5G Dangers: Myth or Science?
Have you seen this? What are they so upset about? Do they have a reason to?
Don’t worry, we will dive into the science of 5G specific radio dangers but let’s just first agree that this is not the first time we’ve seen protests like this. People like to make signs.
Even on topics almost like the 5G one:
What does Apis Training know about 5G dangers?
First off, this article does not constitute new research. Instead it’s us at Apis honestly trying to get a grasp on this subject, and the results of this attempt. We’re not practicing scientists, but then again we are two other things that put us in a good position to evaluate if 5G is going to fry our brains or not.
First, we’re science- and evidence-based to the core. When you make a living teaching the exact details of how a complex technical system works, you can’t afford to guess. Second: we work in the telecommunications industry and have a lot of experience from earlier generations of mobile networks. Maybe not every day evaluating the health hazards of these networks, but our background enables us to read the published science with some ease.
This article should provide you with two helpful pieces of information. First, it gives you our, hopefully somewhat educated, opinion on the current state of affairs. Second, it has a good list of references at the end with all kinds of sources, from published research papers to references to standards and other articles concerning themselves with radio safety.
(Please check out the research linked in the references for yourself. Specifically, if you’re not familiar with “PubMed”, it’s a database of a large portion of the world’s medical research. It’s searchable and easy to use.)
All this being said: we’re not perfect! If you feel we’ve got something backwards, please let us know! If there’s one thing we love more than teaching, it’s learning. Ok, enough chitchat and on with the show!
THE CENTRAL QUESTION
Our approach was to ask this question:
Have previous generations of mobile technology been harmful?
- If yes: do the harmful elements of 1G-4G persist in 5G?
- If no: Is there anything new in 5G that might introduce harmful elements?
Let’s just state it as simple as possible. The answer to the main question is: To the best of anyone’s knowledge, no. With as much certainty as can be expected on anything in life, the mobile radiation of previous generations of mobile telephony is not harmful to humans. And you can include other microwave technologies here as well, like WiFi, Bluetooth and cordless phones.
Possibly now you have questions. If not,
really you should! Like “How do you know this?” and “Hello, Microwave
technologies? Are you saying it’s safe to microwave my wet chihuahua?”.
Well, I’m glad you asked!
A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND
Let’s take the chihuahua question first, because it’s simpler. No, it’s not safe to nuke your pets fluffy in the microwave, but there is a difference between this microwave radiation and that emanating from your iPhone. The difference is power. A typical handheld mobile phone has a maximum peak output of around 200 mW, that’s a fifth of a Watt, and averaged over time it hovers on less than 1% of that value. That’s around a milliwatt or two. A microwave oven needs, as you probably know from your own kitchen, hundreds of Watts to even make a difference on that chihuahua. (Sorry, strike that. Don’t put your pets in any kitchen appliances if not absolutely necessary.)
IT’S ALL A MATTER OF DOSE
This is just a specific example of the fact that toxicity is always a question of dose. Asking “Is the substance X toxic to humans?” is a meaningless question unless you know how much of the stuff we’re talking about. Any “poison” is safe in small enough amounts (you’d never even notice a molecule of cyanide in your orange juice), and anything “safe” is toxic in large enough amounts (drink enough orange juice and it’ll kill you). If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page on Water Intoxication, drinking too much water, and here’s a lady who died from drinking water attempting to win a Nintendo Wii.
This means that microwave radiation hazards has to be linked to the levels of radiation. The claim, therefore is that the levels of radiation used by mobile phones over the years, have not been enough to harm people.
This brings us to the second question: How do we know this?
SCIENCE, IT WORKS
The simple answer here would be: science. But perhaps you’d like a little elaboration on this answer, and who am I to deny you the joys of reading about science?
Scientists have been methodically using the scientific method for a few hundred years, and it has a really good track record! If you don’t think it does, consider if you’d like to live today, with Netflix and vaccinations, or in the 18th century, when quality evening entertainment was smallpox and bloodletting.
The scientific method is what has led us to where we are, and it’s actually quite simple: you try things and see what happens! To be good at science you need to control so that everything except the thing you’re studying does not affect the outcome of the experiment. This usually means things like randomization and blinding and control groups, but in essence, the scientific method is quite simplistic. If X really causes Y, then it should keep causing Y regardless of who does the experiment or when or in which country.
