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5G Technology and Health Concerns

5G technology is portrayed as the next generation of high-speed mobile Internet that will aid in the popularization of technologies like virtual reality, driverless cars, and so on. However, the technology is not without controversy. Some say that radiation emanating from the 5G cell towers can cause serious health issues in people.

Health fears

Every cell tower emits radiofrequency radiation (RFR). To understand whether a specific RFR is dangerous, it is necessary to find out which type of radiation it is — ionizing or non-ionizing. Of these, it is the ionizing radiation that exists in frequencies above UV, which is dangerous. Non-ionizing radiation is believed to be far too weak to break chemical bonds. 5G services are expected to use blocks of spectrum that are considered non-ionizing. As such, it was earlier believed that 5G technology should not cause any significant health problems in human beings.

However, this has been challenged by several studies. Some scientists believe that although 5G RFR may be non-ionizing, it can still cause harm by triggering oxidative stress in cells that can ultimately lead to inflammation, cancer, diabetes, infertility, and so on. In 2011, the World Health Organization admitted that RF radiation can be “possibly carcinogenic” for people. A National Toxicology Program that conducted a 10 year-long research on rats found that those exposed to cellphone radiation developed cancerous heart tumors. In 2017, the International EMF Scientist Appeal sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warning about the side effects of 5G.

Every cell tower emits radiofrequency radiation (RFR). (Image: wikimedia / GNU FDL)
Every cell tower emits radiofrequency radiation (RFR). (Image: wikimedia / GNU FDL)

“The Appeal emphasizes there is greater potential for harm to children and pregnant women and calls for greater health protection for those who are more vulnerable to harm, especially persons who are electrically sensitive, who are older, or who are ill. The FCC needs to critically consider the potential impact of the 5th generation wireless infrastructure on the health and safety of the U.S. population before proceeding to deploy this infrastructure,” the letter stated (Environmental Health Trust).

By the end of 2017, there were an estimated 320,000 4G cell antennas all across the United States. To effectively use 5G technology, 769,000 small antennas will be required. Whereas technologies from 1G to 4G used frequencies between 1 and 5 Gigahertz, 5G will use anywhere from 24 to 90 Gigahertz. As such, not only will the number of cell towers more than double in America, people will be exposed to more high-intensity frequencies than ever before.

Blocking deployment

Fears about the negative health effects of 5G have made some cities block the deployment of the technology. In April, Belgium suspended plans for installing 5G technology in the capital city of Brussels. “I cannot welcome such technology if radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected… The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt,” Celine Fremault, Minister of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, said in a statement (Brussels Express).

Mill Valley in California has sought to control the placement of 5G towers. (Image: Frank Schulenburg via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)
Mill Valley in California has sought to control the placement of 5G towers. (Image: Frank Schulenburg via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

In the U.S., the city of Mill Valley, California, passed an urgent ordinance that seeks to control the placement of 5G towers. The decision was taken following widespread concerns raised by its citizens. In Sacramento, where some 5G towers have already been installed, scientists have warned homeowners that the antennas outside are not safe. Local governments of New York and San Francisco are reportedly divided on whether the deployment of 5G will be good for their citizens or not.

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