5G technology is the fifth generation of wireless technology with a range of frequencies: both low, mid, and high band frequencies.
Low-band radio frequencies offer a slow internet connection but can travel longer distances. On the other hand, it also offers high-band frequencies or mmWave (millimeter wave) that are faster but can’t get through obstacles and travel long distances. As you would expect, mid-band frequencies offer medium-speed connections traveling to medium distances (1, 2).
Advocates of 5G assert that the next-gen wireless network has the potential for revolutionary applications extending beyond our mobile devices. They believe that a new range of 5G has applications and use cases that will benefit everyone from governments to gamers with their converging connectivity, IoT, and intelligent edge (3).
However, there are several concerns about this high-frequency spectrum, including potential health effects to people, environment, along with some very pervasive 5G conspiracy theories.
Of course, these concerns are not new; people were anxious over radiofrequency radiation increasing the risk of cancer long before cell phone towers were even a thing!
And to get to the bottom of this, we read several government portals, research papers, interviews, and reports. So, should you be concerned about the 5G rollout in your city? Keep on reading to find out.
Read Also: Is India Ready for 5G?
Where are 5G Services Launched in India in 2022?
According to the latest media reports, 5G telecom services will be available in several big cities across India in the upcoming year. Cities expecting 5G services in 2020 include names like Bengaluru, Gurugram, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, and Gandhinagar.
Reportedly, India’s three major telecom service providers, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, and Bharti Airtel, have already installed 5G testing sites in these cities (4).
How 5G Impacts the Real World?
- 5G will give artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications a major boost across various industries and use cases, thanks to its high capacity and ultra-low latency.
- More immersive games and improved retail experiences will be among consumers’ changes.
- Business value is projected to be generated across various industries as businesses employ 5G as a conduit to process and analyze more data.
All in all, 5G networks will become critical for industrial competition, generating value, innovation, how we communicate and interact with one another both domestically and globally, and how our governments will pursue national securities (5).
Before talking about the “5G technology,” we first need to understand RF, radiofrequency radiation.
Radiation is the emission of energy from a source; in the simplest term, when our bodies release heat, it is also considered radiation.
It is another name for radio waves.
“RF radiation is a type of electromagnetic energy consisting of electric waves and magnetic energy moving together (radiating)” via space,” as per FDA, US Food and Drug Association, a government agency responsible for protecting public health (6).
In general, a radio wave can be ionizing and non-ionizing.
- Ionizing radio wave: It is an ultra-high-frequency electromagnetic wave that can damage our DNA, leading to the formation of tumors and even cancer. A gamma-ray, for example.
- Non-ionizing radio wave: It doesn’t have that sort of damaging effect. And technologies like 5G don’t even come close to these waves when we talk about EMF, electromagnetic field exposure.
It means RF Radiation is Safe, Right? Er, Right?
The radiation our cell phones emit is at the low-energy end of the EMF spectrum, and it makes them much safer than high-energy radiation like gamma rays and X-rays (7). The latter gives off ionizing radiation, giving them enough energy to ionize a molecule or an atom that can damage our DNA, leading to cancer formation.
On the other hand, RF radiation doesn’t have enough energy to do that. It can only move or vibrate atoms, which is not enough to ionize them, which can’t cause enough damage to our DNA. Thus it can’t cause cancer.
However, scientific studies are still going on about the effects of non-ionizing radiation, limits to our radiation exposure, meaning we still don’t have enough data to make a solid conclusion about their safety.
Here’s a summary of data we found:
Back in 2018, FDA noted that “the present safety limits for cell phone radio-frequency exposure is acceptable for the protection of the public health.”
RF radiation is not yet formally classified as cancer-causing by the EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency, and NTP, US National Toxicology Program (8).
Meanwhile, IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, has classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” because they found a possible link in at least one study between a specific type of brain tumor and cell phone use (9). Regardless, the IARC considers the evidence “limited.”
It is also essential to tell our readers that IARC also puts talcum body powder and coffee in the same “possibly carcinogenic” category.
In recent studies by NTP, National Toxicology Program, high exposure to 2G and 3G RF radiation developed cancerous heart tumor development in male rats (10). However, John Butcher, a senior scientist at NTP, noted that the duration and level of RF radiation exposure were far greater than what people experience, even with the highest level of cell phone usage.
In addition, Butcher also cautioned that 5G technology is different from 2G and 3G, and hence we need further studies to see the impact of cell phone radiation.
Coming back to the 5G technology, which has a different frequency limit than other technologies. Again, as we mentioned, we will need several more studies to determine the possible adverse health effects from radiofrequency energy exposure to humans and nature.
If you are interested in further reads, here is a list of ongoing scientific research on the potential biological effects of RF waves.