TESTING RADIATION ON… HUMANS?
Back to mobile phones and radiation! How have scientists tested the effects on humans of microwave radiation? Specifically the frequencies used in traditional radio communication, which is from a couple of hundred MHz to a handful (single-digit) GHz. One way is to do active tests: radiate something and see what happens. You can do this in vitro (in a petri dish) or in vivo (in a living organism). Of course, it’s not super-ethical to hide behind the watercooler, microwaving your scientist colleagues until they turn purple, so in vivo studies are typically done on mice and rats. I’ll come back to the results of these studies momentarily.
Another way to study radiation effects is to look at a large group of people, study them over time as they go about their normal life, and then see if their mobile telephony choices in life affect their health to any statistically significant degree. “Over time” is key here, and the longer the time the better. The fancy word for this is “epidemiology” and since mobile phones have been in use for quite some time now, we have a lot of data to go by. It also helps that the mobile telephony revolution was, relatively speaking, a fast one. There is a quite clear “before”, when almost no one had mobile phones (let’s say pre-1990) as well as a clear “after”, when mobile telephones are ubiquitous in large parts of the world (let’s say post-2005).
CORRELATION vs. CAUSATION
There is a risk with the epidemiological
approach. The risk is the belief that if I can find something else, a disease
of some kind, that rises the same way from 1990 to 2005, then that thing is
caused by the rise of mobile telephony. Scientists (real ones) are careful to
not equate correlation with causation, meaning if Y happened after X, it’s not
certain that X triggered Y. If we can do X repeatedly, and always trigger Y,
that’s a different story and gives more credence to the hypothesis that X
If you don’t believe you can make any correlations with enough data, you should check out the “Spurious Correlations” web site. This is just one humorous example:
However, if we don’t see any signs of human problems rising (let’s say brain cancer, as it is a common thing for people to be worried about) over the time when mobile telephony exploded, this is evidence to suggest that maybe the mobile radiation wasn’t causing brain cancer. Not proof, but evidence.
RESEARCH CONCLUSION ON 1G to 4G
What is the conclusion then?
There have been a plethora of scientific studies made on this subject over decades, and the consensus is overwhelmingly this: There is no good reason to assume that use of mobile phones is harmful for humans in any way.
There may be very small effects, that get drowned out in the noise of the dangers of just being alive. There could also be effects that take a really long time to manifest themselves, but since we’ve been studying this for decades now, it’s again unlikely that it is anything that will affect your life at all.
I think we should add here that apart from evidence we can find of a certain effect, there is the question if whether the effect is even “plausible” or not. Plausibility means whether we know of any mechanisms for this effect to exist in the world, and generally if the existence of the effect is reasonable based on all other knowledge we have. The effect of Aspirin, for instance, is plausible because we know things about the brain, it’s signaling substances, enzymes and electrical pathways. The effect of astrology, however, is implausible, because we don’t know of any mechanisms that would support it.
When it comes to the plausibility of harmful effects of microwave radiation, it’s important to know that microwaves are non-ionizing. This means that the radiation (or if you like, a photon that carries the radiation) does not have enough energy to smash electrons out of the atoms they crash into. (Ionizing crashes are known to cause cancer when they smash into DNA molecules, and is why we need to protect ourselves from ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.) In fact microwave radiation lacks the power to ionize atoms and molecules by a factor of 10,000.
It’s implausible that non-ionizing radiation would cause molecular harm and, as a result, cancer. What does happen is that the atoms that get hit by microwave radiation get a little push, vibrates a little bit more, and therefore rise slightly in temperature. That’s what microwaves do, and now that we think about it, that’s exactly what your microwave oven does. It heats things. Things like chihuahuas (but remember, only if it’s really necessary). The microwave oven just has more power than a cell phone. Cell phones do heat human tissue, but only ever so slightly.
SAFETY GUIDELINES FROM THE RESEARCH
As everything possibly dangerous is a matter of dose, the authorities have boiled all the research down to limits and guidelines. In the US the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) sets these levels and in Europe the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) is a leading regulatory authority followed by many national authorities.
