7

Among others, the website RadiationHealthRisks claims:

Second, according to experts, because of the shorter length of millimeter waves (MMV) required by 5G to support the bandwidth, these shorter waves do not travel as far or through objects. This means with our current number of cell towers the cell signal will not be reliable. To compensate many more mini cell towers must be installed. It is estimated that they will need a mini cell station every 2 to 8 houses. Health experts believe this increased exposure to 5G will have a devastating impact on our health.

What do the studies say? Does 5G come with health risks?

  • 5G is just a data transfer protocol. A lot of the planned frequencies are actually the same as current LTE frequencies. – TheWanderer Jan 5 at 21:43
  • That except itself also admits that, because the frequency of the 5G protocol it's talking about is higher than current LTE frequencies, that mini towers are needed more often, implying that the strength isn't boosted to compensate. If those higher frequencies are unable to travel as far through objects, wouldn't that include our bodies? – TheWanderer Jan 5 at 21:45
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    I don't know if this is enough for an answer, but it seems to me like, if 5G poses "a devastating impact to our health," LTE, 3G and 2G frequencies are downright apocalyptic. – TheWanderer Jan 6 at 3:50
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    If there is something behind the claim, then the argument used is wrong: It would not be the larger amount of cell-towers, but perhaps the fact that an phone used (near your brain!) indoord needs to increase power in order to pass through the walls – Hagen von Eitzen Jan 6 at 17:59
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    @HagenvonEitzen it wouldn't need to, though. The increased tower density is to make up for the lack of power. That applies both to downlink and uplink – TheWanderer Jan 6 at 21:00
18

I would say this is

Not True

Just going by the sentence you’ve highlighted:

Health experts believe this increased exposure to 5G will have a devastating impact on our health.

It’s already doubtful. Who are these so-called “health experts”? Why do they believe this?

If we look at the National Cancer Institute's page specifically for cellular RF and its effects:

Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from x-rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer. However, although many studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans

The only consistently recognized biological effect of radiofrequency radiation in humans is heating....Radiofrequency exposure from cell phone use does cause heating to the area of the body where a cell phone or other device is held....However, it is not sufficient to measurably increase body temperature.

Source

This page has a whole bunch of information, including explanations as to why this is such a concern, along with studies providing positive, negative and neutral results. It also explains why these results might be so inconsistent.

However, from those two excerpts, even though they don't directly address 5G, I think it's safe to say that the vague reference to "health experts" claiming a "devastating impact" on our health from 5G is, at best, overblown.

If you read my responses to the article, I do specify relations between 5G and previous cellular radio standards.

https://ehtrust.org, has a collection of studies apparently relevant to 5G and health. However, many are about RF or MMW (millimeter wave) in general, and the ones specifically relating to 5G produce inconsistent results, with many not actually being experimental, similar to the studies of cellular frequencies and RF in general from the NCI.


The Article Itself

I’m going to go step-by-step in this article, as I see things that don’t make sense.

3G and 4G use between a 1 to 4 gigahertz frequency

Even just talking about 4G (LTE), this is false. LTE operates at frequencies from 450MHz all the way up to 5.9GHz, although I personally haven’t seen anything in widespread use below 600MHz (Band 71) and above 2600MHz (Band 7).

Source

In the US, the most common LTE bands are 2 (1900MHz), 4 (1700MHz), 12/17 (lower 700MHz), 13 (upper 700MHz), 66 (1700/2100MHz), 71 (600MHz).

In Europe, they’re 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHZ), 7 (2600MHz), 20 (800MHz).

Moving to UMTS (“GSM” 3G), we have a range from 700MHz to 3500MHz.

Source

CDMA seems to fall into range similar to LTE. The most common ones (BC0 and BC1), are in the 800MHz and 1900MHz areas, respectively.

5G uses between a 24 and 90 gigahertz frequency

Also not (completely) true.

5G currently has two sections: FR1 (<6GHz) and FR2 (24-86GHz) (FR == Frequency Range) (although GSMA splits the <1GHz area into its own third section).

