Potential Health Risks of 5G
You may have heard about how 5G is set to revolutionise the way in which we use the internet with proposed broadband speeds of up to 20GB per second, which is 20 times faster than the current quickest cellular network; 4G. On the surface, this seems like great news for businesses and individuals who are set to benefit from these faster speeds in an increasingly demanding digital world, but could this greater level of efficiency come at the expense of our health? Although many have been quick to point out the potential benefits of 5G, experts have warned that it may have serious health risks and are calling for more research before it is introduced. Below we take an in-depth look in to 5G and the potential danger of rolling out a technological format which most people know very little about.
How is 5G different to 4G?
5G Uses Higher Frequencies In addition to the aforementioned capability of providing quicker network speeds, 5G is actually very different to the existing 4G. The fundamental difference lies in the higher rate of radio frequencies present in 5G. Radio spectrums work in specific bands with 4G networks using frequencies below 6GHZ, whereas 5G will use much higher frequencies in the 30GHZ to 300GHZ range. 5G therefore has the scope to support an enormous amount of super-fast data.
5G also has more directional precision than 4G; whereas 4G towers export data in a multitude of different directions, 5G provides a specific connection between the antenna and the device. The shorter wavelengths used in 5G means that antennas can be a lot smaller than they are at the present time. It also means that a lot more antennas will be required for the use of 5G as these higher frequencies are only capable of working effectively if there is an uninterrupted line-of-sight connection between the antenna and the device. This directional precision means that 5G could potentially support around one thousand more devices per metre than what is currently supported by 4G. 5G is also more intellectually advanced in the way it can interpret the type of data which is being requested and is able to switch to a lower power mode when it is not required but can generate more power when needed for things such as streaming.
5G, Could these quicker broadband speeds come at the expense of our health?
There is no doubt that these quicker broadband speeds could revolutionise the way we work and communicate. Up to this point, you’re probably reading this and thinking that you can’t wait to take advantage of download speeds which are up to 20 times quicker than what can currently be achieved with 4G. There is potentially, however, many downsides to 5G and now we’re going to explore the impact it could have on our health and the environment.
A lot More Antennas Will Need To Be Installed
The first thing which will need to happen prior to 5G being rolled out is that a lot more antennas will need to be installed. The reason for this is that in order to work effectively, 5G requires a direct and uninterrupted connection between the antenna and device. If 5G therefore does get the go-ahead then it means that literally hundreds of thousands of antennas will need to be installed in front of homes and businesses, and this will undoubtedly increase levels of Radiofrequency radiation (RFR) which can cause harm to both humans and wildlife. This increase in RF radiation will actually breach laws and regulations in countries such as Poland, China, India, Russia and Switzerland. These countries are currently putting measures in place which will block the rollout of 5G. Humans and wildlife being exposed to higher levels of RF radiation is not the only concern regarding the introduction of 5G antennas as the potential harm to the environment is also a worrying factor. One of the biggest issues in the world today is the way we generate and use energy and the affect this has on the environment. The predictions with regards to the energy output needed to support the increased numbers of antennas is significantly greater than what is currently required for 4G networks. Although 5G is predicted to deliver over 1,000 times more data than 4G, the consumption of 1,000 times more energy is also possible. Although the enhanced intellectual property of 5G means it transmits directly to the source, unlike with 4G which transmit a lot of signals even when not required, it has still raised concern among experts. Emil Björnson, a professor from Linköping University in Sweden, who has carried out in-depth research in to 5G, said this about the increased levels of energy consumption: “This is a major problem, but I don’t think it will be a showstopper.” Environmentalists are also arguing that these antennas will be a blot on the landscape, particularly in areas of natural beauty.
Why is 5G a Potential Health Risk?
Researchers have expressed concern that exposure to Radiofrequency radiation could be of great detriment to our overall health. They say that the problem with RFR used in 5G is that it requires high frequency millimetre waves (MMW) which only travel a short distance, hence the increased numbers of antennas required. High frequency MMW of between 30GHz and 300GHz are not efficient at travelling through buildings and other structures and can be absorbed by plants, trees and rain which could lead to signal interference. Therefore, in order for 5G to work effectively, there is a need for discreet cell towers which will be placed in close proximity to each other opposed to large 4G towers which are much fewer in numbers. This means that humans will be exposed to far greater levels of radiofrequency radiation as we absorb this radiation in a similar way to plants and animals. Scientists have claimed that our bodies could conduct this radiation through the millions of sweat ducts we have.
Potential Health Risks of 5G
Could Increase Risk of Brain Tumours
The potential cancer risk associated with high levels of exposure to radiofrequency radiation used in 5G were stated in a 2011 announcement by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in which they classified RFR as a potential 2B carcinogen. As part of this classification they claimed that exposure of RFR, specifically through mobile phones, could lead to specific forms of brain tumours.
