSA program director Sarah Loughran told ZDNet.
"So, people were concerned, they just didn't have as many platforms or greater voice to express their concerns whereas now, there are a lot of different avenues for people to express their concerns about this technology."