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Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream, oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard, 91 x 73 cm, National Gallery of Norway

Don’t Fear the 5G: Radiation Isn’t Radioactivity & Other Fun Facts

5G Logo

It may be the most hilariously misunderstood technology of this generation. Just a few months ago, we were being inundated with stories about how the rollout of 5G was exacerbating the Covid-19 outbreak from sources that were — almost — scientific. First of all, if you haven’t heard this anywhere else, let me be the first to tell you that a virus transmitted through droplets of bodily fluid isn’t making rounds through radio waves.

It comes as no surprise that there’s so much confusion when so many sources are churning out conflicting narratives. Scientific American, for instance, recently posted a blog saying that “more than 500 studies have found harmful biologic or health effects from exposure to RFR at intensities too low to cause significant heating.”

This had a major impact on public perception. A 2020 Deloitte poll found that a fifth or more adults agreed with the statement “I believe there are health risks associated with 5G.”

So, what’s a girl (or guy, or non-binary person) to think?  Is it time to burn our laptops and Oregon Trail it to Green Bank, West Virginia? Let’s take a look. 

Radiation Isn’t Radioactivity

Radioativity logo

One of the main issues with public perception of 5G is simply a case of mixed-up terminology. “Radiation” and “radioactivity” aren’t necessarily the same thing. In fact, “radiation” just refers to the emission of energy that travels through a source, passes through a medium, and is absorbed when it reaches its final destination. So, yes, this could be cell phone > outdoor air > and human. But it could also be light > room > table or any other form of energy transference. 

Radioactivity, on the other hand, is a spontaneous burst of radiation that stems from a nuclear reaction. Some radioactivity is associated with cancer/illness-causing agents that come from nuclear sites, etc. But here’s the doozy: None of the radiation generated by 5G is radioactive. Not an ion of it. And, in many ways, it carries less risk of harm than a lightbulb. 

The FCC’s Take on the Issue

The poor FCC is in the position of trying to dispel 5G panic by referencing scientific studies …  without offending anyone or stepping on anyone’s toes. The result is statements like this one:

“Even though no scientific evidence currently establishes a definitive link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses, and even though all such devices must meet established federal standards for exposure to RF energy, some consumers are skeptical of the science and/or the analysis that underlies the FCC’s RF exposure guidelines.”

Let me reiterate here that we aren’t disparaging the people who believe rumors about 5G either. There are a whole lot of news sources out there fully dedicated to leading them astray. But all wireless devices in the U.S. are rigorously tested by the FCC to ensure they never cross the very, very low exposure limits. 

Closing Sentiments

People with cell phones running away from a 5G tower
Image by Golden Cosmos

In closing, let me highlight that 5G actually uses and emits less power than other mainstream iterations of radiofrequency. The radio waves that 5G creates actually fall on the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Do you know what has more radiation than 5G? Visible light. Microwaves. Ultraviolet light. 

While 4G, 3G, and the like keep on going like the Energizer bunny even when the device is shut down, 5G goes into sleep mode when it’s turned off. So not only is it safer than a lightbulb, it’s actually safer than many of the older technologies that conspiracy theorists are clinging to in lieu of welcoming the future of connectivity. 

So, unless you’re living by candlelight and making your TV dinner in the oven each evening, you’re not going to be exposed to anything you aren’t already being inundated with – in spades. End rant. 

Do you still have some qualms about the impact of 5G? Any studies I forgot to mention? Let’s hash it out in the comment section below!

Jasmine Glasheen
the authorJasmine Glasheen
Contributing Writer
Jasmine Glasheen is Senior Copywriter. She's a writer, speaker, and retail and technology thought leader. Glasheen is a leading voice on what comes next, sharing her insights in retail magazines, news sites, tech blogs, and eBooks.
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  • Are you suggesting that the multiplication of 5G antennas isn’t a problem? Because their signal isn’t as powerful as 4G, there must be a lot more of them. I don’t know what research the FCC is referencing. I am struck by the fact that nobody in the US seems to be doing research on 5G.How can something this momentous not be researched before pushing it on the public? I read that Trump cancelled all research into 5G. Is this another tobacco story? I heard from Burt Wolf interviews that there is a lot of research being done in Europe, and the results are not encouraging. There is really big money involved here, and it would be easy to believe that the 1% is going their way without regard to us.

  • I’ve worked in cellular for 30+ years (as a switch engineer, maintaining/repairing the equipment that processes people’s phone calls), and some of the things I’ve heard from conspiracy theories are flat absurd. On the issue of “radiation,” the fact is 5G uses the same frequencies as cellular always has. Nothing has changed.

    To do what the conspiracy theorists claim 5G does, it would have to be ionizing radiation, putting its frequencies in the same range as x-rays and gamma rays. So, yes, these conspiracies actually do deserve to be disparaged. They aren’t even remotely close to being scientific fact.

    I would say more, but that would likely get conspiracy theorists off on another unscientific jaunt.

  • It’s funny that you don’t believe government agency certifications are bought and paid for, just like the corrupt politicians who name their directors and dictate their findings.

  • When 5G has the same frequency as our brain waves that is a huge concern from a brain health perspective. How many of these studies are actually independent of the industry or regulatory bodies themselves?

  • One of my favorite authors, Steven Novella, the author of “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe” de-bunked the 5G issues in his blog (NeuroLogica Blog). He is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine so he is fairly well qualified.

    From his blog he says: “Your life is full of risks that are orders of magnitude more significant than even the worst case scenario with 5G.”

    I suppose if you climbed the tower and leaned your head against the antenna for hours you might have some negative consequences but then again that behavior might just lead to something worse like falling off of the tower … but not due to 5G … just stupidity.

    If you read his book you can easily see how conspiracy theorists “fall down the rabbit hole”. There are many cognitive behavioral issues that afflict humans to distort their ability to think in scientific terms and sometimes even connect the obvious dots.

  • My concern with 5G isn’t about the radio waves per se (though it will be interesting to see how folks react when their cell phones don’t work in blackouts since it’s unlikely that the orders of magnitude more transceivers required will have battery backups like current cell towers do). Rather, it’s that 5G makes possible the IOT, and that, in turn, gives the elites hundreds of times more ability to set up the complete surveillance state. Forget hackers breaking into my air fryer; the real concern is when Big Brother is able to view everyone 24/7 and with the help of that other wonderful tech, A.I., we will all get “social scores”.

    Think it’s unlikely? See what is happening now in China. For those who would like to learn something I suggest Kai Strittmatter’s book “We Have Been Harmonized” – quite the eye opener. The genuine problem with all this is that a tiny number of people are in control and, in effect, get to decide what others can see and learn (witness the censorship on social media). Imagine a day when Googling “9/11” brings up articles and pieces about the emergency telephone system but noting about that “thing that some folks did in New York in 2001”. It is not out of the realm of possibility – Strittmatter pointed out that for the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were completely ignored by the population thanks to the tireless efforts of the CCP’s censors, who went so far as to delete messages mentioning June 4 as well as “May 35th”.