You may have heard of the acronym SAR (Specific Absorption Rate), which has been used historically a lot to set limits for radiation from mobile phones. SAR is measured in Watts per kilogram, and is as such a volumetric measurement, taking into account how much radio energy is absorbed by a chunk of your body (a pound of flesh, as Shakespeare would have it). As higher-frequency microwaves to a much higher degree get absorbed by your surface (skin) or even reflected, it is common to instead use PD (Power Density) measured in Watts/m2 for frequencies in the tens-of-GHz range.
In the graph you can see the safe PD levels set by the FCC and ICNIRP, for frequencies from tens of MHz to hundreds of GHz. It is done with a hefty safety margin compared to what the scientific research has actually showed, and it also separates you and me (General Public) from people who work in environments where this radiation is present, and who possibly have better chances of taking professional precautions (occupational).
For traditional mobile telephony frequencies the threshold is around 1 W/m2 and for millimeter wave frequencies it’s around 10 W/m2 (both for the “General Public”). It can also be noted that FCC and ICNIRP are in almost total agreement with each other for frequencies above ca 10 MHz.
UE RADIATION – 3GPP GUIDELINES
3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project), who standardizes most of mobile telecommunication today (3G, 4G and 5G) have this to say about the output power from a UE (User Equipment = Mobile Phone).
There are a couple of power classes, where number 3 is the one we should look at for a normal iPhone-in-the-pocket situation. (From 3GPP TS 36.101)
And when it comes to how much power they’re allowed to transmit, you would find that in this table.
This is up to 4G, so not including 5G yet. The maximum is 23 dBm, which is a fancy way of saying 200 mW (you can convert between the two with this web-based converter).
The ICNIRP/FCC graph above shows that research has led the authorities to allow up to 10 W/m2 for the general public in the lower frequency bands (traditional mobile telephony). Combining the 3GPP table with the FCC/ICNIRP graph, the phones seem to be able to transmit at a level above the safety. The phone is held very close to the head, and the power/area becomes high as the area is so small.
The devil is however, as always, in the details, and there are mitigating factors.
WHY READING RESEARCH IS DIFFICULT
One such factor is the fact that the power in the tables is total transmitted power, in all directions. A portion of the radiation is directed towards your head, but not all of it.
Another factor is the fact that the security levels are averaged over time. For lower frequencies it’s six minutes, and slightly shorter for higher frequencies. Since the transmission behavior of a mobile phone is far from “full power all the time” (if that were the case the battery would run out immediately and no one would buy your phone), the real time-averaged value is a lot lower than the maximum allowed by the standards.
A big Swedish study done in 2017 on 4G UEs , specifically designed to figure out the real transmission so that the safety values can be put into context, found that the real, averaged, output power was less than 1% of the theoretical maximum.
They found that fewer than half ever even hit the maximum, momentarily, as can be seen in this graph (the graph shows results for different kinds of geographical areas, but if you want to, just make it simple and focus on the solid red “All” line).
CDF means Cumulative Distribution Function, and shows how many of a population (percentage, the Y axis) lie below a certain value on any particular parameter (the X axis). In this graph it’s how large percentage of a population of used UEs (Y axis, from 0 to 100%, or 0 to 1.0) ever hit a maximum transmission power of a certain dBm value (X axis, from -20 to 25 dBm). Note that dBm is a logarithmic scale, so while 23 dBm equals 200 mW, 20 dBm=100 mW, 15 dBm=32 mW and 10 dBm=10 mW.
When the results were time-averaged in accordance with the guidelines from ICNIRP, this is what came out.
As you can see, again looking at the red “All” line, only a few percent make it above 5 dBm, which is roughly 3 mW of radiated power.
Even if we focused the energy, with some kind of beam-forming technology, the power doesn’t become that high. Let’s say all the transmitted power hits your head in a 10 cm2 area. That’s quite small, only little more than 3 by 3 centimeters, or roughly one and a half square inch. Transmitting 3 mW at that area, that comes to 3 W/m2. This is the same order of magnitude as the FCC/ICNIRP radiation limits for traditional mobile frequencies.
(If you want to play it really safe and use wireless headphones, you could wonder if that might possibly be even worse. It’s not. The maximum total transmitted power of Bluetooth headsets – Class 2, around 10 meter range – is 2.5 milliwatts.)
