Is 5G Hazardous for Human Health?

As 5G is getting more attention and hype there are also some growing concerns regarding the safety and its potential effects on human lives. There are groups and activists who are outright calling 5G as harmful and demanding a total ban in United States and other countries. The public notices and warnings are appearing across neighborhoods claiming how dangerous it is and how it will be used for surveillance.

Recently I came across an article where one US carrier’s lower band (600MHz) 5G network was declared harmful. For those who are not from communication background, it’s important to know that lower or mid bands i.e frequencies below 6 GHz are already used for 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G since last 3–4 decades at least if not more. Upgrading the same spectrum from 4G to 5G is not going to make any difference in the RF waves and transmissions.

However, the ultra-high frequencies or Millimeter-wave (mmWave) are considered to be more hazardous to human health due to the massive radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure. This article discusses the potential health effects of millimeter wave radiations and explores some safety precautions to reduce the effects on human health.

With the ever increasing demand of mobile communication and data rates the need for additional spectrum is also increasing. The carriers are having challenges to meet the customer demand with the existing frequency bands available. For 5G the mmWave, Frequencies between 30 GHz to 300 GHz, has attracted great attention due to its large bandwidth to meet. the high demand of data rates and increase in the number of internet of things (IoT) devices in 5G mobile networks.

The high frequencies make mobile network denser due to the low range which results increase in RF radiations. The radiations are electromagnetic energy having two types- ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiations contain more energy than non-ionizing. The RF spectrum ranges from extremely low frequencies (ELF) to extremely high frequencies (EHF). The ELF are emitted by the overheated electric equipment while the gamma rays, UV rays and X-rays are ionizing. The ionizing radiations can break bonds and damage DNA that’s why proved to be hazardous for human health.

Although RF radiations are also non-ionizing but are potentially more hazardous because of the higher frequencies and can affect human body [ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]. The non-ionizing radiation causes molecules to vibrate, heating the tissue, blindness and sterility according to OSHA [4]. Radio waves and microwaves are collectively referred as RF radiations and ranges from 3 KHz to 300 GHz frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not get any solid evidence to relate RF signals from mobile phones and towers with any disease. WHO in 2011 said that there can be a relation between brain cancer and mobile phones but there was no clear evidence and left for researchers as an open area.

FCC, the US communication regulating body after consulting FDA and other health agencies to set a limit on radio frequencies, Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology explained that they find it appropriate to maintain the existing radio frequency limits. In the consultation, FDA director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, wrote to FCC that, “the available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or under the current limits, and no changes to the current standards are warranted at this time [1].” However, the dense deployment of devices and more exposure to RF radiation in 5G communication can be hazardous. The radiation exposure limit set by the FCC for the hand-held devices is SAR value of 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg), as averaged over one gram of tissue [2].

Millimeter waves use frequencies ranging from 30 to 300 GHz having wavelength 1 to 10 millimeters. These frequencies are 10 to 100 times higher than the frequencies used in current LTE networks while the wavelength of 4G waves range in centimeters which are greater than millimeter waves. The millimeter wave radio frequencies are SHF and EHF as shown below.

Currently millimeter wave is used in airport scanners for airport security, to avoid smuggling and detection of items to prevent commercial losses. The transportation security agency (TSA) of the United States is already using millimeter wave scanners and says that it is similar effective to x-rays but it is not linked with cancer unlike x-rays. France and Germany decided not to use millimeter wave scanners due to its false alarming due to the buttons, fold dresses and even sweats [3].

The state of the art research does not show any clear evidence that millimeter wave is hazardous to human health. However, to avoid any possible effect on health, the following steps should be followed,

Reduce the time spending with your cell phones.

Use speaker mode or use headsets to place more distance between head and cellphones

Stay at least 6 feet away from single antenna and 10 feet away from multiple antenna devices

Do not touch the antenna or stand close to antenna

Understand and follow the signs and instructions given for high radiation exposure in public places and buildings.

References:

[1] https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-358968A1.pdf

[2] https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-devices-and-health-concerns

[3] https://www.propublica.org/article/sweating-bullets-body-scanners-can-see-perspiration-as-a-potential-weapon

[4] https://www.osha.gov/dts/hib/hib_data/hib19900905.html;

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Engineer, Entrepreneur, Investor, Toastmaster, working to become motivational speaker and writer.

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Abdul Hye

Abdul Hye

Engineer, Entrepreneur, Investor, Toastmaster, working to become motivational speaker and writer.

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