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The word 5G describes the fifth generation of mobile technology. It promises faster browsing, streaming and download speeds, as well as better connectivity. The 5G technology will enable speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second: up to 100 times faster than 4G. However, with each new generation of Wi-Fi that comes out, a new wave of fear-health claims emerges. “5GCancer” is actually a thing now. Cities like Brussels and Geneva have even blocked trials and banned upgrades to 5G due to this concern.

Before the introduction of 2G, 3G and 4G, radio frequencies were just but news. Nobody was worried about the effects of these technologies, but once the concept of wireless “G” technology was initiated, the public started being exposed to frequencies equivalent to microwaves’ at one billion cycles per second. Humans, animals and the environment have all been said to be at risk for years. While 4G was bad enough, 5G takes the game to a whole new level of insanity. But is it really harmful to humans?

What’s Different About 5G?

Just like the previous cellular technologies, 5G networks rely on signals carried by radio waves, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, transmitted between an antenna and the phone. We’re always surrounded by electromagnetic radiation from television and radio signals, as well as other technologies including mobile phones and natural sources like the sunlight.

Compared to the earlier mobile networks, 5G uses higher frequency waves allowing multiple devices to have access to the internet at the same time at faster speeds. These waves are designed to travel shorter distances through urban spaces thus 5G networks require transmitter masts unlike the previous networks, positioned closer to ground level.

What Are the Concerns About 5G?

The kind of electromagnetic radiation used in all mobile phone technologies has gotten many people worried about increased health risks including the occurrence of certain types of cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014 reported that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”.

Nevertheless, the WHO together with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified all radiofrequency radiation, which includes that of mobile signals, as “possibly carcinogenic”. The reason being that there was evidence that fell short of being conclusive which showed how exposure to these waves may cause cancer in humans.

A toxicology report released in 2018 by the US Department of Health, showed that male rats exposed to high doses of radiofrequency radiation developed a type of cancerous tumor in the heart. In this study, rats’ whole bodies were exposed to radiation from mobile phones for nine hours a day for two years, starting before they were born. Interestingly, no cancer link was found for the female rats or the mice studied. Also, it was discovered that rats exposed to the radiation lived longer than those in the control group.

A senior scientist on the study concluded that exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone, even for heavy users. Additionally, another government advisor on mobile phone safety says “although some of the research suggests a statistical possibility of increased cancer risks for heavy users, the evidence to date for a causal relation is not sufficiently convincing to suggest the need for precautionary action”.

Regardless of all the research, some scientists and doctors wrote to the EU calling for the rollout of 5G to be halted.

Is 5G Harmful to Humans?

Some experts suspect that the radiation from these mobile phones could damage cells via another biological mechanism, such as oxidative stress in cells leading to inflammation that is linked to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular, neurological and pulmonary diseases. However, out of the many studies conducted over the past two decades, the results are mixed. Most studies haven’t found a connection with the development of tumors in humans, according to the American Cancer Society.

Basically, there are no conclusive studies to show that 5G millimeter wave is a significant health risk. However, most experts say more quality research is needed.

Conclusion

Certainly, there some evidence that has tied electromagnetic waves from 5G technologies to a small increase in the risk of developing certain cancers and other adverse health outcomes. But there is still no evidence of how serious these risks are on human health. To reduce the exposure to these waves, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests cutting down how much time we spend on our cell phones. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting the time that kids and teenagers spend on mobile devices to protect the future generation.

All images by Shutterstock

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