MATH WARNING OVER
AND THEN THERE’S HISTORY
All of these numbers boil down to this: for traditional mobile telephony, it seems reasonable to believe that the science-based limits set by authorities, which are in turn followed by mobile telephony standardizing bodies, mean that it is not inherently dangerous for humans to use mobile phones.
But even if that were not the case, we can explore the epidemiology of the past 30 years. The argument could reasonably be made in the 1990s that we didn’t have a history of mobile phone use, and were to some degree experimenting on humans. (I would say that wasn’t really the case, because even then there was a lot of basic research to suggest that it wasn’t dangerous.) But now, that case is increasingly difficult to argue, as nothing bad has happened to mobile phone users over the past decades.
There is a large amount of data on this, and I’ll just show one example here, plotting cancer in the US as a function of cellular (mobile) subscriptions. (SEER stands for Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results.)
If mobile phone radiation were a sure fire
way of contracting brain cancer, it would more likely than not show up in a
graph such as this.
WHAT ABOUT 5G? ISN’T THIS ABOUT 5G DANGERS?
Remember the question at the beginning of this article?
Here it is again:
Have previous generations of mobile technology been harmful?
- If yes: do the harmful elements of 1G-4G persist in 5G?
- If no: Is there anything new in 5G that might introduce harmful elements?
Now we are at the “If no” part. Because there could very well be something new in 5G that was not in 4G, and that in fact will harm us. So what are the differences? Well, luckily enough there aren’t a million variables defining electromagnetic radiation. There’s frequency and there’s power.
Let’s start with power, because it’s simplest. For 4G the 3GPP standards have these maximum transmitted power values:
This table is the same as earlier in this article.
The 5G version of that specification (TS 38.101-2) reads like this:
The “bands” in this table are just numbered chunks of the electromagnetic spectrum. The numbers aren’t directly correlated with the actual absolute frequencies (these four examples all happen to be between 24 GHz and 40 GHz). “EIRP” means “Effective Isotropic Radiated Power” and is a theoretical value showing how much power would be needed if the radiation all went out in a perfect sphere. This is never the case, and therefore the EIRP is not a real measurement. “TRP” however, means Total Radiated Power, and is an active measurement of exactly how much power actually goes out of the antenna. And as you can see, it’s the same value as for 4G: 23 dBm.
What about beamforming? Yes, that is a technology that focuses radiated energy into a narrow “beam” which does raise the power levels in the beam compared to outside of it. And it will be used much more extensively in 5G than before. This means that it’s likely that a particular value of Total Radiated Power means more power in a particular direction in 5G compared to 4G. Bear in mind though, that it is Total Radiated Power, and we’re still within the limits science tells use are safe. So even if you cram a lot of the energy into one beam, it still won’t rise above the threshold where we should worry.
If you’re curious about the base stations, that’s good. Here are the 5G numbers (TS 38.104) for base station (BS) radiation (let’s try to not make any jokes about pseudo-scientific 5G scaremongering also essentially being “BS radiation”):
33 dBm is around 2 W, and 47 dBm is 50 W. Not enough to heat your microwave chihuahua… dinner. And sure, it looks a bit funky that the note says that there is no upper limit to the radiation of Wide Area Base Stations. But take into account two things:
First, you would be a lot farther away from a base station than you are from a mobile phone. Radiation diminishes with the inverse square of the distance so if you move an antenna twice the distance away, the radiation drops by four. If you move it a hundred times away, the radiation goes down by ten thousand. Second, and more important: these are the rules from the standardizing body. In addition to this, there are local rules and regulations for different countries and areas (e.g. FCC and ICNIRP), so there is no big reason to be scared of the base stations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) put this in the conclusion of a 2010 systematic review of research examining health effects on humans from mobile phone base stations:
“…our review does not indicate an association between any health outcome and radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure from [mobile phone base stations] at levels typically encountered in people’s everyday environment. The evidence that no relationship exists between [mobile phone base stations] exposure and acute symptom development can be considered strong…”WHO
A SUPER-DUPER HIGH FREQUENCY BY ANY OTHER NAME
The old mobile telephony frequencies, from hundreds of MHz to a couple of GHz is by (ITU) definition called “Ultra-High Frequencies”, or UHF. What can be higher than Ultra-High, you say? I’ll tell you: Extremely-High! Yes, the millimeter wave band, with frequencies from 30 to 300 GHz is the EHF band, or Extremely-High Frequencies. (Now pause and think of what you would call frequencies higher than EHF – I think I would go with Largely Crazy-High Frequencies, or LCHF.)
