Anti-5G protesters hope their message gets through

Anti-5G protesters will be hitting the streets today, comparing the new cellphone technology to "thalidomide and asbestos". 

They plan to make their voices heard as far north as Kaitaia and Invercargill down south, with the biggest demonstration expected to take place in Auckland's Aotea Square.

Protest organiser Lisa Er says telcos are "trying to force 5G radiation into everyone's environment even though thousands of doctors, engineers and scientists have signed petitions against the deployment of 5G, because it is likely to damage people's health and the environment".

She told Newshub we need to be cautious about what science unleashes on us.

"Otherwise we end up with things like thalidomide and asbestos - all sorts of things we find out about much later."

Thalidomide was prescribed to treat morning sickness for pregnant women in the 1950s and '60s, but resulted in many babies being born with deformities. Asbestos used to be a common building material, until it was discovered to be incredibly harmful to humans. 

5G is the latest cellphone technology, promising faster speeds and lower latency than the decade-old 4G technology. 

Spark told Newshub in December there have been "thousands of scientific studies over the last couple of decades" showing "no clear evidence that cell sites present risks to human health".

"The Spark wireless network is fully compliant with international and national limits that are based on decades of scientific research. And based on our continuous and robust testing obligations, exposure levels from Spark's cell towers are typically only a small fraction of the exposure limit."

Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister Juliet Gerrard also says there's no evidence to suggest 5G is any more harmful than previous mobile technology. 

Anti-5G protesters in The Hague.
Anti-5G protesters in The Hague. Photo credit: Getty

5G uses millimetre waves, which are shorter and less energetic than those used for 4G. Because they're so weak, cell sites need to be placed much more frequently than for 4G - but the signals struggle to penetrate walls, and can't get through skin, while 4G and 3G waves could. 

"5G is even less likely to penetrate the body than the current technology that we use, so no need to invest in a new tinfoil hat," Kiwi nanoscientist Michelle Dickinson said in a column for NZME last year. She also said 5G radiation is "non-ionising", which means it doesn't have the power to damage DNA as opponents fear.

"Current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields from mobile phones."

A petition against 5G last year was signed by 10,000 Kiwis. Er did not provide evidence of any petitions signed by "thousands of doctors, engineers and scientists". A site she linked to included signatures from 268 academics and doctors - including some claiming to practise homeopathy, which has no scientific backing. 

Er says Health Minister David Clark, and Minister for Broadcasting Communications and Digital Media, Kris Faafoi, have steadfastly ignored their concerns.

"We really must get the Government to listen to us and listen to the doctors and scientists who are speaking out. I mean, it's appalling, quite frankly."

Vodafone has switched on 5G in parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown while Spark has 5G in parts of Alexandra, Westport, Clyde, Twizel, Tekapo and Hokitika. 

"It certainly hasn't been proven safe," said Er. "We're guinea pigs."

Overseas events are planned in Australia, Canada, the UK, the US, Uruguay and across Europe.