5G: A phantom risk?

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With our insatiable appetite for technology, and the soon to be implemented 5G network, wireless technology is back in the spotlight.Kieran McMullan reports 

It is true scientific literature has been warning us about wireless radiation for years. And recently, over 250 scientists, who have published peer-reviewed research on the health effects of electromagnetic field (EMF), signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal — a warning urging governments to reconsider the potential health hazards of 5G. Despite this, the effects of EMF exposure on humans remain hypothetical, and of all the unanswered questions, we are left with one reliable answer: perhaps

In order to make this perhaps as reliable as possible, it is important to consider every bit of information available. 

Nine years ago the World Health Organisation (WHO) said mobile phone use is ‘possibly carcinogenic’. Adding: ‘Using a mobile phone may increase the risk of developing certain types of brain tumours and consumers should consider ways of reducing their exposure’.

Today, the average time spent on a mobile phone is three hours and 15 minutes daily. With the top 20% of smartphone users spending upwards of four and a half hours — according to research from RescueTime, an app that monitors phone use. 

Over the last decade smartphone ownership has dramatically increased. Ofcom data, 10 years ago, shows 17% of the population owned a smartphone; compared to 79% now—with 95% among 16-24 year olds. Moreover, The Office for National Statistics reported that 100% of 16-24 year olds have access to the internet via a smartphone.

If over 250 scientists, from 40 different nations believe their findings strongly support the dangers of 5G, what does this mean for us?

Let’s start with the electromagnetic spectrum. Radiation exists across a spectrum from very high-energy to very low-energy. High-energy radiation includes x-rays, gamma rays, and UV radiation from the sun; examples of low-energy radiation are infrared, microwaves, and radio waves. In short, the electromagnetic spectrum is what scientists use to describe all the kinds of light or wavelengths, that exist. However, most of the light in the universe is invisible to the human eye.

The effects of energy can harm individual organisms, and at its worst, ionising radiation has enough energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. This breaking apart of chemical bonds can damage the DNA inside of cells, which can result in cancer. Non-ionising radiation has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to ionise; specifically, remove charged particles such as electrons. 

For example, the sun’s rays can heat our skin cells so powerfully we get burnt. Microwaves and radio waves penetrate more deeply into the body than radiation from the sun, and can therefore heat up tissues at deeper levels.

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Physicists understand a field to be a region of space under the influence of a force. So in respect to EMF, electrical fields consist of electrical forces exerted by charged particles such as protons and electrons. 


Particles with like charges repel one another, while opposite charges attract one another. The result of this attraction: these elementary particles form the atoms, which in turn make up molecules, cells, organs, and living beings.

Charged particles in motion — in other words, electrical currents — generate a magnetic field. And it is these electric and magnetic fields scientists believe pose a range of health concerns.

It has to be noted that thermal damage is directly proportional to the strength and frequency of exposure. The more powerful the electromagnetic fields and radiation, or how frequently the person is exposed, the more probable thermal damage will occur. 

Mobile phones, Wi-Fi, televisions, and gaming consoles are playing an ever-greater part in our lives — a lifestyle that has to be factored into research on radiation exposure. Scientists now believe even the weakest signal can induce biological responses and affect organic tissue and processes.

So the point in question within the scientific community is whether low-energy radiation, or, 5G, is bad for our health. Radio frequency (RF) radiation, a type of EMF, is non-ionising because it is low-energy. This form of radiation includes microwaves and radio waves, though does not cause cancer in the same way ionising radiation does. This is important to distinguish. There is concern, however, that some forms of RF radiation might cause biological effects that could result in cancer.

Mobile phones, including 5G and all other generations of this technology, use RF waves in the sending and receiving of information. These waves are strongest at the antenna, but lose energy quickly as they travel away from the phone. A point to consider is this: the closer the antenna is to the head, the greater a person’s expected exposure to RF energy.

The brain is the main target of the exposure to RF radiation during the use of the handheld wireless phones, and so an increased risk of developing brain tumours has long been a cause for concern.

Currently, the majority of smartphone models have their antenna positioned at the bottom of the phone, thus closer to the thyroid gland. The illustration above shows the positioning of the antenna in regard to the thyroid gland in the neck.

The data on the graph below is sourced fron the Swedish Cancer Register  increase in thyroid cancer for women aged 20-39 years, between 1970-2013. Incidences increased significantly during the period 1993-2013, with an average annual percent change (AAPC) rise of +4.38%.

Another research study found heart and brain cancers in rats are the same cell type as tumours found in humans that have used cell phones for over 10 years. The $30 million study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) found ‘clear evidence’ that two years of exposure to RF radiation increased cancer in male rats and damaged DNA in rats and mice of both sexes. 

Interphone, an international study, shows similar findings, this time in glioma cases—a type of tumour in the brain or spine. The study shows a two-fold risk after 10 plus years of use. Brain tumour cases here in England have reportedly risen. Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show an increase in brain tumours from 1995 to 2015. The results show that cases of an aggressive type of brain tumour called glioblastoma multiforme, found in the forehead and side regions of the brain, have risen sharply in recent years. 

The graph below from ONS shows the rise of Glioblastoma in the UK. The red line plots the tumours scientists would expect the maximum exposure of cellphone use in the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe of the brain. Other brain regions do not show the same increases. But where you would get the maximum exposure, the increases occurred.