How does higher frequencies affect anything? Electromagnetic waves of different frequencies (and thus wavelength) do behave differently. They propagate differently, and penetrate materials differently. A common misconception is that they are more short-range. This is not true; all radiation fades with the inverse-square law. However, it is effectively shorter-range, because it won’t to the same degree penetrate things that are in the way. A result of this is that we may need more base stations to cover an area with 5G, and this is sometimes raised as a grave concern by voices filled with alarm. However, the power limits still apply, so shorter range will just mean lower-power base stations (which is exactly what you could see in the base station radiated power table in the previous section).
Higher frequencies also do not penetrate into you as well. It even reflects more, so that the radiation bounces off you (around 30-40%). Disregarding the reflection, the fact that the rest of the radiation only goes skin-deep is the reason why Power Density (based on power per surface area) is used for regulations instead of the SAR (based on power per kg of body). As the only reproducible effect of microwave radiation on humans is an increase in tissue temperature, it has been argued in published scientific papers, e.g. here and here, that the safety limits should simply be measured in degrees of absolute temperature elevation instead of involving the power at all. Specifically for cases when transmitter (your phone) and “receiver” (your head) are very close to each other. It is after all the increased temperature that can be measured on (and to a small extent in) a body. (And remember that it’s the same power levels as with previous generations of mobile telephony, so it’s the same temperature increase – up to 1-2 degrees C – which is not associated with any health hazards.)
Does higher frequency give us more cancer then? For this, we need to go back to the fact that even Extremely High Frequencies are still non-ionizing. They don’t mess up the atoms any more than Ultra High Frequencies do. It may seem that “more” frequency in some way would have a greater effect, but physicists tell us that we can look at radiation as waves or particles (photons). It is these photons that crash into atoms and shoot their electrons off (creating electrically charged atoms, also known as “ions”), and individual microwave photons just don’t have ionizing power, no matter if they are Ultra or Extremely High Frequency. The fact that there may be more of them doesn’t play into the equation if still not a single one can actually change anything.
BUT PEOPLE SAY THINGS ABOUT 5G AND 5G DANGERS
SO WHAT ABOUT THOSE POOR DUTCH BIRDS?
If everything is so frickin’ safe, how come it was widely reported
(e.g. Captain Planet, Spiceworks (video), Dutch News Video ‘Hart van Nederland’, Activist Post, Radiation Dangers (scroll down), Healtnutnews, NWOreport ,
The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and Filosnews)
that hundreds of starlings died very suddenly in a park in The Hague in the Netherlands, where a 5G test was run? I’ll use this one example and let it represent hundreds if not thousands of similar reports that inform us less about the dangers of 5G radiation and more about the need for critical thinking and checking our sources.
The birds did die, but the national regulating authorities (corresponding to the US FCC) confirmed that there was no 5G testing going on. So what happened to the birds? Well, we don’t know exactly, but the most reasonable explanation put forth by the investigators was poisoning. The reporting of this as the effect of 5G testing was confirmed to be a hoax. If you’re really cynical you could speculate whether it was in fact the hoaxers themselves who poisoned the birds, but the fact of the matter is that we simply don’t know. We don’t even know for sure that the birds were poisoned. We only know that there was no known 5G testing going on when the birds died.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE WHO CANCER LIST?
The World Health Organization, not the rock band (I have no idea what the band thinks about 5G, or if they even have a cancer list). Yes, what about the WHO? Why do I mention them? Well, they have said that cell phone radiation possibly causes cancer. Isn’t that the nail in the proverbial coffin? Again, there are details.
Historically the WHO has been known to be an outlier when it comes to the precautionary principle, and taken it farther than the scientific consensus suggests. However, if you think that’s just a cop out, let me tell you this: The WHO do say that cell phone radiation is “possibly” carcinogenic. They say this on the list called the IARC Group 2B list (IARC stands for “International Agency for Research on Cancer”). There is however, as you may surmise from the name of this list, more than one list:
|Group 1||Carcinogenic to humans|
|Group 2A||Probably carcinogenic to humans|
|Group 2B||Possibly carcinogenic to humans|
|Group 3||Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans|
So it turns out the WHO feel cell phone radiation isn’t probably causing cancer, just possibly. And if you take the time to leaf through the 2B list of things possibly causing cancer it contains among many other things:
- Aloe vera (which many find to be a positive, even sellable plant – goes nicely on human skin!)