Potentially Harmful to Skin
Scientists have claimed that the sweat ducts we have in our skin act as a conductor for RFR, with Dr Yael Stein of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University even going as far to say that: “Human skin basically acts as an absorbing sponge for microwave radiation.” There are many potentially harmful effects when skin is exposed to this level of radiation including skin diseases, skin cancer and painful skin conditions.
Possibly Harmful to our Eyes
Several studies have been carried out over the years to establish the affect which radiation can have on our eyes. Low levels of microwave radiation were shown to create lens opacity in rats during a 1994 study. In another experiment, which was carried out by Kanazawa Medical University discovered that millimetre-wave antennas of 60GHz could cause thermal injuries and could even penetrate through the surface of the eye.
Could be Detrimental to our immune System
Studies have concluded that exposure to such levels of radiation could be harmful to our immune system. In a 2002 study in Russia, healthy mice were exposed to 42GHz of microwave radiation and it was concluded that: “Whole-body exposure of healthy mice to low-intensity EHF EMR has a profound effect on the indices of nonspecific immunity”.
Potentially Harmful to our Heart
In another Russian study, this time in 1992, it was discovered that frequencies in the range of 53 to 78GHz, which will be common with 5G, could have an adverse effect on heart functionality. The study which was carried out on rats found that stress was placed on the heart and this was indicated through heart rate variability. In another study carried out in Russia it was found that frogs which were exposed to this radiation experienced irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
Will Potentially Affect the Rate of Cell Growth
Research has been carried out in to what potential impact 5G technology could have on the rate at which cells grow. In a 2016 study carried out in Armenia, the effects which Millimetre waves (MMWs) had on cell growth was observed. Bacteria cells including E-coli were used in the study and it was shown that cell growth had been depressed in addition to “changing properties and activity”. Those carrying out the study claimed that there was concern that it would have a similar effect on cells in the human body.
Could Affect our DNA
Various studies have been carried out in the past which have not only provided evidence to suggest that low level RFR exposure can cause damage to our DNA but also in what ways it can be harmful. Research has shown that RFR can cause double-strand breaks in DNA which can lead to cancer. The harm to DNA through RFR can also cause premature ageing through oxidative damage. It is also disruptive to cell metabolism and can reduce the levels of melatonin within the body which can lead to insomnia and an increase in cancer risk. Furthermore, research has shown that increased exposure to RFR can generate more stress proteins, leading to myriad diseases.
Could Reduce our Resistance to Bacteria
In 2016 an Armenian study looked in to the effects that MMWs had on cell plasma membrane and genome. It was concluded that the effects of interaction between MMWs and bacteria had affected how sensitive the cells were to “different biologically active chemicals, including antibiotics.” This means that this exposure to radiation could limit the effectiveness of antibiotics in bacteria resistance.
What impact could 5G have on the environment?
Having looked at what potential risks 5G could pose to our own health, now we’re going to explore what impact it could have on the environment. The environment and the measures we must all take to protect the world we live in from the effects of pollution and global warming etc have been well documented over the previous two to three decades. But, could we have a new threat to the environment in the form of 5G?
What Affect could 5G have on Plants?
Studies have found that MMWs can be easily absorbed by plants and rain. If plants absorb potentially harmful levels of radiation then they will not be fit for human or animal consumption. If plants die through this radiation then the environment will also suffer because they produce oxygen through the process of photosythesis.
Could Impact Negatively on the Atmosphere
Prior to the rollout of 5G, there will be the requirement for satellites to be launched in to the atmosphere via rockets. These satellites will only have a short lifespan so there will be the need for continuous deployment in the future. The rocket used in the deployment of these satellites is said to produce black carbon and in a 2010 Californian study it was stated that this carbon “could cause potentially significant changes in the global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone and temperature.”
Could Cause Disruption to Earth’s Natural Ecosystem
There are many different animal and insect species which could be affected by 5G. These animals and insects are imperative in preserving Earth’s natural Ecosystem. Scientists have warned that some very important species could be at risk through the introduction of 5G and therefore increased levels of RFR. Researcher, Alfonso Balmori, has looked in to the impact which higher levels of radiation have already had on the bird population since the year 2000, stating that certain birds have experienced: “Plumage deterioration, locomotion problems, reduced survivorship and death.” It has been noted that among the bird species most affected are; House Sparrows, Magpies and Collared Doves. The potential harm which 5G could do to the bee population is equally concerning as non-ionizing EMF radiation has shown to reduce the rate at which the queen Bee can lay eggs and will therefore reduce colony strength and numbers.