When it comes to accessing faster wireless, it seems like a no-brainer. The faster, the better, right? And with Verizon recently announcing the company finalized its 5G radio specifications, it seems the lighting-fast data speeds are within reach. (After all, the company is already performing pre-commercial 5G field tests in New Jersey, Texas and Massachusetts.) (1) But here’s the thing. We aren’t quite sure of 5G health effects.
In fact, we’re still trying to figure out how electromagnetic radiation involved with current forms of wireless technology are impacting human health. Some scientists and public health experts worry we’re rushing toward lightning-fast 5G without fully understanding 5G health effects.
What Is 5G?
5G, also known as 5th generation mobile networks or wireless systems, is considered the next phase in mobile technology. Theses wireless systems are the transmitters that carry signals to our cell phones and other wireless devices. While the public isn’t operating on 5G yet, it’s anticipated that over the next decade, most wireless carriers in the U.S. will shift to 5G technology. This transition is expected to bring better coverage, lower battery consumption, faster Internet connection speeds, and the ability to support a growing market of products other than phones and tablets that feature wireless integration. (2)
In essence, 5G will be the mobile networks, often referred to as cell phone towers, that power wireless technology. But get this: As we’re expected to start shifting toward 5G technology around the early 2020s, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler says we can expect to see a lot more of those mobile towers. So while we may enjoy anywhere from 10 to 50 times faster connection speeds that help fuel better data consumption, we may in return get millions of new cell phone towers on our street corners. (Our current 4G LTE technology relies on about 200,000 cell phone towers around the U.S.) But 5G needs a much denser network, meaning many more cell towers of all sizes all over the place. (3) The fact that these things have never been proven safe — and that worrisome science is cropping up around wireless technology — is cause for concern.
And it seems this 5G plan is full speed ahead. On July 14, 2016, the FCC voted to approve Spectrum Frontiers, making the U.S. the first country in the world to open up higher-frequency millimeter wave spectrum for the development of 5G fifth-generation wireless cellular technology. Environmental Health Trust is voicing concerns because health, safety and environmental evaluations to understand the impact on humans, wildlife and the environment have not been done. In fact, before the FCC gave 5G the green light, the agency was flooded with comments in opposition to 5G. (4)
5G Health Effects: What We Know, What We Don’t Know
What we do know is that moving to 5G technology will bring a surge of cell phone transmitting towers and more wireless devices, including more wireless-enabled vehicles that we spend a lot of time in and appliances around the home. Shifting to 5G will help support an explosion in wireless products, meaning we’re going to be facing major increases in exposure.
While the industry contends this is all safe, the preliminary results of a huge $25 million National Toxicology Program study released in 2016 suggest otherwise. Scientists found a link between cell phone radiation and cancer. Keep in mind researchers found the increased risk at radiation exposure levels similar to what’s deemed safe by the U.S. government. In the rat study, the cell phone radiation raised levels of brain cancer and a rare heart tumor. Risk increased with higher radiation exposure. Of course, there’s still a lot of research to be done before we can definitely say cell phone radiation causes cancer. But should we be guinea pigs in the meantime? I think Leeka Kheifets, PhD, an epidemiology professor at UCLA, said it best in the Los Angeles Times. (5)
“I don’t think it’s clear that there are health risks, but it’s also not clear that there are no health risks.”
Are we willing to expose millions of Americans to even higher levels of electromagnetic radiation through wireless technologies when we don’t even know what the true 5G health effects really are?
For decades, Americans were told things like cigarette smoke, DDT, Monsanto and other pesticides were safe, when we now know they’re linked to cancer and other health problems. So are we going to do it again — on a massive scale — with wireless without even properly studying human health impacts. (Or considering possibly safer ways of doing things?)
“It would greatly extend FCC’s current policy of the mandatory irradiation of the public without adequate prior study of the potential health impact and assurance of safety. It would irradiate everyone, including the most vulnerable to harm from radiofrequency radiation: pregnant women, unborn children, young children, teenagers, men of reproductive age, the elderly, the disabled, and the chronically ill.” —Ronald Powell, PhD
Final Thoughts on 5G Health Effects
Unfortunately, there’s a strong history of rushing new products and technologies to the public without adequately safety testing in the United States. Yes, I’ll be the first to tell you that wireless technology is making our lives simpler in many ways. (Hey, you’re probably using it to read this article and live a healthier life.) But we need to practice the precautionary principle when it comes to dealing with unknown 5G health effects.
If we’re seeing evidence of brain damage, we need to pull back and do more research before unleashing this to the public. After all, you may have little control over whether you’ll live by a 5G tower or not. My best advice is to engage with your community. Educate each other on 5G health effects so when it comes time to put up more of these towers, you’re area is already educated on the potential 5G health effects.