Coming Soon Here Now: 5G Cell Phone Networks & Continued Controversies For Our Health & Safety
A new generation of cellular technology for the next generation of smartphones is upon us. With 5G already being implemented in select cities across the country, there’s concern about the health risks of this new -- and more powerful -- network. So, how worried should you be about the impending 5G “health-pocalypse?”
By now, you might have come across articles on social media or alternative health websites. The gist: 5G is a harmful escalation of traditional cellular technology, one packed with higher energy radiation than its 4G predecessor that causes life-threatening, disease-producing consequences.
Some 5G experts maintain that the new network produces radiofrequency radiation that can disrupt cell metabolism, cause oxidative damage that leads to premature aging, damage DNA and cause cancer, and potentially pave the way for other diseases through stress protein generation. Some articles even cite opinions and scientific research studies by entities such as the World Health Organization.
Quite frankly, it sounds really scary. But is there any truth based on actual science?
What is 5G?
5G stands for the Fifth Generation of wireless technology for cell phones and cellular networks. When you use your phone, it uses radio waves to interact with a nearby cellular service towers or stations (base stations may include small cell box units). The cell stations then uses radio waves to connect to a core network, which then receives the information and sends it back to your cell phone. 5G networks run on frequencies generally above 24 GHz and reaching up to 72 GHz. In comparison, if your phone is on a 4G network, it uses a frequency band of radio waves that ranges from 2 to 8 Ghz -- slightly higher than 3G’s 1.8 to 2.5 Ghz.
5G uses different kinds of radio wave antennas than 4G, operates on different radio spectrum frequencies, minimizes delays, connects more devices to the internet, and delivers ultra-fast speeds. Sounds great, right?
Pros & Cons of 5G
There are both pros and cons to using higher frequencies. Essentially, the higher the radio wave frequency, the shorter the wave, and the more devices that can connect to the cell station at the same time. However, the faster the shorter waves move, the quicker they lose energy, so they cover less distance. The base station, or the area covered by the phone tower, is known as a “cell” and can reach cell phones up to 45 miles away, depending on the technology of the cell phone network. They can also range in size depending on how many phones are in the area. At weaker frequencies (as is the case with 5G), more cell stations are needed to cover the shorter distances as the radio waves travel with the data that goes to and from your phone.
5G is expected to produce at least 10x improvement in network performance. We have not seen a major network upgrade since 2009, when 4G was introduced with a peak speed of around 10 Mbps. In comparison, 5G is projected to deliver peak speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps. Network latency is expected to decrease to 1ms from 30ms, ideal for online video and video game streaming. When looking at the peak speeds of both networks, 5G is reportedly 20 times faster than 4G and supports frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. In other words, during the time it takes you to download one piece of data such as a movie with 4G, you could’ve downloaded that same movie 20 times on a 5G network. Looking at it another way: You could download almost 10 full movies before 4G could download half of the first one. It’s no wonder why many are looking to 5G as an upgraded network to support the growing number of devices that demand internet access!
But because these waves have a harder time traveling through objects and over distance, the 5G network will be built on small cell site technology with antennas as close as 500 feet apart. This is where health concerns about 5G begin. While there have been plenty of worries and studies about cellular networks in the past, the cell towers and stations themselves were largely out of sight and out of mind. With 5G, we may see the antennas and station boxes more directly, which has made more people questioning the increased antenna density and higher-frequency electromagnetic radiation. According to the Environmental Health Trust, “5G will require the buildout of literally hundreds of thousands of new wireless antennas in neighborhoods, cities, and towns. A cellular small cell or another transmitter may be placed every two to 10 homes according to estimates.” So, the question is: Will the level (and risk) of EMF exposure be greater now that there will be more towers?
Should We Be Concerned About Our EMF Health & Safety?
