January 25th, 2020 was an ordinary day. It was a beautiful Saturday in SE Wisconsin - cold, snowy but overall a nice day for January in Wisconsin. The 25th was also the Saturday in January that our Pathfinder group agreed to meet and play for a long gaming session. It was fun - with lots of interesting things happening in the game and around the world in real life...and then there were the protests going on around the world against 5g.
Wait you didn't hear about that? Most people didn't either. Like a lot of the pseudo science out there (anti-vaxers, essential oils, etc..) the people protesting against 5g are using failed logic - pointing to various studies as "proof" of their reasons why they are against 5g when these studies do not address 5g technology itself, but typically older technologies such as 3/4g. Lets take a look at some of these arguments and see what does and doesn't make sense.
The Higher The Frequency The More Damaging
The first, and loudest argument that is touted around by people who believe 5g will bring about the end of the world is that the higher frequency of 5g is going to cause more damage to living organisms. In other words - more cancer, mutated DNA, more dead insects, etc. The fear of wireless radiation has always been something that people have been concerned about, be it 1g, 2g, 3g, or 4g. In fact looking back on our short human history, with each new advancement in technology fears about how this technology will destroy the world is exaggerated and people end up getting scared about what may happen. Remember when the Large Hardon Collider was about to go online and people went on various news shows saying that there was the potential for a block hole being opened up?
But back to 5g - here is where things get interesting. Looking at an article from the New York Times some of the concerns about electromagnetic radiation comes from a study by Bill P Curry. Bill is a consultant and physicist that was hired by a school system in Florida to provide information on the impact of potentially installing a wireless network in the school. The information provided by Bill indicated that there was an issue with electromagnetic waves in the microwave frequency and was provided to the school in a graph labeled "Microwave Absorption in Brain Tissue (Grey Matter)." In this famous graph, there is shown a direct correlation between higher frequency of the radiation and an increased amount of radiation absorbed by the brain. His results were that this increase in exposure to radiation could potentially cause adverse health effects up to and including brain cancer.
Since the release of this study, it has pretty much been discredited as being used as a source to determine policy regarding radio waves. What this study fails to take into account is that the higher the frequency of electromagnetic radiation is, the less penetration power it has. The way the study was conducted - radiation was exposed to grey matter outside of a skull. When you take into account the penetrating power of microwave radio waves, it is found that the skin and skull will prevent all the radiation from making contact with a person's grey matter.
So if skin and skull would protect a person from the microwave radiation - what about current 4g technology? How deep does various types of radio waves penetrate a human body? Let's take a look the information that Cornell released in their research document. The data below is a summarization of the data found on page 5 of the above PDF.
Frequencies above 10ghz are absorbed mostly by the outer skin. This would include waves in the microwave frequency.
Frequencies between 10GHZ and 2.5ghz penetrate 3mm to 2cm into the human body.
Frequencies between 2.5ghz to 1.3ghz not only penetrate bodies, but the penetration and absorption of this range of radio waves is sufficient enough to cause damage to internal organs by heating tissue.
So what do we learn from here? Well there is an inverse correlation between the penetration power and frequency of a radio wave. In other words the higher frequency a radio wave, the less ability it has to penetrate. Looking at this - it would be understandable to think that the people protesting 5g would be celebrating the implementation of this new technology since this means less radio waves that would be penetrating their bodies. These same protestors would also be unable to go outside as visible light is a higher frequency then microwave radio waves.
Another argument presented is that even though 5g isn't ionizing radiation, it is still damaging. So before going on - what is Ionizing radiation?
Ionizing radiation, essentially, is radiation that has the energy to damage cells. Examples of Ionizing radiation include x-rays, and gamma rays. Radiation below and including the threshold of ultraviolet frequencies are relatively safe and have no known mechanism to break chemical bonds. Microwaves at most would cause some heating since they do cause water molecules to vibrate. Examples of non-ionizing radiation that is common in our lives include visible light, fm radio, tv signals, microwave ovens, satellite tv, and cellphone technology. While these various types of radiation may be able to penetrate a body, they do not have enough energy to break apart the chemical bonds of DNA. Now I do need to be honest here - while it is generally accepted that any type of non-ionizing radiation will not cause cancer, it is thought that the oxidative stress on a body may be increased due to some frequencies of radio waves (especially the ones that penetrate deep into the body) and may contribute toward cancer.
