No, your smartphone isn’t going to boil your skin off or give you cancer in the 5G age

My column in today’s Financial Post.

By Steve Milloy

Faster 5G wireless networks are here. And that’s going to be great for our communications needs and the economy. But: “Will you be willing to risk your life in order to have better connections and faster speeds?”

That question comes from a U.S. article entitled, “Hundreds Of Respected Scientists Sound The Alarm About Health Effects As 5G Networks Go Up Nationwide.”

The bottom line is that there is no physics or physical evidence that 5G is anything to worry about

According to the article the thrust of the scare is that: (1) we are “constantly being bombarded” by electromagnetic radiation that “is not good for us”; (2) 5G towers will be so powerful and close together “it will essentially be like living in a closed radiation chamber 24 hours a day”; (3) “our bodies are essentially magnets for 5G radiation”; and (4) some male rats exposed to a different type of radiofrequency radiation had an increased rate of heart tumours.

The conclusion (as offered by a retired biochemistry professor): “Rolling out 5G technology without any safety testing whatsoever has got to be the stupidest idea anyone has had in the history of the world.”

It’s hard to know where to start with this, but here goes.

First, “radiation” is a loaded term, meant to scare, not to inform. 5G technology is in the (safe) radio wave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and is far different from the ionizing radiation (think sunlight and X-rays) which can directly damage DNA and increase cancer risk as a result of intense or prolonged exposure.

Since 5G can’t directly damage DNA, scare proponents rely on the notion of thermal or heat effects causing cancer. The image of “living in a closed radiation chamber” is meant to scare up notions of living in a microwave. But there is no example of that sort of heat causing cancer in humans. 5G towers may be powerful — if you’re standing next to them — but people don’t generally come close to them. So exposures are very low and biologically insignificant.

All that need be said is that if you notice your skin bubbling while talking on your 5G device, turn it off.

Are human bodies “magnets” for 5G radiation? According to the article, “human sweat ducts act like a number of helical antennas when exposed to” devices that employ 5G technology.

Well, 5G devices are much less intense than microwave ovens and the worst thing a microwave oven could to do you (if you were inside one) would be to boil you away. All that need be said is that if you notice your skin bubbling while talking on your 5G device, turn it off.

For what it’s worth, laboratory research (Web | PDF) shows that the absorption and penetration of radio waves in tissue decreases as frequency increases. So current 4G technology has more potential biological effect than 5G technology, and there is no 4G scare.

As to what happened to the male rats in the previously mentioned experiment, whatever happened wasn’t caused by 5G radiowaves. Moreover, laboratory rats are not little people. Instead, they are rodents bred for their proclivity to develop cancer. They are essentially cancer time bombs, so much so that they can develop cancer just from eating too much food.

Research has been conducted on the health effects of radiowaves on radio operators since at least the Second World War. This research has not reported anything of interest. It’s no wonder that no credible study has reported health effects in cellphone users despite the explosive growth in use and exposure over the past 25 years.

The bottom line is that there is no physics or physical evidence that 5G is anything to worry about. The scaremongers know this and have, in response, resorted to the “precautionary principle” — that is, 5G should be extensively tested and proven safe under all conditions even if that took decades. That is impossible and impractical.

Where did the 5G scare come from?

In some sense it’s just a natural progression of prior failed efforts to scare the public about electromagnetic radiation. In the 1980s and 1990s, the scare was outdoor power lines and indoor electrical wiring causing cancer. Just about the time that scare was debunked and died out, the first cellphone-brain cancer scare began. That, too, didn’t pan out.

Then there are the Russians, the source of much devilment in the U.S. these days. Russia Today has aggressively pushed the 5G scare, possibly in some effort to sow fear and retard its development in the U.S. When The New York Times recently spotlighted this effort, Russia Today accused the Times of defending 5G because it has a partnership with 5G provider Verizon.

Will the 5G scare succeed? No, and for the very same reason that the original cellphone scare failed. Consumers love the technology so much and it’s so obviously important to them, they’re not willing to be deprived of it because of junk science.

Steve Milloy publishes and is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA” (Bench Press, 2016).