- Caffeic acid (found in coffee as well as barley, rye and other things humans consume)
- Being a carpenter (which some humans are, I’ve been told)
Finally, the “agent” listed in the IARC Group 2B list is, to be exact, “Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields”. No specific frequencies or special uses of radio. Just… radio. And if you’re afraid of the 50 W medium-range 5G base stations, here is a list of the currently operating 50 kilowatt AM radio stations in the United States (there are 230 of them).
It is in other words a mixture of a play with words (probable/possible) combined with an exceeding amount of precaution that leads the WHO to put cell phones on this list. But just as an out-of-context statement, saying “The World Health Organization say cell phones can cause cancer” does sound alarming, doesn’t it?
WHAT ABOUT NON-HUMANS?
Ok, now we’re really moving on. So we’re not talking aliens here. 5G may very well hurt aliens, and if they’re evil aliens, perhaps good 5G coverage is what will save humanity. We just don’t know this, so let’s put a pin in the whole weaponize-5G-against-deadly-aliens debate for now.
What about non-human technology used by humans, then?
CAN 5G HURT OUR TECHNOLOGY?
It could. Electro-magnetic waves do affect things they hit, and higher-frequency waves might affect something in an unpredictable way. It would be foolish to pretend this couldn’t happen. Some concern has for instance been raised by the meteorological community, because they use satellites that track weather changes in the atmosphere. It just so happens that 24 GHzand 60 GHzare right around the frequencies most absorbed by water vapor and oxygen, which means weather satellites could be blinded. This would be awful, and possibly compromise natural disaster warning systems.
3GPP have made amends for this problem, and protected frequencies with the explicit intention of not wrecking our weather satellites’ abilities to help us spot tornados (see the note 2 in the table).
Then again, some may argue this is not enough. It’s a bit weird why the note only talks about the lower frequency (24 GHz) even though the higher one (60 GHz) is also protected. Perhaps it’s just a technicality. Or a typo. Anyway, our (Apis) research right now shows that this seems to be a legitimate concern (the physics add up), but also that this has at least on paper been addressed by the telecommunications community. We don’t find any active experiments showing whether it’s still a real problem or not.
And there may be other examples that we’re just not aware of right now. However, let’s not forget that this is not a new situation. FCC and their sisters and brothers around the world are constantly regulating the use of the airwaves, to make sure everyone gets along, and they do this for human and non-human things alike. You could even say it’s kind of their job.
WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET of THINGS?
An opinion that is sometimes voiced is this: 5G will bring us data speeds a hundred times the ones we’re used to today, and this will naturally lead to increased total radiation.
This is in itself not true, because the radiated power is regulated in 4G as well as 5G and we have already seen that it’s roughly the same. As an aside, it is interesting from an engineering point of view that it’s possible to raise the bit rate so much without raising the radiated power, but that’s science for you!
So with the same amount of phones, switching from 4G to 5G shouldn’t alter the microwave radiation situation for us humans. What if we don’t assume the same amount of phones? What if non-humans start using phones? Again, this is not aliens we’re talking about but anything you can see around and put the word “smart” in front of. Smart houses, smart cars, smart power meters, smart streetlights and smart clothes. Smart chihuahuas? Could be, but not part of the Internet of Things. This is in broad strokes the Internet of Things, and if we picture a future with trillions of connected devices, and then add wireless connections for all of them, this could be a concern.
But it’s not cause for alarm, for two reasons. One is that it won’t happen overnight, and the regulating authorities are well aware of the situation. Perhaps you don’t trust that they will be able to react quickly enough when it happens? If that’s the case, you’re still largely protected by the inverse-square law that all electromagnetic radiation follows. The safety levels are set to protect you when holding a transmitter next to your head. When you move farther away from an antenna, the power hitting you drops really fast. Effectively, the radiation reaching you will mainly be from things really close to you, and all the other smart things on the street will likely contribute quite moderately to your total irradiation.