The WHO classified RF Radiation As Possible Carcinogenic
The next argument often used is that the WHO classified RF radiation in 2011 as possibly carcinogenic. It is true that RF radiation is on the WHO list of 2B agents. Other items on this list include coffee, pickled vegetables, coconut oil, ginkgo biloba, aloe vera, HIV, and magnetic fields. People point to the inclusion on the WHO list as proof that radiation is carcinogenic without taking into account what type of radiation it is as well as what the list actually means. According to Wikipedia items on 2B are:
The agent (mixture) is "possibly carcinogenic to humans". The exposure circumstance entails exposures that are possibly carcinogenic to humans. This category is used for agents, mixtures and exposure circumstances for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.
In other words there is no hard evidence, but there is the potential. In fact items such as alcoholic drinks and processed meats are in a higher category of potentially causing cancer then radio radiation.
But The Rats!
This is another popular item that people against 5g point to. They point at a multi year study on rats. In this study, male rats exposed to high doses of radio radiation developed a cancerous tumor in their heart. People point to this as proof that wireless is causing us to die faster due to an increase in cancer. Except when you look at the actual study there are a few things that need to be brought up. The radiation measured in the study was 900 MHz which has been used from 2g - 4g, way below the feared microwave frequency. Remember how there is an inverse correlation between the penetration power of radiation and the frequency of the wave? Since the radiation frequency was so low, it had much more penetrating power then the upcoming 5g technology. What was interesting about the study, and is not part of the reason not to use this argument, is that the tumors found in the heart only occurred in the male rats - the female rats and all mice did not experience the same results. There was something else interesting that the study showed - the rats that were exposed to the radiation lived on average longer then their counterparts that were not exposed to the radiation.
Even though the results were confirmed in rats - the study cannot be extrapolated to humans for a few reasons. First the study being done on rats exposed their entire bodies to the radiation at once. When using a cell phone, the cell radiation is concentrated at one point, it does not provide whole body exposure. If this study wanted to be more applicable to humans, the study should have localized the radiation exposure to the rat's heads and waist or lower. Second the amount of radiation the rats were exposed to were around four times higher then what is allowed for cellphones in America. This would be applicable to someone who had a cellphone that either failed FTC certification or was malfunctioning, but since this is in great excess of cell phones this cannot be used as a one to one comparison.
Think Of The Birds!
Another doomsday argument is that 5g is killing birds. The origins of this old wives tale is a viral post posted back in November 2018 that blamed a 5g test in the Netherlands for the death of 300 birds. What that article keeps forgetting to mention is that the 5g test was done a few months before the death of the birds.
But The Military Uses It!
Another argument used that tries to make 5g technology sounds dangerous is that the military uses radio waves in the 5g spectrum (94GHZ or above) in "active denial" technology. Active denial technology is a device which uses concentrated beams of radio waves in the microwave frequency to cause an uncomfortable warm sensation. This is used as a non-lethal method disperse protestors and large crowds for various reasons. The beams emitted by this device barely penetrate the skin, and once the beams or the person leaves the area the burning sensation stops. Now while these radio waves are in the same frequency range as 5g - the power output used by these military applications is way higher then what the micro cells output.
You Said Micro Cells!
I brought this one on myself. So since I said the word that triggers anti 5g people, lets talk about them quickly. Due to the lower penetrating power of 5g high frequency radio waves, there will need to be more lower powered cell phone transmitters called micro cells deployed to make the network work. In 4g/3g/2g applications a macro cell could easily handle a large area of land due to the high penetrating power of the lower frequencies. These macro cells easily put out 20-40 watts of power each. Micro cells on the other hand only put out between 2 - 20 watts. So yes you could say it is indeed factually true that the microcells and macro cells can put out the same amount of power but that is only true when the macro cell is at its lowest and the micro cell is at its highest. That being said, there is something else to take into account here. Even though there will be more micro cells deployed to have the same coverage map of the older macro cells, due to the fact that power drops off exponentially as distance increases the actual amount of radiation one will be exposed to will be overall lower.
It is generally understood that Russia tried to interfere with our 2016 election, but their "news" sites are definitively pushing the conspiracy that 5g is unsafe. When people see something that they agree with, they tend to ignore the source of the data and don't always check to make sure the data is legitimate. Well RT America is one of those news sources pushing the news that 5g is the next natural disaster that could destroy human life as we know it by either causing cancer or killing animals, insects, and plants. By the way - NewsGuard gives RT America a very Red warning with a score of 32.5 out of 100. And just as an FYI: RT America is also run by the Russian Government.
So yes 5g is a new technology. But should we be worried about it? No. We should be more worried about existing 3g and 4g and be celebrating that these older technologies are being phased out for newer technologies. Better connectivity, better experiences, less delay, and less waves that penetrate past the skin like existing technology. Let's move America forward - not backwards.
Below are all the references used for this article. I have included articles both for and against 5g as I believe it is important to have a holistic view of a topic.