The new 5G (fifth-generation) cell phone network will start to roll out next year. With speeds that could be as much as 100 times faster than the current 4G network, 5G will have the capacity to deliver the 'Internet of Things'—so your fridge can notify you (or Amazon) when you're low on milk, for instance. It will be a major fillip for new services, and, of course, for the cell phone manufacturers who are preparing their new compatible handsets. Even President Trump has gotten in on the act, tweeting he "wants 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible."
Industry observers say that the technological leap 5G will deliver is akin to the shift from typewriters to personal computers—but some scientists are less enthusiastic and see it as one vast human health experiment. With no safe levels agreed on, they fear that the higher radiofrequency radiation of the 5G network could pose a major health risk, especially to young children and pregnant women.
Even with earlier, and less powerful, networks, children were absorbing up to 10 times more radiation from cell phones than adults—and that's at least two times above safe limits, the US Environmental Health Trust said in 2011.
Small children absorb twice as much radiation to their heads, three times more in their eyes and the hippocampus and hypothalamus regions of the brain, and 10 times more radiation to the bone marrow.1 And with around 70 percent of children age 10 and younger using a cell phone, and two-thirds of them having a smartphone, according to a 2014 Nielsen survey, this is a major health concern.
A group of 230 scientists from 40 countries has issued the 5G Appeal, asking the European Union (EU) for a moratorium on the roll-out of the 5G network throughout its 27 member states until the health hazards of all cellular technology and Wi-Fi networks are independently assessed.2 One of the signatories, Professor Martin L. Pall, a biochemist at Washington State University, has described the roll-out of the 5G network as "the stupidest idea in the history of the world."
Similar concerns have been raised in the US Senate. In a hearing about the new network last December, industry officials admitted there hadn't been any health and safety studies on 5G technology. In response, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) criticized the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to safeguard the American public. As he said at the end of the hearing: "So there really is no research ongoing. We're kind of flying blind here as far as health and safety is concerned."
Although the biological effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) have been known since 1932, few independent studies have properly researched their impact on human health, and many that have been published have only tested laboratory rats and mice. Instead, government agencies have relied on studies paid for by the mobile phone industry, which, perhaps not surprisingly, have consistently failed to see any hazards.
One investigation by the National Toxicology Program, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, found some risk of cancer with the earlier 2G and 3G cell phones, certainly as far as male rats were concerned. The $25 million research project exposed the rats to 10-minute bursts of cell phone radiation for two years.
Meanwhile, regulators and agencies have been pocketing vast sums from the network providers. The FCC raked in $703 million from the first release of 5G licenses—with a further 100 licenses still to be released at the time of writing—and the UK's equivalent agency, Ofcom, banked £1.3 billion from the auction of the new network.
Although the cell phone industry may have given itself a clean bill of health, in 2011 the World Health Organization designated radiofrequency radiation a group 2B carcinogen, which means it may be cancer-causing in humans, and scientists fear the new 5G technology could have even more widespread health consequences.
Build more towers
The 5G network is ultra-high frequency (UHF) and ultra-high intensity—the existing 4G network operates at up to 5 GHz (gigahertz), but 5G is between 24 and 90 GHz on the EMF spectrum—and the health dangers increase with higher frequencies, at least in theory.
Although it is more powerful, 5G travels over shorter distances. Its shorter millimeter waves (MMVs) mean that millions more cell towers will need to be installed across the US and every other country that's introducing 5G. A new 5G mini-tower—they stand at around four feet tall—will serve just two to eight houses, it's estimated.
And it's no good campaigning if a mast ends up outside your front door. In exchange for their big investments, network operators have been granted 'streamlining' powers in the US, which essentially means they will get automatic approval from planners.
Public notice and public hearings will be eliminated, says the Environmental Health Trust. "Even if every homeowner on the block opposes the antennas on their street, the opposition will be disregarded," the organization claims.
And if the homeowner isn't motivated by health concerns, the fact their property value could drop by 20 percent—as typically happens when a mast is placed outside the property—may grab their interest.
MMVs could cause skin, eye and nervous system damage, according to Dr Joel Moskovitz, a professor of public health at the University of California, Berkeley. "The deployment of 5G constitutes a massive experiment on the health of all species," he said. He is especially concerned that MMVs are easily absorbed by the skin and nervous system.
His concerns have been echoed by Dr Yael Stein at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem who, in a letter to the FCC, said that MMVs pose a special threat to the health of small children, pregnant women and the growing fetus because of their easy absorption though the skin.
It's a fact already known to the US military, which has developed MMV energy into a non-lethal weapon called the 'active denial system'—also called the 'heat ray' or the 'pain ray'—that uses a focused beam to cause burning or stinging on the skin.
Professor Pall thinks the damage may well be more than skin deep. He lists eight 'great harms' he fears that 5G will cause, including damage to our brains, our endocrine, or hormonal, systems, and oxidative stress, which is the trigger for many chronic health problems.3
Hold your horses
In its 5G Appeal to the EU, the group of scientists is calling for a moratorium on the rollout of the 5G network until independent and "truly impartial" research can evaluate the health risks from all EMF radiation, including from earlier generations of cell networks and Wi-Fi. They also want the EU to establish safe standards for maximum total exposure and educate the public about how to reduce their EMF exposure.
In a 2015 paper to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, another group—the EMF Scientists—said that "EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines . . . including increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damage, damage to the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits and neurological disorders."4
All of this has been enough for the American Cancer Society to alter its advice about cell phone use, urging people to limit the time they have their cell phone near their head. The cell phone industry isn't so sure, and has pointed out that the rates of brain cancers haven't increased since cell phones were launched. This may be true overall, but not for one specific type called glioblastoma multiforme—one of the deadliest of all cancers, with patients having an average survival time of just one year after diagnosis.5
Ultimately, the jury is still out. The scientists lobbying for a delay are appealing to Europe's 'Precautionary Principle'—you independently verify something is safe before exposing vast numbers of people to it. But once you throw precautionary principles to the wind, and the genie is out of the bottle, there's no turning back.
Women, children (and bees)
Although pregnant women and young children are thought to be at the greatest risk from EMFs, scientists have pointed out that all living organisms could be affected.
And some scientists have asserted that the radiation from cell phone technology could be responsible for the sudden disappearance of honeybees.
While some maintain that pesticides are to blame, researchers from Punjab University in India believe that EMF radiation could be the real culprit. After exposing bees to the radiation, they noted it affected their behavior and physiology, including a sudden rise in levels of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, which they think may be a protective reaction.
Only the bees exposed to the radiation experienced the changes.1
There are a few practical steps you can take to reduce EMF radiation levels in your home and the way they affect you.
Build your immune system: Eat plenty of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, and avoid sugar and processed foods and drinks.
Measure the level of radiation: Use a meter to locate the rooms with the highest radiation level, and apply special window coverings and EMF-blocking paints to the walls.
Reduce your use of your cell phone around the home: This includes switching it off at night, not having it in your bedroom, and using EMF-blocking devices or a protective case on the phone.
Turn off the Wi-Fi router: When it's not in use, such as when you're about to go to sleep, switch it off.
Do something with the smart meter: If you have a smart meter—which is constantly transmitting data on energy usage—look to buy a smart meter guard. They cost around $100—or you could have it replaced with the more traditional meter.