South Africa

As 5G rollout looms, some raise radiation concerns

As 5G rollout looms, some raise radiation concerns
Durban - Bruce Splashy first noticed he was sensitive to radiation on December 11, 2013.

The 53-year-old from Umzumbe, on the South Coast, had his phone in his pocket when his leg lost all sensation; when he took the phone out of his pocket, his hand went numb. Later in the day his leg turned purple, and he could barely move his fingers.

He went to visit a doctor, who gave him medication to help with symptoms and suggested he visited a neurologist.

Splashy reported the matter at work.

“Through the company I work for, Toyota, my case was referred to the Oakridge Institute of Science and Education in the United States and I was diagnosed with electromagnetic hypersensitivity. What this means is that I battle with using electrical devices such as phones and computers,” Splashy said.

He said he had been to a number of neurologists and psychiatrists, but, he said, unfortunately in South Africa there was no prognosis for electromagnetism.

“I battle with using wi-fi devices; my hands become lame and it feels like I have pins and needles poking me. I have inflammation in my lymph nodes. It gets better when I’m not in an environment that has high electromagnetism,” he said.

He said he hadn’t been in a 5G environment to assess how he would react, but the current 4G cellphone towers, certain banks and certain shopping malls affected him.

“I challenge you to observe trees around cellphone towers; they’re dried up all year round. If radiation can do that to trees, what do you think it’s doing to us?” he said.

Nikki Moore, 60, founder of the Durban Anti-Cell Mast Alliance (Dacma), said MTN had put a cellphone mast outside her Glenwood home, and at the time she didn’t know it. Moore said she began to experience migraines and pain in her body.

In 2018, Dacma lodged papers in the Durban High Court seeking a review of a “secret deal” between MTN and eThekwini Municipality that saw scores of cellphone masts mushroom across the city.

The city acknowledged there were some poles that were not compliant with the by-laws, but said there were “only” 40 of these, and that they were not operational.

Moore’s symptoms worsened and she said she began to lose her memory, had trouble concentrating and could not walk. “My neighbour came to me and told me he had also been suffering from similar symptoms and that the cause was the cell tower. I realised the tower was just outside my bedroom’s back window. We did have that cell mast decommissioned,” he said.

Moore said she was diagnosed as having electromagnetic sensitivity.

She said she could not talk for long periods of time on a cellphone, could not use wi-fi devices and had sharp aches in her head when driving past cellphone towers until she was out of range.

“I always have to carry a radiation meter with me, because I can only handle an hour of high radiation before it starts having an effect on me. I try to avoid radiation as much as I can, otherwise my skin burns and it feels like I have acid on my skin; it feels like needles are poking me,” said Moore.

Before last week’s global 5G protest, MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said there had been concerns before about 2G, 3G and 4G networks but, to date, no negative health side effects had been proven.

O’Sullivan said MTN had adhered to laws, safety and health guidelines set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO). She said there was much to be gained with the implementation of the 5G network, and the mobile industry was gearing up for what 5G would bring to the tech landscape.

Vodacom shared the same sentiments, saying its network in South Africa had been 5G-ready since August 2018 and it expected to be in a position to commercially launch the technology once they had access to the requisite spectrum.

WHO spokesperson Byron Kennedy said it had found that, considering the low exposure levels and research results, there was no convincing scientific evidence that the weak radio frequency signals from base stations and wireless networks caused adverse health effects.

Independent on Saturday