By Reanna Smith
Liverpool is one of the first places in the world to be testing 5G with a variety of trials already underway across the city. Last year the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care Consortium were awarded £3.5 million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to take part in their 5G Testbeds and Trials programme. The objective is to improve health and social care through these new technologies but while there are many benefits to 5G, there could also be significant harm.
5G stands for Fifth Generation, a super-fast type of mobile internet. It’ll be used to access mobile networks that were not previously viable and gives the opportunity to transfer larger amounts of data than ever before.
The Liverpool Consortium is led by Sensor City and includes: Blu Wireless Technology, AIMES, INVENTYA, DefProc, DigiCreDis, CGA Simulation, Liverpool City Council, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLBUHT), University of Liverpool, and Liverpool John Moores University .
11 Testbeds and Trials are currently ongoing in Liverpool, all of which focus on health and social care with an objective to tackle loneliness amongst the elderly and carers, reduce the strain on the NHS, help people to live independently for longer and tackle the digital divide.
The Benefits to Healthcare
The new technology being rolled out includes; Safehouse Sensors, that detect falls, changes in behaviour and temperature in the homes of those who need extra care. Data is transferred to local GP’s. PAMAN is a new device that links people to pharmacies via high definition 4K video so that they can get assistance to take medicine and reduce wasted medication and Push to Talk is a new app being trialled to encourage isolated carers and lonely elderly people to talk to someone.
The consortium have also developed the brand new Livernerds Lab, located in the Accelerator building in the Knowledge Quarter, it’s the first digital testing space of its kind and is trialling these new technologies.
Peter Kinsey, Project Manager of the Livernerds lab spoke to Mersey Mash about what the lab is there for, he said: “We can install stuff, test it, play with it, and demonstrate it. We can get commissions in and they can collaborate to try and improve technology to help people get back into a home environment and feel like they’ve got a degree of independence.”
Many of these technologies are also being trialled in Kensington, one of the poorest areas in Liverpool, as a way to reduce the digital divide that exists between people of higher and lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
“By providing this free as a network for health and social care we’re able to ensure that everybody has access to the new technologies and lessens not only the digital divide but also the health divide.” -Ann Williams, lead for Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care
Ann Williams, the Lead for the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care, spoke about how well the trials are going and what’s in store for the future of 5G, she said: “I think the trials have been very successful and what it’s shown is that we need to have a bigger coverage because in the real-world people who need this technology don’t all live in the same road, so that means you have to have the network everywhere. We’re building up a business case and we’d be looking to spread the whole 5G network across Liverpool City.”
The Dangers to Healthcare
This new 5G sounds as though it could be revolutionary, but what about the health risks? Ms Williams assured Mersey Mash that there is nothing to worry about, she said: “With regards to health, Public Health England has said that these new technologies provide no more threat than the current technologies do. Since 1999 there’s been a whole range of tests that have been done both within the telecommunications market but also the World Health Organisation etc and there’s been no correlation shown between any of the new technologies and any adverse effect on the public.”
But she may be wrong. Public Health England believe that non-ionising radiation, from devices such as mobile phones and laptops, is safe for the public because it does not cause the thermal effects that ionising radiation does. But Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe disagrees, she warns that the non-thermal effects from non-ionising radiation can also be serious.
Founder of the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment (PHIRE), Dr Mallery-Blythe is one of hundreds of scientists worldwide to sign a petition, sent to the EU, asking them to temporarily prohibit the roll out of 5G due to the dangers it possesses.
She told Mersey Mash that the World Health Organisation have not said that these technologies are safe, but have actually classified them as a group 2B possible human carcinogenic, meaning that they could cause cancer.
She spoke about how the RF radiation from 5G has also been linked with, dementia, damage to cell membranes and proteins, issues with male fertility and damage to the functions of our skin. She said: “There is no evidence that this is safe. Just from a very common sense point of view…it doesn’t make sense to consider proliferating these exposures, that is totally contrary to where we are with the science. To allow the public to be exposed to new emissions that are increasing their overall intensity of exposure is wholly irresponsible given the massive evidence that this is causing damage to biology.”
“What we’re doing now is we’re taking these emissions and we’re putting them in classrooms in the form of WiFi routers and on children’s laps in the form of tablets and phones.” – Dr Mallery-Blythe
Dr Mallery-Blythe is particularly concerned with how unavoidable these dangers to the public are, she explained: “We’ve seen all this happen before. We ignored the early warnings of scientists and doctors when it was the tobacco industry, with lead and with asbestos. We seem to be repeating the same mistakes as the past over and over again. The seriousness of this issue blows all of those out of the water…Men women and children are being given no choice. What we’re doing now is we’re taking these emissions and putting them in classrooms in the form of WiFi routers and on children’s laps in the form of tablets and phones. We’re now putting them on streets in a way that people have no opportunity to avoid them. We’ll be exposing the public in their own driveways in their own Gardens and potentially their own houses.”
The radiation expert believes that the public should be educated on the dangerous effects RF radiation can have, and give their informed consent to be exposed to more of these emissions.
Jonathan Heye’s is also concerned about the inability to avoid 5G when its rolled out. Ten years ago he started experiencing excruciating headaches at his work when they installed a WiFi box, he was unsure of what was causing this until he had a new WiFi box installed in his house and started to get the same headaches at home. He’s affected the same way by 4G being used on smartphones and it now greatly restricts his life.
The 58-year-old music teacher from West Kirby told Mersey Mash about his concerns for the 5G trials in Liverpool and how it’s limited him, he said: “I’ve already felt it. I go out and do a lot of photography, with a friend who doesn’t have a phone on him at all, and I sometimes come home with headaches when I don’t normally. We haven’t been in a cafe or that sort of thing with WiFi…The sensation I get is like pins and needles all over my head. I can’t go to the art gallery any more because they’ve got WiFi upstairs and I can feel it. When I go shopping there’s certain supermarkets that I don’t go to because it’s just really bad, Sainsbury’s I know is a really bad one and I won’t go into Home base anymore. I had to give up work because there’s WiFi everywhere there.”
Danger to the Environment
It’s not just public health that’s a concern to Dr Mallery-Blythe when it comes to 5G. She warns that it could also prove harmful to the earths delicate Eco-system by harming important insects like bees. She said: “One of the things that’s a hot topic right now and for good reason are pollinators. The insect world is incredibly important to our ecosystem and there’s been a massive decline in pollinators. 5G will have its greatest effects on small things so that includes children but also very small things like insects. The percentage of their biology that’s affected is much higher than larger organisms. Given that we face a crisis right now with pollinators, this is very irresponsible because this could certainly cause further decline.”
There still remains a huge debate over whether 5G has adverse effects or not, with many studies continuing to contradict each other. Many are calling for more tests to be done, but with the massive strains that the NHS currently faces can we risk losing this massive aid to healthcare? The plans for Liverpool and 5G remain the same, and we can expect to have it everywhere in the city by 2020.