5G, is it a weapon and should we be scared ?

Published on June 9, 2019
Dr Michelle Dickinson (MNZM)
Dr Michelle Dickinson

5G is coming, and with it comes the next mobile revolution with it’s seemingly endless opportunities for technological and business developments. While many of us are dependent on our smartphones to help connect us with the world, most of us probably don’t know how our phones work, what 5G is, and whether or not we should believe the health scares floating around social media.

Frying our brains, military weapons and cancer creators are the scary headlines being thrown around when it comes to 5G. The chances are, if you are seeing a headline like that it wasn’t written by a scientist, because we don’t write catch titles, we write really long, boring, jargon filled titles in journals that you probably aren’t reading.

So let’s just break it down – “G” stands for Generation and if you look at your smartphone right now, it will probably display a 3G or a 4G symbol. This refers to the frequency band it uses to receive and transmit data. 4G is 10 times faster than 3G and 5G is predicted to be 1000 times faster than our current systems.

5G is simply the fifth generation of mobile internet connectivity. It differs to the previous generations through its use of higher frequencies, which enable its users to transfer wireless data faster. The improved speed will enable the creation of new technologies, for example, improving data transfer for smart cities, remote surgeries and autonomous vehicles, as well as super-fast downloads for playing virtual reality games and watching movies.

The frequencies we refer to in mobile phone technology are all radio signals, and often referred to as RF or radiofrequency radiation.

For most people, anything with the word radiation in it sounds scary. It’s not as intimidating as it might seem though – the word just means the emission of energy from any source.

Too much exposure to radiation is thought to be bad for us, and linked to cancer. This is why we are advised to limit the number of medical x-rays we have a year. However there are two types of radiation: ionising and non-ionising and the type makes the difference when it comes to danger risk. X-rays are a form of ionising radiation, and repeated exposure has been seen to damage our DNA, which over time has been shown to increase the risks of developing cancer.

Non-ionising radiation doesn’t carry enough energy to “ionise”, or strip electrons from atoms and molecules. It therefore doesn’t have enough energy to damage our DNA. The radiation emitted from radios, mobile phones, phone towers and Wi-Fi routers – RF radiation – is non-ionising. It sits at the low-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum and is much safer than high-energy ionising radiation like x-rays.

With every new mobile phone release comes renewed concern around the effect of this technology on our health, and fears surrounding mobile phone use and the possible effect of radiation on the human body are ongoing. This isn’t helped by the World Health Organisation declaring that mobile devices are a “Class 2B carcinogen”, which really sounds scary. To put things in perspective, however, other items in the 2B category include coffee, pickles and being a carpenter.

The WHO says that about 25,000 scientific articles have been published on non-ionising radiation over the past 30 years making scientific knowledge of the technology more extensive than for most of the household chemicals we use day-to-day. Current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields from mobile phones.

The great news is that although the power levels involved in mobile and wireless telecommunications are already incredibly low, as the frequency goes up the depth of penetration into biological tissues goes down. This means that 5G is even less likely to penetrate the body than the current technology that we use.

So what about that big scary rumour that 5G is used as a weapon by the military and therefore installing 5G is the governments plan to attack us all.

Well, everything at a high enough dose will kill you – even water, and I don’t see you running from that!

It’s true, some military weapons use something known as an Active Denial System which uses high energy millimeter waves, but these are directed waves which are very different to the radiated waves that a cell-tower would use. The waves are non-lethal and used like an invisible security fence, to do this they need to operate at a frequency of 95GHz which is way higher than the upper frequency that 5G will be using. They also run at over 30 kilowatts, whereas the small, lower-power 5G base stations are generally outputting 2-10 watts.

So to sum it up, yes 5G technology can be used as a weapon, but not by 5G cell-towers, they just can’t produce the power or frequency to do that. Yes, the incidence of brain tumours has been decreasing while the use of mobile phones has been dramatically increasing, so the chances are your phone is not frying your brain. Yes radiation is dangerous, but that’s ionising radiation like the type produced in X-rays, not non-ionising radiation which is what your mobile phone uses.

Invisible science can be scary and it’s easy to believe the headlines, but 5G technology is just a faster way for us to connect to the internet and there is no need to invest in a tinfoil hat, instead why not invest in a technology course so you can be part of this new and exciting industry.

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