For now, 5G rollouts will be in the <6GHz section, with the highest frequency being in China at 4990MHz. Eventually we’ll be seeing installations of the higher frequencies, but nothing will be at 90GHz, like the article claims. It doesn’t seem like there are even plans to go over 45GHz currently.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

To compensate many more mini cell towers must be installed. It is estimated that they will need a mini cell station every 2 to 8 houses. Health experts believe this increased exposure to 5G will have a devastating impact on our health.

This just doesn’t make sense.

For one, we won't even be seeing the super-high-frequency version for at least this year and maybe some of 2020. When we do get rollouts of FR2, we’ll of course need more towers, because of the limitations of high frequencies (lower frequencies travel further and through objects better). But that doesn’t mean we’re exposed to more radiation. The reason more towers are needed is to compensate for the increased deadzones that FR2 5G will bring. The radiation exposure won’t be more than LTE, it’ll be the same; we just need more towers for that to happen.

According to Safespaceprotection.com, the microwaves from cell phone towers can cause memory loss, headaches, cancer, birth defects and heart disease.

I visited this site, and was immediately greeted with two articles saying how harmful EMF (electromagnetic frequency) radiation is, and then a giant button telling me to “Shop Now” for products that “protect” against it. That doesn’t exactly instill trust. The articles aren’t sourced, either.

Some believe the closer you live or work near a cell phone tower, the greater risk to your health.

“Some believe” and similar seem to be used a lot in this article, without any references to back them up.

That radiation is considered a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

This is misleading. I found the article I believe this is referencing (there are no actual sources listed), and it says a few things:

Studies in search for possible carcinogenic (cancer-producing) effects of power frequency fields is continuing

No obvious adverse effect of exposure to low level radiofrequency fields has been discovered.

While it is a “possible carcinogen,” the WHO also considers it highly unlikely, although they do also say the following:

If electromagnetic fields at typical environmental levels were strong carcinogens, then it would have been easy to have shown that by now. By contrast, if low level electromagnetic fields are a weak carcinogen, or even a strong carcinogen to a small group of people in the larger population, that would be far more difficult to demonstrate. In fact, even if a large study shows no association we can never be entirely sure that there is no relationship.

However, to imply that the WHO lists EMF radiation as a “possible carcinogen” without also mentioning that the same organization says it’s probably not, is misleading at best.

Source

In Germany, researchers studied 1000 residents who lived in close proximity to two cell phone towers for about 10 years. According to the study, during the last five years of the observations, researchers discovered neighbors living within 400 meters of the cell towers were diagnosed with cancer at a rate that was three times higher than those who lived much further away.

Yet again, I had to find this on my own.

This study does actually find the claimed correlation (I can’t speak to the quality of the study either way). However, the studied frequencies were 900MHz and 1800MHz. While these technically could be used for 5G, they aren’t within the range of 24-90GHz that the article has specified, which makes it largely irrelevant to supporting the article’s claim.

Source

“The Ramazzini study exposed 2448 Sprague-Dawley rats from prenatal life until their natural death to “environmental” cell tower radiation for 19 hours per day. RI exposures mimicked base station emissions like those from cell tower antennas, and exposure levels were far less than those used in the NTP studies of cell phone radiation.”- ehtrust.com

Interestingly enough, the one sort of proper citation is wrong. http://ehtrust.com is some wealth management company with a broken website. The actual source (sort of) comes from https://ehtrust.org (although the quote in the article doesn’t match anything in the source directly).

The source does back up the claim, but yet again, the test frequency was 1.8GHz, which is outside this article’s specified 5G range.

Source

According to experts, doctors and researchers, radiation has the power to change our bodies on the cellular level." Other studies link cell phone and cell tower radiation to memory loss, headaches, changes in vision and mood, sleep disorders and leukemia.

Here are more vague references to “experts” and “studies,” without any solid data to back them up.

