Today’s topic was requested by reader Rep. Stephen G. Handy who serves District 16 in Layton. He expressed concern about an issue that keeps cropping up from his constituents. “There is a notion out there and it’s growing that the rays or whatever is transmitted from 5G towers are harmful to health especially for young children,” Handy said. “When people get a hold of this there is no convincing them otherwise.” Folks in Layton are not alone. There are many rumors and falsehoods circulating about 5G, a newer technology for cellular communications.
While the big service providers themselves have offered a wealth of material disputing any dangers of 5G, I imagine there are some skeptics out there who would question the source because of a built-in conflict of interest. After all, in an FCC auction held earlier this year, Verizon paid just over $3.4 billion for 4,940 licenses and AT&T spent close to $2.4 billion for 3,267 licenses. In all the auction raised $7.5 billion, and this doesn’t include the cost of new infrastructure. And there are more auctions to come. By 2023, analyst IHS Markit estimates there will be 294 million 5G subscribers across North America.
The fears around 5G focus on radiofrequency (RF) exposure, specifically wavelengths that are 10 mm or less, usually referred to as millimeter wavelengths or mmWave. Most recently, conspiracy theorists have said the mmWaves caused the novel coronavirus pandemic, and even went so far as to blame Bill Gates for inventing 5G to reduce the world’s population via the virus. The CDC and medical organizations around the world have shown that COVID-19 is transmitted human to human, and in rare cases, surface to human, which is why we wear masks, avoid close contact with others for sustained periods of time and wash our hands frequently.
Other unsubstantiated health risks have been linked to 5G, and from a surprising source. In May 2019, The New York Times reported that the Russian network RT America aired “A Dangerous ‘Experiment on Humanity,’” exposing 5G’s “dire health threats,” including brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors and Alzheimer’s disease. This was the same network that meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
RF rumored risks are nothing new. In fact, the fears seem to move from one technological development to another starting with power lines back in the 1970s, moving to televisions, microwave ovens, electric blankets and, more recently, cellphones. A 1996 study, “Electromagnetic Field Exposure and Cancer: A Review of Epidemiologic Evidence,” published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, reported, “To date, no form of electromagnetic energy at frequency levels below those of ionizing radiation (x-rays) and ultraviolet radiation has been shown to cause cancer.”
Nearly 25 years later, reputable scientific studies come to the same conclusion about 5G. For instance, a recent article published in Health Physics concluded there is “little or no risk of adverse health effects” related to radiofrequency (RF) exposure from 5G systems. The paper was authored by a physician/biologist, epidemiologist, engineers and physical scientists, all working voluntarily and collaboratively on a consensus basis. And after extensive research by the scientific community similar to the previously mentioned one, the FCC determined the safe guidelines for RF exposure put in place 23 years ago are still sufficient.
There is no scientific basis for 5G health concerns. So why do people buy into the rumors and how can that be prevented? The best tactic is to do your homework, but it can be difficult with so much information that looks reputable floating around the internet. Like with research of any kind, you must check the source and look for unbiased evidence to support or dispute the claims. Rely on authorities such as well-known, peer-reviewed scientific journals. If you receive an email or see a post on social media with scary claims, treat them like a scam. Do not click on any links or hand over personal data to get more information. And remember, scam artists and those with ill-intentions prey on fear. Don’t let fear cause you to abandon your rational thought — take a step back and proceed with caution.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past eight years. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.