Also, it is critical to note that most frequencies used for 5G are already being used in things like broadcasts, TV, and other data transmissions. It would mean that if 5G is unsafe, we have been using “unsafe” frequencies for decades.
And since we have not observed a rise in cancer rates, we can still say that these radio waves have no deteriorating impact on human health.
As per experts and studies we have referred to so far; there is nothing solid suggesting that 5H mmWave poses a significant health risk. But at the same, there is a clear need for more research on the subject.
Has 5G Caused the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Over the past two years, this one theory has been more prominent than 5G technology which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the theory, both the launch of 5G and the emergence of the first coronavirus cases happened around the same time in late 2019.
Yes, 5G technology started to roll out in 2018, but the theory stems from the fact that the virus was first found in Wuhan, China, when 5G was rolled out in the world’s richest country.
However, the US and South Korea were the first to start rolling out 5G, and if it were behind the spread of coronavirus, we would have seen its cases in other parts of the world first.
Plus, radio waves have no impact on a virus’s development. As we know, coronavirus spread through droplets created when we cough or sneeze, whereas radio waves are a type of electromagnetic wave.
The theory argues that areas with high infection rates are the same areas with 5G. However, it can be only true because carriers first targeted highly populated metro areas when deploying their networks.
And China was not even using mmWaves for its 5G networks at the time; instead, it was using sub-6 GHz waves, which are found in the low-band and mid-band spectrums. On the other hand, these radio waves have been in use for years for different purposes – all 4G towers employ frequencies in this range; they’ve merely been repurposed for 5G (11, 12, 13).
In short, there is no proof that 5G or EMF affects the risks of developing any viral infections.
Can 5G Towers Kill Birds?
According to a post making rounds on social media, hundreds of birds died in The Hague, Netherlands, due to 5G tests. While a series of inexplicable bird deaths were registered at the time, according to reports, no 5G tests were being undertaken nearby (14).
However, there is limited research on how 5G affects animals.
Most research has been done on rats or mice. For instance, a study conducted in 2019 (15) found that EMFs from cell phones are linked to DNA damage on rodents like rats and mice. Another study in 2016 also concluded that EMFs of any frequency could harm the nervous system (16).
A research review in 2020 also examined the effects of EMFs on animals like frogs and snails, and researchers determined that it is not clear whether EMFs have any negative effects on animals (17).
In short, more research is needed to check the effects of 5G on animals, if any.
False Claims About 5G
Since the release of 5G, there are many absurd claims about its health circulated around social media platforms, including:
- COVID-19 vaccines contain 5G microchips (yes, you can roll your eyes)
- 5G release was used to cover up the coronavirus pandemic
- 5G causes migraines, dizziness, and headaches
We have not found any proof behind these claims.
5G, Europe, and Fake News
Here is an interesting survey we found on feelings about 5G among Europeans:
IPSOS, on behalf of ETNO, European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, an association representing major telecom companies of Europe, surveyed 5G roll out in Europe. It found that most citizens have positive feelings towards 5G (18).
However, fake news and misinformation about it continue to spread and have started to hold on to the people. Hence, it concluded that governments need to communicate about the technology more effectively.
As per the data collected, over 96% of European citizens know 5G, with one in four claiming to know about the new technology “very well.” The youngest (below 34 years old) appears to know more and have a more positive outlook than previous generations. Better awareness and information appear to have resulted in a more optimistic attitude.
While most Europeans favor the new network standard, 10% of those polled have reservations. Fake news, on the other hand, causes uncertainty. IPSOS also tested certain “5G myths,” finding that while only a tiny percentage of Europeans believe them, a significant number are confused about whether they are true. For example, 16% of respondents believe that 5G will endanger bees, and only 21% believe the assertion is correct, while 63% express reservations.
One of the issues with the spread of misinformation is the sources people use to get that information. One-third of those polled claim they get the most of their 5G news from social media (considered less reliable sources). Only 8% of people got their knowledge from official sources, with more than 40% of people saying they were “unsatisfied” with government communication on 5G.
As a result, ETNO and IPSOS emphasize the importance of governments providing clear and accurate information on 5G. “This poll reveals that Europeans are excited about 5G. On the other hand, the findings sound like a wake-up call for misinformation and demonstrate a clear demand for accurate information. “Public authorities must enhance their support as we move to accelerate the rollout,” said ETNO Director General Lise Fuhr (19).
We believe the conclusion is fitting not only for European nations but also governments worldwide.
The newest wireless network is 5G. It produces higher electromagnetic frequencies, which allows for faster mobile communication.
There is currently no strong evidence suggesting a harmful impact of 5G on the health of humans or animals. Even most researchers who have looked at EMFs have come up with mixed conclusions.
Though we need more studies to understand the impact of 5G, it is best not to associate ourselves with any misinformation, theories and abandon the 5G technology completely just yet.