Dr. Moskowitz says the lower frequency millimeter waves used in 5G could cause major skin, eye, and nervous system problems.

Dr. Joel Moskowitz does work at UC Berkely, as the director for the Center for Family and Community Health. However, he is a doctor of psychology, and not of medicine. While that doesn’t necessarily mean what he says is false, I couldn’t find where he “said” what the article claims, and using “Dr” in a medical context here, without mentioning that it refers to a PhD, is again misleading.

Source

Dr. Yael Stein from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University recently wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission outlining his major concerns about 5G, MMV and how it could impact human skin.

Dr. Stein argues the human skin has the ability to absorb more than 90% of microwave radiation and will cause major problems from head to toe- especially for the vulnerable such as kids, elderly and pregnant women.

Yet again, I had to find this letter to the FCC myself. Interestingly enough, it seems like the author of the article just tried to find something supporting their claim, without looking very carefully into the source, as Dr. Stein is a woman, not a man.

Ignoring that, when actually reading the letter to the FCC, I couldn’t find any mention of that claimed 90% statistic. The letter outlines theoretical dangers and uses computer simulations to back up its claims. There were no actual studies conducted. It very well may turn out to be true, but it’s currently far from conclusive.

Source

MMVs are also believed to cause physical pain. A recent article in Eluxe Magazine takes a deeper look at the issue. According to the article, MMVs could cause pain receptors to flare up in the human body, and cause great damage to our eyes, cell growth and compromise our immune system.

I couldn’t find this article, but Eluxe Magazine, according to their “About” page, “is the world’s first ever publication fully dedicated to sustainable luxury.” It’s neither scientific nor peer-reviewed.

In fact, the U.S. Government currently uses MMV energy as a non-lethal weapon.

True, but misleading, and mostly irrelevant.

The military uses something known as an Active Denial System, which uses directed (not radiated, like a cell-tower would be) and high-energy MMWs (millimeter waves) (MMV appears to be a typo used throughout the article) as a sort of security fence. They reportedly operate at 95GHz, which is well outside of the article’s overestimated upper frequency bound for 5G.

The company Raytheon made a version of the ADS, called the Silent Guardian. At a reduced range (supposedly), compared to the military ADS, it still operates with a beam power of 30 kilowatts. This is much higher than the maximum (total, theoretical) output of a 5G tower operating at 3.5GHz: 200 watts non-directional (even at 200 watts output, no single spot would receive the full power, since the signal is, again, radiated and not directed).

(Disclaimer: the output strength of cell-towers is outside of my expertise. 200 watts seems high to me, especially when compared to the 2G, 3G and LTE specs listed below. This may be a different type of spec.)

Obviously radiation can be dangerous at 30 kilowatts (it’s used as a non-lethal weapon after all), but 200 watts is 1/150 that, and the actual maximum power of a 5G tower is closer to 44 watts.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

Some experts even argue 5G will have a devastating impact on our environment as well. A 2010 linked aspen leaf damage to MMV exposure. Some researchers also found MMV’s can cause cell damage in wheat plants, impact wildlife and affect our atmosphere.

What “experts”? What “2010 [study]”? What "researchers"? Which frequencies of MMWs?

To create this incredible speed and reliability, 5G uses the millimeter wave. This millimeter wave operates between 30GHZ and 300 GHz.

Besides showing a lack of knowledge of radio waves, this is wrong, even by the article’s standards. MMWs in general do operate from 30GHz to 300GHz, but 5G isn’t using MMWs in general. Even going by this article, it’s using 24-90GHz. In reality, 5G also has the lower frequency ranges, FR1, which aren’t anywhere near the MMW range.

Fewer towers mean less exposure to potentially harmful cell tower radiation.

Here’s another mention of the tower density relating directly to amount of exposure. That’s not how it works.

4G uses more bandwidth than 3G, which means towers need to be more powerful.

Not according to the IEEE:

The maximum peak output power for a GSM 900 MHz class 4 UE. is equal to 2 W (33 dBm). For a DCS 1800 and PCS 1900 class 1 UE the maximum peak output power is 1 W (30 dBm).