Things seem pretty cool, when talking about 5G dangers.
At Apis we can’t see any immediate reason for alarm. Radiation from cell phones have historically not been shown to have adverse health effects, and 5G doesn’t introduce anything new that would lead us to believe it will be measurably worse in any way.
Sure, there are differences between 1G-4G and 5G. There will probably be more beamforming, and 5G will to some extent operate on higher frequencies than 1G-4G. Higher-frequency radiation should also be averaged over slightly shorter times than lower frequencies, according to the safety guidelines of FCC and ICNIRP.
But life is a constant balance of probabilities, isn’t it? And it’s impossible to prove a negative with 100% certainty. I can’t prove completely that 5G radiation is safe for all kinds of human activities, no one can. But then again you can’t prove with total certainty that there isn’t an invisible, weightless, gaseous, undetectable, flying leprechaun right behind your head at all times, just checking what you’re doing. And always being just a little disappointed, shaking her tiny leprechaun head. (Now, try to shake that feeling…)
Here’s another way to think about this. We previously (1G-4G) used lower-frequency microwaves, and now (5G) we’re using higher-frequency ones. It feels more dangerous when we raise the frequency, right? So what happens if we raise it even more, past microwaves? That should be super-crazy dangerous, shouldn’t it? Well, check out the image below. The next thing that happens after microwaves is that you get infrared light (good old remote controls) and then visible light (ahh, a day at the beach!).
Very few people are afraid of visible light. (There are some, but they’re Draculas and we have to draw the line somewhere.) You might be afraid of sunlight, though, believing it gives you cancer. And it does! That’s because the sun emits ultraviolet radiation as well, and that’s right around the frequency when the radiation becomes ionizing. So ultraviolet-and-above (your X- and Gamma rays) are not super healthy, whereas visible light-and-below is no problem (in amounts small enough not to actually cook you, anyway).
Speaking about risk: what if there were a measurable risk associated with the use of cell phones? Would you still not use one? Could you think if instances where cell phones have actually saved lives? You could probably easily come up with a list of scenarios where having a mobile phone might be a life-safer. It’s just a risk-benefit balance, that’s what all decisions in life are about. Let’s say someone asked you: “Would you be interested in a technology that makes life really convenient, but also kills over a million people and injures or disables tens of millions? Each year? Even people not using the technology?”. You would probably be a bit hesitant, right? But that’s cars. The statistics are from the World Health Organization: 1.35 million deaths 2018. But would you want to lose your car over that risk?
Even if you’re not scared of microwave radiation, you might argue “we should definitely not stop the research”, if not for anything else to at least appease the opposition. It can be (and is) well-argued that even this is going too far, and that we shouldn’t continue research in microwaves as a human health hazard. The scientific consensus at the moment is that there is no plausible mechanism and no epidemiological evidence linking cell phone use to any adverse health effects. So at what point do we stop the research?
There might be some small risk associated with 5G radiation, but it’s probably already there in 4G, concealed by the noise of all other things. The biggest real risk of 5G will probably be the same as 4G: texting and driving.
Whether the risk of 5G is zero or above, remember this:
It’s risky business, just being alive. Don’t let that stop you from living.
