Hundreds of birds were found dead in the Netherlands but it had nothing to do with 5G

Published: 21st Aug 2019

In brief

Claim

A 5G test in the Netherlands resulted in the death of 297 birds.

Conclusion

Almost 300 starlings were found dead in a park in the Hague in October 2018. There were no 5G tests in The Hague in October 2018. Mass starling death is not unheard of.

 

The 5G radiation is bad for humans.

 

Public Health England says it has not found evidence that 5G is a risk to human health.

Claim 1 of 2

A post on Facebook has claimed that an attempt to test 5G in the Netherlands resulted in the death of 297 birds in a park in The Hague. 5G wasn’t being tested in The Hague at that time.

Several hundred birds were found dead

A number of starlings were found dead or dying in Huijgenspark in The Hague over several days in October 2018. Eventually over 300 starlings were found dead.

Researchers at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and Wageningen University did autopsies on 15 of the starlings. From the birds’ internal injuries, the researchers concluded that they had probably died from hitting objects (possibly the ground, tree branches or each other) at great force.

The exact reason why the birds hit the objects is not known, but the university suggested that it may have been caused by panic due to a hunting owl or another disturbance.

The university confirmed that the official cause of death was bleeding as a result of trauma, but that tests also found traces of a toxin from the seeds of a berry starlings are known to eat. But it’s not known if the toxins played a part in their death.

The bird deaths had nothing to do with 5G

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy told us that there were no 5G tests in October 2018 in The Hague.

The Dutch government’s antenna information office confirmed there had been no 5G tests in the vicinity of the park.

We know that at least one 5G demonstration did take place in the Hague before this, for a single day in June 2018, in an office around half an hour’s walk from the park.

Large groups of starlings dying in this way is not unusual

In 2010, 75 starlings crash landed in a small area in Somerset. The RSPCA said its guess was that the birds had died trying to escape a predator. Such incidents are monitored in the UK to check for outbreaks of avian disease. Around 5,000 starlings and blackbirds were found dead in Arkansas in 2010, and was not seen as “that unusual” by authorities.

What is 5G?

5G is the next generation of wireless network technology, following on from 4G. One of the many uses of this will be to provide faster web access from mobiles, for more devices at once. 

Higher-frequency waves, like X-rays, gamma rays and UV rays, are ionising, meaning they can damage DNA in human cells—which is why they are thought to cause cancer at certain doses. But lower-frequency waves, like the radio waves coming from mobiles, are non-ionising radiation, meaning they don’t damage DNA inside cells. The NHS says most current research suggests “it's unlikely that radio waves from mobile phones or base stations increase the risk of any health problems.”

Public Health England says that exposure of the general public to radio waves from existing telecoms networks are within international guideline levels and that those guidelines will continue to apply to 5G products.

An international organisation that provides scientific advice and guidance on non-ionising radiation (like the radio waves of 5G) has guidelines on safe levels of exposure. Public Health England has said that these guidelines should be adopted, and that there’s no “convincing evidence” that exposure below these guidelines can cause adverse health effects. These guidelines go up to 300GHz, whereas the maximum for 5G will probably only be in the tens of GHz.

This article is part of our work factchecking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false as there is no evidence the deaths were caused by 5G, there is evidence for alternative explanations and there was no 5G test when the birds died.

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