Should we be afraid of 5G technology

5G - a health hazard?

The introduction of fifth generation (5G) cellular networks is planned not only in Germany, but worldwide. As much as we all like fast internet, some people wonder whether the new technology could be detrimental to health.

What does 5G mean?

The fifth generation of mobile communication will use higher frequencies and bandwidths. Users can then transfer mobile data many times faster than with older mobile radio standards - at rates of up to ten gigabits per second.

Previous G networks use frequencies between 700 megahertz and six gigahertz. The 5G network works with frequencies from 28 to 100 gigahertz. In comparison, this means: 4G is ten times faster than 3G. The fifth generation is growing again: It should be around a thousand times faster than 4G.

The Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson predicts that by 2024 over 40 percent of the world's population will use 5G technology.

Germany still has a lot of catching up to do in mobile network expansion in many regions

Supplying the ultra-fast network is made more difficult by the short millimeter waves. They cannot cover particularly long distances and fail on house walls just as quickly as on groups of trees. For this reason, amplifier antennas will be indispensable, giving the waves a new boost every 150 meters on average.

So we have to be prepared for the fact that, in addition to the cell phone towers already distributed all over the country, reinforcing antennas will soon have to be installed on street signs, lanterns and mailboxes (which would at least be given a right to exist again). Because fast internet without a stable connection makes no sense. But if the number of antennas that are supposed to amplify low-frequency radiation increases, we can hardly escape the permanent influence of the rays.

Reason to worry?

There may hardly be anyone who does not own or use a smartphone, laptop or other digital device. However, the fear of cell phone radiation is just as omnipresent.

Around 250 scientists from around the world recently signed a petition to the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO). In it, the experts warn that radiation-emitting devices such as "cell phones and cordless telephones [...] and radio antennas" can increase the risk of cancer due to the electromagnetic field (EMF) generated by the radio waves.

The specific warning reads: "The effects include an increased risk of cancer, cellular stress, an increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damage, structural and functional changes in the reproductive systems, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders and negative effects on the general well-being of humans."

Numerous scientific studies with 2G, 3G and 4G technologies have shown what traces electromagnetic fields can leave in the human body: stress, sperm and testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects, including changes in electrical activity in the brain, and cellular DNA damage.

Are the children's smaller heads at greater risk?

However, not only people are affected, according to the warning scientists. There are more and more indications of the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation on animals and plants.

Sarah Drie├čen from the Research Center for Electromagnetic Environmental Compatibility at the University of Aachen refers to a study from the USA. It was possible to establish a clear connection between strong radio frequency fields, which correspond to today's standards, and cancer in rats.

Tests on mice exposed to EMF nine hours a day for two years showed changes in the nervous system, brain, heart and testes. Increased cell death was also found.

The health consequences for humans have not yet been researched. "If high-frequency fields in the millimeter-wave range (30-100 GHz) are used for 5G, the study situation looks significantly poorer than for the known mobile radio frequencies. Overall, there are significantly fewer studies here than on the previously used mobile radio frequency range," the researcher wrote in an email to DW.

Some scientists warn of a particularly great danger to young children. Because of the smaller skull and the smaller thickness of the skull walls, the children's brain is particularly exposed to radiation.

Despite these study results, the WHO International EMF Project, which looks at the health effects of electromagnetic fields on humans, argues that "after several decades of EMF research, no major risks to general health have been identified." However, with the note that "uncertainties remain".

Old-fashioned, but certainly without the risk of radiation

What to do?

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has requested a thorough investigation of the health risks of the new 5G technology.

The agency used the auction of 5G licenses last Tuesday to give consumers advice on how to protect themselves from cell phone radiation.

"With increasing amounts of data being transmitted, consumers should be able to reduce their exposure to radiation when making calls and surfing [on the Internet] to a minimum."

If you have a landline connection, you should use it to make your phone calls. The basic rule is: only use the mobile phone as briefly as possible. Writing text messages is better than making a phone call. In addition, the following applies: the worse the reception, the worse the phone call is, also in terms of radiation. Because the worse the connection to the nearest radio mast, the more intense the smartphone's electromagnetic field.

Headsets reduce radiation exposure by moving them further away from the device

If you want to surf the Internet, you should connect to the nearest WiFi network. Using a headset to make and receive calls exposes the head to less radiation. A greater distance between the device and the body is also important in order to limit radiation exposure.

A connection between cancer, which often develops over a period of 20-30 years, and 5G radiation has not been established, the BfS concluded. "The technology is still too young to be able to draw any conclusions."

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    Author: Kate Ferguson (bea)