Further to an international workshop on environmental effects of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields on flora and fauna, Germany’s Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) says that “there is still a considerable need for research”.
The BfS’s press release says the findings of the workshop are particularly important in light of the ongoing expansion of electricity grids and the introduction of 5G. Although the BfS reported “Overall, the studies presented in the workshop support the current state of knowledge that there is no evidence of harmful effects on plants or animals caused by high-frequency electromagnetic fields below the applicable limit values”, it added that “there are isolated indications that radiofrequency fields may influence insects. In a field study, for example, changes in the frequency and biodiversity of pollinators near base stations were observed”.
The BfS went on to say “it is conceivable that the higher frequencies that may be used in a few years’ time could increase the energy absorption of insects”. Plants could also be affected. Although the BfS cautions that the results here were partly contradictory, it reported “under laboratory conditions, high-frequency fields can trigger a stress reaction and influence growth” (SSMA emphases).
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) had a representative at the international workshop. Dr Ken Karipidis, ARPANSA’s Assistant Director of Assessment and Advice, attended.
Dr Karipidis, however, appears to have come back with a somewhat different take-home message. ARPANSA’s write-up of the workshop says “Studies that have been conducted in the natural environment generally report little or no evidence of impact on plants or animals”. No coverage is given to the studies that do show effects.
As pointed out by Attorney-at-law Christian Jensen in this post, research that shows effects is “inherently of much greater significance than examinations which have been incapable of identifying a damage or risk thereof, since the latter group does not in itself exclude the possibility that there exist real damage or risks”.
SSMA wonders if Dr Karipidis attended the international workshop session titled “Radiofrequency radiation injures trees around mobile phone base stations“, presented by Dr Cornelia Waldmann-Selsam. The paper of the same title found “a high level of damage to trees in the vicinity of phone masts”. Two pictorial examples from the study are available here. An overview of the data from the study is available here.
ARPANSA’s report on the workshop concludes that “ARPANSA will continue to evaluate relevant research as it becomes available, working with international counterparts to ensure ongoing review of scientific evidence related to radiation and both public and environmental health”. This statement is hardly reassuring, given its past performance.