- “Safe for Generations to Come: Considerations of Safety for Millimeter Waves in Wireless Communications“ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4629874/
- “Brain cancer incidence trends in relation to cellular telephone use in the United States” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3098028/
- “The Human Body and Millimeter-Wave Wireless Communication Systems: Interactions and Implications” https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1503/1503.05944.pdf
- “Effects of dielectric permittivities on skin heating due to millimeter wave exposure.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19775447
- “Radio frequency radiation of millimeter wave length: potential occupational safety issues relating to surface heating. “ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10647983
- “Long-term mobile phone use and the risk of vestibular schwannoma: a Danish nationwide cohort study.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21712479
- “The incidence rate and mortality of malignant brain tumors after 10 years of intensive cell phone use in Taiwan.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23591455
- “Time trend in incidence of malignant neoplasms of the central nervous system in relation to mobile phone use among young people in Japan.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27197787
- “Epidemiologic Studies of Cellular Telephones and Cancer Risk” https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4122/e9cc3b08a2ebead92692aa20410fe1b15f8f.pdf
- “Mobile phone use and risk of brain tumours: a systematic review of association between study quality, source of funding, and research outcomes.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28213724
- “Output Power Levels of 4G User Equipment and Implications on Realistic RF EMF Exposure Assessments” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315301253_Output_Power_Levels_of_4G_User_Equipment_and_Implications_on_Realistic_RF_EMF_Exposure_Assessments
- “Systematic review on the health effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations ”https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/88/12/09-071852/en/
- “International and National Expert Group Evaluations: Biological/Health Effects of Radiofrequency Fields ”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4199025/
REGULATING BODIES AND STANDARDS
- “FCC Radio Frequency Safety” https://www.fcc.gov/general/radio-frequency-safety-0
- “International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)” https://www.icnirp.org/
- “IEEE Approved Draft Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Electric, Magnetic and Electromagnetic Fields, 0 Hz to 300 GHz” https://standards.ieee.org/standard/C95_1-2019.html
- 3GPP TS 36.101 “Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA); User Equipment (UE) radio transmission and reception” https://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/36101.htm
- 3GPP TS 38.104 “NR; Base Station (BS) radio transmission and reception” https://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/38104.htm
- 3GPP TS 38.101-2 “NR; User Equipment (UE) radio transmission and reception; Part 2: Range 2 Standalone” https://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/38101-2.htm
- “5G is not going to microwave your brain” https://www.androidauthority.com/5g-dangers-895776/
- “Is 5G dangerous? We asked an expert” https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/is-5g-dangerous/
- “Is 5G Harmful for Humans and the Environment?” https://interestingengineering.com/is-5g-harmful-for-humans-and-the-environment
- “Cell phones and cancer: random chance in clinical trials” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/cell-phones-and-cancer-random-chance-in-clinical-trials/
- “5G Is Coming” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/5g-is-coming/
- “About that Cell Phone and Cancer Study” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/about-that-cell-phone-and-cancer-study/
- “Are Cell Phones a Possible Carcinogen? An Update on the IARC Report” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/are-cell-phones-a-possible-carcinogen-an-update-on-the-iarc-report/
- “A comprehensive guide to the messy, frustrating science of cellphones and health” https://www.vox.com/2018/7/16/17067214/cellphone-cancer-5g-evidence-studies
- “ ’Electromagnetic hypersensitivity’ and ‘wifi allergies’: Bogus diagnoses with tragic real world consequences” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/electromagnetic-hypersensitivity-and-wifi-allergies-bogus-diagnoses-with-tragic-real-world-consequences/
- “A Disconnect between cell phone fears and science” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-disconnect-between-cell-phone-fears-and-science/
- “PubMed” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
- “Science-Based Medicine” https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/
- “Convert dBm to mW” https://www.rapidtables.com/convert/power/dBm_to_mW.html)
- “Active Antennas and EIRP/TRP (in dBm)” https://antennatestlab.com/antenna-education-tutorials/eirp-dbm-active-antenna
- “5G NR UE Power Classes | Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, Class 4” http://www.rfwireless-world.com/5G/5G-NR-UE-power-class-types.html
- “EMF-PORTAL” https://www.emf-portal.org/en
- “Snopes” https://www.snopes.com/
- “World Health Organization” https://www.who.int/
- “WHO – EMF and Public Health” https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/electromagnetic-fields-and-public-health-mobile-phones
- “Road Traffic Deaths” https://www.who.int/gho/road_safety/mortality/en/
- “IARC List of Classifications “ https://monographs.iarc.fr/list-of-classifications-volumes/
- “American Cancer Society” https://cancer.org, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/cellular-phones.html
- “Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program” https://seer.cancer.gov/
- “World Bank Open Data” https://data.worldbank.org/
- “EMF & Health” http://www.emfandhealth.com/, http://www.emfandhealth.com/Expert_Reviews_Quotations_2000-2010__10-04-10_.pdf
- “Spurious Correlations” https://tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations
- “Mobile Phone Radiation and Health” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone_radiation_and_health
- “Extremely High Frequency” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extremely_high_frequency
- “Specific Absorption Rate” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_absorption_rate
- “Non-Ionizing Radiation” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-ionizing_radiation
- “Cumulative Distribution Function (CDF) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulative_distribution_function
- “Water Intoxication” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication