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5g: The conspiracy theories and the facts

Most technological breakthroughs in mobile telephony have always been accompanied by fear that has little or no proof in any scientific theory. The introduction of 5G (fifth generation) wireless communications technology and its wide adoption, has drawn the attention of health professionals globally to its possible health risk, and there has been immense call for its immediate suspension from some quarters. Just as it was with 4G and older generations of mobile communication, there has been many conspiracy theories around 5G. Let us look at the facts.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum (ES) is a range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiations (waves of alternating electric and magnetic fields), their respective wavelengths and photon energies. Higher up the spectrum are the ionizing radiations which include x-rays, gamma-rays and the high ultraviolet rays from the sun, with wavelengths ranging from 10-8m to 10-12m. The relationship between wavelength and frequency is inverse. As such, one reduces as the other increases. What is common to all spectral bands is the speed at which they travel; the speed of light, 3*108m/s.

Conspiracy theorists believe the 5G network is packed with radiations of higher energy that can deliver damaging effects on human health, such as premature ageing and disruption of the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) structure, leading to cancer. Simply put, this is a hoax!

While radiofrequency radiations (RFR) are inherently not dangerous, it is important we understand the circumstances they might be. All radio waves, FM waves, Wi-Fi, infra-red, visible light as well as 5G radiations, are in the non-ionizing category and are incapable of causing any major damage to our bodies. For over two decades that the word ‘radiation’ has been instilling fear in people (partly because it sounds like radioactivity, an entirely different phenomenon), there has not been a clear-cut scientific study that explains any known method by which a non-ionizing radiation can cause an effect that is biological, such as being ferried baselessly around that, 5G radiations birthed the novel COVID-19. Only those in the ionizing portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as ultra-violet rays, x-rays and gamma-rays can heat up our body tissue, causing DNA mutation, cancer and other health challenges.

Recently, the National Toxicology Program in the United States, released the report of a research performed on cell phone RFRs. In that research, rats were exposed to a high amount of 3G RFR every day for two years. At the end of that study, mild cases of brain and heart tumours were found in the male rats. This however, is not enough to draw conclusion because the tumours did not develop in female rats and were so small, they could have happened by chance. Interestingly too, the control rats (those not exposed to the RFRs) died earlier than those exposed.

Except you deliberately immerse yourself in the way of RFR and very close to its source for years, will you get cancer. A human will normally not be exposed to that much radiation in a lifetime. It is important to state that RFRs travel in a specified Line of Sight (LOS); they do not propagate haphazardly unless a contact is made with an obstacle. A major criterion for radiofrequency link deployment is that no obstacle exists from point to point. It is therefore safe to say there is nothing to be afraid of.

5G utilises a range of frequencies (3.5GHz and up to a few tens of GHz) in the non-ionizing portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelength extending into the millimetre range. In very basic terms, this means that the amount of data accessible on a 5G network is in multiples of tens to hundreds of those available on a 4G network. Very large images, videos and documents are downloadable at very fast rate of about 10 to 20Gbps due to the increased amount of data now accessible per time. Video game streaming, watching videos online without buffering are a few of the benefits 5G offers.

What might be of worry about this, is the utilisation of a denser cluster of cell sites than already exist.

A millimetre wavelength, expectedly, should travel a far distance, and indeed the 5G RFR will travel far, but in a vacuum where everything is ideal. This is not achievable in a natural human environment; hence the radiation gets easily attenuated travelling in a foliage or a humid atmosphere. An estimate of one cell site is placed between two to ten houses, allowing transmitters to be configured at low decibels. This is an advantage, as the radiations transmitted are not powerful enough to penetrate the human skin; another confirmation that there is indeed nothing to fear.

According to the chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), Eric Van Rogen, after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literatures, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process, the body has concluded that there are no specific undue health risks posed by 5G communication technology. But there are standards recommended which include the addition of restriction for exposure to the whole body; the addition of a restriction for brief (less than six minutes) exposures to small regions of the body; and the reduction of the maximum exposure permitted over a small region of the body.

These standards are simply for the sake of it as exposure to RFR is a function of location of the users and their usage. Although, the World Health Organization (WHO) has placed RFRs in the low-risk category of carcinogens, this classification is flawed because it appears the body was focused on hazards and not real-world risk. “A loaded pistol is a hazard because theoretically, it can cause damage. But if you lock it in a safe, the risk is negligible” explains Dr Steve Novella, the editor of Science-based Medicine and an associate professor of neurology at Yale University.

In conclusion, the world should understand that ICNIRP must have put the real-world health risk in consideration before coming up with those guidelines stated earlier, and being the regulatory body on non-ionizing radiations, we can run to town with their conclusion that 5G poses no major health risk. Manufacturers and users of this technology only need adhere to recommended guidelines for its deployment and use respectively. We should immediately stop the spread of those conspiracy theories going on around the world concerning 5G. This is a time when we should be harnessing its benefits specially to strengthen e-health, remote surveillance and tele-surgery in this COVID-19 era of social distancing. Should humanity rather not be brazing for 6G?


Segun Akande

Segun Akande writes via

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