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Is 5G hazardous to your health?

por Andres Levy (2020-11-10)

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Activists fear radiation from 5G wireless service could be dangerous to public health. And they want more research done before carriers deploy the technology. 
False conspiracy theories about links between 5G wireless networks and the origins of the coronavirus have been circulating widely online. The baseless claim is that somehow the radio waves used to transmit 5G either caused the virus or weakens the immune system, 8001234469 making one more susceptible to COVID-19.It does not. 

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But that hasn't stopped threats against broadband engineers and possible arson attacks against cellular infrastructure in the UK. Government officials there called the notion a "crackpot conspiracy." In the US, the Federal Emergency Management Agency put out a statement responding to the rumor stating: "5G technology does NOT cause coronavirus." This is just the latest in a long line of claims and suspicions that 5G, which promises lightning-fast speeds and the ability to power new technologies like self-driving cars, can somehow harm people's health. Concerns about 5G's effects on health were spreading even before coronavirus. 

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5G and your health


Consumers for years have been anxious about possible health effects of radiation in everything from microwaves to cellphones, prodded by claims that radio airwaves cause brain cancer, reduced fertility, headaches in children and other illnesses.Experts say that while more study on the wavelengths used by 5G would be helpful, there is nothing so far that suggests people should be concerned. The latest biological research looking at potential effects of 5G radiation found no link between the technology and your health."Based on our study, we don't think 5G radiation is that harmful," said Subham Dasgupta, a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University, which published findings in early July from a study into the effects of 5G radiation on zebrafish. "It's predominately benign."

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What's the issue with cellular signals?Radiation is the emission of energy from any source. That means that even heat that comes from your body counts as radiation. But some forms of radiation can make you sick.  We can organize types of radiation by their levels of power on the electromagnetic spectrum. Bigger wavelengths with lower frequency are less powerful, while smaller wavelengths at higher frequencies are more powerful. This spectrum is divided into two distinct categories: ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation, which includes ultraviolet rays, X-rays and gamma rays, are the harmful forms. The energy from ionizing radiation can pull apart atoms and it's known to break the chemical bonds in DNA, which can damage cells and cause cancer. This is why the FDA warns against having unnecessary X-rays. It's also why exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer.Chart showing the electromagnetic spectrumThe electromagnetic spectrum is broken up into two categories: ionizing and non-ionizing. The high-frequency millimeter wavelengths that are expected to be used for some 5G deployments are in the non-ionizing category.
Non-ionizing radiation has lower frequencies and bigger wavelengths. It doesn't produce enough energy to break apart the chemical bonds of DNA. Examples include radio frequency, or RF, radiation such as FM radio, TV signals and cellphones that use traditional 3G and 4G service. Microwave and millimeter wavelength radiation, which is one of the key blocks of spectrum that 5G service will use, is also considered non-ionizing (as is visible light) and doesn't produce the kind of energy that directly damages cells. Common devices, such as Wi-Fi routers, garage door openers, airport security scanners and walkie-talkies, use lower-frequency microwaves.Does this mean that cellphone radiation doesn't cause cancer?It's complicated. Some experts suspect that the radiation from these devices could damage cells via another biological mechanism, such as oxidative stress in cells, which leads to inflammation and has been found to cause cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular, neurological and pulmonary diseases. Out of the thousands of studies that have been conducted over the past two decades, the results are mixed. Most of the studies published so far on the use of traditional cellphone service in the RF range haven't found a link with the development of tumors, according to the American Cancer Society. But the group concedes that the majority of these studies had significant limitations, which leaves some doubt.
5G is an emerging technology that hasn't really been defined yet.
Michael Wyde, toxicologist
Still, neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the National Toxicology Program has formally classified RF radiation as cause of cancer. But in 2011 the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified RF radiation as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" after studies suggested links to a specific type of brain tumor. But the agency also acknowledged that the evidence is limited. Just for reference, coffee and pickled vegetables are in the same "possibly carcinogenic" category as RF.  "There is some evidence from epidemiological studies and other research on the biological effects that electromagnetic radiation could cause cancer," said Jonathan Samet, a pulmonary physician and epidemiologist and the dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, who chaired the IARC's committee in 2011. "But the whole body of evidence is not strong." As a result, the committee couldn't say for certain that cellphones are safe, but it couldn't say they're unsafe, either. Samet said more high-quality research is needed on how non-ionizing radiation, such as RF, might cause changes in cells.