The maximum output power for a 3G class 3 UE is 250 mW (24 dBm)

maximum possible output power from LTE UE (200 mW)

LTE actually requires less output power than 3G and 2G. By this logic, we’re getting safer.

Source

Even though 4G is more powerful than the 3G network- it’s not nearly as powerful as 5G.

Maybe true?

As mentioned above, 5G’s theoretical max output is something like 200 watts, with a practical max of closer to 44 watts. While this is significantly higher, I’m not actually sure that the UE specs can be directly compared to the ITU documentation on 5G. I don’t know enough about this part to say definitively.


My Thoughts

As an app developer and phone enthusiast, I have a fair amount of working knowledge of how cellular technology and RF work. I don’t have an intimate understanding, but I know enough to discuss and search, and spot out potential false information.

As I said in the comments under the question, I believe that quoted paragraph contradicts itself. It first says that 5G isn’t able to travel as far as previous technologies, nor is it able to penetrate walls and objects as well. For FR2, both of these is true. It’s simply how RF works. Lower frequencies travel further, while higher frequencies are more easily impeded.

However, if we’re talking about frequencies that can’t penetrate walls and such, wouldn’t they also be unable to penetrate our bodies and cause this supposed “devastating impact”?

Oddthinking made a reply to this, using microwave ovens as an example:

I can't see the contradiction: Microwaves in a microwave oven don't pass well through meat - they tend to get only partway through and thus heat up the food. If it passed through bodies very well, it would have no effect.

Microwaves actually operate at either 915MHz or 2.45GHz, though, with 2.45GHz being the modern standard. That’s way lower than the range the article gives for 5G.

In fact, citing the ranges I gave above, these frequencies match current LTE, WCDMA/UMTS, GSM and CDMA frequencies very well. 2.45GHz is also very close to the 2.4GHz of many WiFi networks, as well as Bluetooth.

I stand by my claims in the comments:

if 5G poses "a devastating impact to our health," LTE, 3G and 2G frequencies are downright apocalyptic.

If anything, 5G should be "safer" than LTE and previous technologies.

That is to say, this article seems to be trying very hard to make 5G seem bad, while ignoring the times when LTE, 3G and 2G would be, by its standards, just as bad or worse.

As for the studies from Germany and Italy, they do technically provide evidence that 5G could be dangerous. However, that's only for the lower end of FR1, and it also easily applies to LTE, 3G and 2G (especially since the technology was GSM for the former study).


(I know Wikipedia is generally discouraged for sources, but frequency bands are pretty widespread knowledge, and seem to be correct when compared to other websites like http://frequencycheck.com.)

  • I just realized I'm missing the IEEE reference for the various output strengths. It's 3AM, so I need to sleep, but I'll add that in the morning. – TheWanderer Jan 6 at 8:11
  • If I understand right your claims are (1) Only ionizing radiation is harmful. (2) Neither FR1 nor FR2 radiation is ionizing radiation. Is that your basic argument? If so, can you provide reputable sources for both claims? – Christian Jan 6 at 10:02
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    @Christian Light is non-ionising radiation but if you stay too long in the sun, you still can get a heat-stroke. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Open any secondary school science book which explains the difference between bot ionising and non-ionising radiation. – Fabby Jan 6 at 10:56
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    @Christian Wikipedia includes microwaves (1GHz-300GHz) as non-ionizing radiation, confirming that the NCI's statement can apply to 5G. And I wouldn't say "only ionizing radiation is harmful," because I don't know if it is. I do know, however, that both Wikipedia and the NCI say the only confirmed effect of NIR is heating. I'm not sure how much more reputable I can get than the NCI. – TheWanderer Jan 6 at 16:00
  • 1
    well researched. Now if only we could as easily debunk the claims that 5G is a "mind control device" employed by <name your favourite villain> to manipulate people... – jwenting 2 days ago

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