Before we look at 5G specifically, it’s worth noting that health concerns pertaining to electromagnetic radiation exposure are not a recent trend. Over the past several decades, headlines about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation continue to pop up every day. We’ve seen controversies about everything from the health risks of smart meters to Wi-Fi. For instance, electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a hypothetical disease in which certain people who are in the presence of radiation like Wi-Fi and cell phones experience debilitating symptoms. So, yes, Charles McGill’s bizarre behavior on “Better Call Saul” is a real thing. People have been claiming these types of sensitivities for at least three decades, yet scientific reviews have found that in blind studies, victims who are allegedly afflicted with the condition can’t tell when they are near an electromagnetic field. Remember when Charles’ brother, Jimmy, turns on a cell phone and slips it into Charles’ pocket without his brother knowing? Charles shows no signs of affliction or distress. Does this mean EMF isn’t as dangerous as scientists say and that it’s all in our heads?
How Dangerous is Electromagnetic Radiation?
We don’t know for sure because the testing and science is lacking or outdated as relates to 5G. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Communication Commission (FCC) suggest there isn’t any “definite” or “real” science to support radiofrequency radiation or cell phone radiation as being harmful to humans, they are continuing to try to stay up-to-date on the technological changes and advances and will report public studies that show more information.
Of course, just because there’s no clear answer, that doesn’t mean that no effect exists or that it’s safe. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there is clear evidence and some evidence that suggests exposure to cell phone radiation may cause malignant tumors in rats. Similarly, the National Toxicology Program, an agency run by the Department of Health and Human Services, released a cell phone radiofrequency study in which scientists found that exposure to 3G caused adrenal gland tumors, brain tumors, and cancerous heart tumors in male rats… back in 1999!
Seems that the European Union may have studies more up-to-date that have tested and researched the impacts of EMF on wildlife. You can see our article from two years ago entitled: Cell Phone EMF Radiation Health Concerns for our Plants & Wildlife Too.
So will the science change because of upgraded and new 5G standards? Will these EMF effects worsen due to the higher-powered 5G networks? The answer remains unclear, the science lacking, and therein lies a possible problem for us all.
What Happens Now?
We don’t know for sure what happens now or next. 5G is coming here now -- there’s no doubt about that. Still, there are concerns about this new technology as well as the potentially damaging effects of more cell phone towers & stations. We have been hyping the idea of 5G for the past several years, but 2019 was the year when carriers began to roll out what is anticipated to be the new standard in wireless cellular technology.
In the U.S., T-Mobile is the first nationwide 5G network, covering more than 1 million square miles and more than 200 million people. It is also the first nationwide prepaid 5G network with Metro by T-Mobile and the first to offer 5G devices that work across the country. Verizon currently offers about 10 cities for 5G services and growing every day. The same goes for 5G from Sprint and AT&T -- all of which can be used in a handful of locations -- though widespread availability will take at least another year. Despite this, however, service providers and device manufacturers continue to jump onto the 5G bandwagon. For example, Samsung currently offers several 5G-ready devices -- the new Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Galaxy S10, Galaxy A90 models -- along with models from manufacturers like Apple, OnePlus, Xiaomi, ZTE, Motorola, Huawei, LG, and more.
Here at SportPort, we continue to take a proactive approach by keeping the recommended safe distance between our bodies and our phones, using hands-free technology such as wired headsets whenever possible, reserving the amount of time used on our cell phones, and wearing our own protective clothing to help guard our bodies against potentially harmful EMF during those times when we need our phones close to our bodies at all times.
While we should be able to trust that scientists will continue to test new networks as technology evolves to make sure that we continue to be safe, the best thing we can do is remain proactive, diligent and protect ourselves whenever possible. Research into the risks of radiation is time-consuming, expensive, and often inconclusive, meaning that it might be a long time before we see real progress and clear-cut answers for our health and safety. For now, everything we know about 5G networks tells us there’s no reason to toss our cell phones away just yet… and we don’t want to! Until we know for sure of conclusive health risks, it’s best to stay as informed and safe as possible so as to reduce any potential risk of future health complications. Stay tuned!