Other reported rates of increased brain cancers occurred in the US, with registered tumours found in children, adolescents, and young adults from birth to 24-years-old. The study shows an increase in neuroepithelial brain cancers. Epithelium is the thin tissue found on the body’s surface, and in regards to neuroepithelial, it is a type of epithelium containing sensory nerve endings. These are found in certain sense organs, like your inner ear, retina, nasal membranes, and taste buds.


All these studies clearly show the lower the exposure to RF radiation, the lower the risk.


The popularity, widespread use, and increasing dependency on wireless technologies has prompted a telecommunications industrial revolution. Resulting in the rapid growth of public exposure to broader and higher frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is the price we pay in order to transmit data through a variety of devices and infrastructure. In essence, to power the internet of things (IoT) — the interconnectivity via the internet, of computer devices in daily life. 

On the horizon, a new generation of high frequency 5G, is already set in motion. Fifth generation technology involves unlocking new spectrum bands in higher frequency ranges, using submillimeter and millimeter waves. Scientists do not yet know what dangers these unknown frequencies pose. Yet UK governments are rolling out 5G technology anyway. 

5G cell towers cover a much smaller distance in the transmitting of information, hence why more are being deployed. This is because 5G uses millimeter wavelengths which are shorter than 4G wavelengths. Internet speeds could be up to 10 times faster than 4G, but cell towers on every street corner and increased mobile phone use, means we will be surrounded by radio waves on a regular basis.

A Silicon-valley engineer turned technology health advocate, Jeromy Johnson, spoke in a recent TED Talk, outlining our dependency on technology and the dangers of wireless frequencies. 

In his talk, Johnson recounted headaches, ringing in his ears, insomnia, and brain fog he had never experienced before. One evening, he checked downstairs, below his apartment, and discovered a bank of wireless smart meters installed right below his bedroom. He is not the only person bearing symptoms associated with wireless frequency exposure:

I am contacted by people all around the world, every day, who are experiencing the exact same things. It can be when they have a wireless smart meter installed, or a new Wi-Fi router, or even a cell tower placed across the street from their home.”

— Jeremy Johnson


Frederica Lamech, a physician based in Melbourne, evaluated public complaints after the rollout of smart meters in Australia which began in 2006. Her case studies analyse the symptoms of 87 adults and five children. In her study published in the November/December 2014 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, she notes the ‘most frequently reported’ incidences from exposure to smart meters were similar to the symptoms outlined in Johnson’s TED Talk. 


Lamech’s findings are also the most common ailments mentioned in the 2012 Austrian Medical Association’s Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of EMF-related Health Problems and Illnesses. 


Lamech added: “the hypothesis that some people can develop symptoms from exposure to the radio frequency fields of wireless smart meters … cannot be disproven without further assessment of the affected individuals and the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in which they live.”

In America, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is supposed to regulate wireless technology, though, according to Johnson in his TED Talk, the regulations are outdated and need re-evaluating.

“Our most advanced technology is using a science that’s at least 20 years old”, Johnson said. These regulations are based on a concept that is nearly 50 years old, which states: if microwave radiation does not heat us, then it can’t possibly hurt us.

Many churches and schools in Britain today have cell towers, with frequent incidences of children complaining about headaches. The illustration below shows the vulnerability of younger brains concerning the absorption of radiation. A child’s brain contains more water than an adult’s, and the skull is thinner. Children also have smaller bones which means their bodies are susceptible to more absorption of radiation, especially in deeper tissues.

The dangers of wireless technology is something society has not yet recognised. The science shows we are all affected on some level, whether we feel it or not. This is because our bodies are essentially electric. Every cell in our body communicates using tiny electric signals. It’s how our nervous system operates. 

The generations now are the first to experience cradle-to-the-grave exposure of man-made RF radiation. It could be years or decades before the effects are known and felt.

The danger is then magnified by other common health risk behaviours — thus effects can be non-linear. Government officials and industry representatives of the status quo regard this as non-conclusive proof.

In Britain, 5G was officially launched in May 2019; with coverage reaching 50 towns and cities, including some of the most populated areas such as London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, and Newcastle. Globally there is still no consensus on the health impacts of 5G. While some countries are rapidly moving forward with installation, other countries are waiting for more research to be carried out — for instance, Switzerland has stalled the rollout of 5G over health concerns.

Scientists are dealing with uncertainty when it comes to whether low-energy radiation is bad for our health. So the subject we must instead focus on is how much uncertainty we are willing to accept and live with.EMF radiation is a solvable problem. Many claim current regulations set out by FCC and WHO, and adhered to by companies, do not go far enough.

Moreover, if smart meters were designed to emit just once or twice a day, rather than 10,000 times, many people could avoid the health side effects of living with modern technology. 

Then there is our dependency on Wi-Fi. Most people simply do not need it in their homes. When it comes to children, do we really need Wi-Fi in schools? We are readily filling classrooms with radio waves. The safer alternatives are fibre-optics or ethernet cables.

If international agencies were to reconvene and re-evaluate RF radiation, they would be bound to conclude: exposure is a human carcinogen. And governments could not ignore that.


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