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Ad watchdog bans anti-5G ad for ‘misleading’ health effect claims

Jasper Hart
January 8, 2020

Cancer and reduced fertility among purported side effects

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advert from a charity that claims 5G causes a range of health defects.

Electrosensitivity UK, a charity representing those that claim to suffer negative health effects from “all forms” of electromagnetic radiation, ran a poster seen in July and August last year that asked “How safe is 5G?”.

It featured four quotes from various professionals opposing the rollout of 5G and listed health defects that it purportedly caused including “reduced male fertility, depression, disturbed sleep and headaches, as well as cancer”.

Electrosensitivity UK argued that the question “How safe is 5G?” was open-ended and unbiased, but the ASA stated that given the combination of the question with the quotes, and an image of a family walking a dog, that “consumers would understand from the ad that there was robust, scientific evidence that demonstrated negative human health effects caused by 5G signals. The advertiser therefore needed to hold robust evidence to that effect, including, but not limited to, longitudinal studies with human participants”.

The ASA ruled that evidence Electrosensitivity UK sent it as part of its investigation was not legitimate. Some of it was ruled out due to its concerning tests on animals, not humans. Additionally, a study by the National Toxicology Program in the USA was disregarded as it assessed 2G and 3G signals, not 5G.

The ASA stated in its ruling: “Many of the articles provided were not studies, but reviews of the current context of research in the area. One, for example, stated that the author was ‘very concerned that 5G may produce effects like those we already see produced from lower frequency EMFs but are much more severe,’ but said that ‘the only way to find out is to do biological safety testing on genuine 5G radiation,’ and concluded that ‘we have no risk analysis or risk management because we have no risk assessment whatsoever on 5G’.

“Another was a YouTube video of a Canadian radio talk show in which a scientist hypothesised the extinction of life forms due to 5G radiation. That material, along with many others, lacked the robustness of an appropriately designed observational study or clinical trial, and we therefore considered that it was insufficient to substantiate claims made about human health.”

In its response, the regulator drew on the World Health Organisation’s factsheet on “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones:, which determined that no adverse health effects could be attributed to mobile phone use.

It also referenced the UK government’s statement that exposure measurements had been taken in public areas near base stations and they were within international guidelines recognised by the WHO.

The ASA concluded: “The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Electrosensitivity-UK to ensure they did not make claims which implied there was robust scientific evidence that demonstrated negative human health effects caused by 5G signals or that specific medical conditions had been shown to be caused by 5G signals, unless they held adequate substantiation for such claims.”

In response to the ruling, Electrosensitivity wrote: “The ASA requires mainstream majority science, which the poster provided. The ASA’s ruling then discounted this majority mainstream viewpoint by adopting a minority view based on unsubstantiated and non-peer-reviewed claims of the small cartel supporting the wireless industry.”

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