© 2018 by The Behrend Beacon.

  • Black Twitter Icon

Will 5G cause cancer?


Hudson Tran, Staff Writer

Ever since the birth of wireless communication, the air has been filled with radio waves transmitting data between electronic devices and concerns have been raised as to if these signals will affect people's health. The problem is that further studies must be conducted before a firm answer as to if electromagnetic radiation is harmful to people's health can be determined. Therefore, certain individuals and different communities are concerned about involuntarily being exposed to radio frequencies that are not entirely understood.

There are new concerns regarding health that come with the recent announcement by cell phone companies like AT&T to start building cell phone towers capable of delivering 5G data to cell phones. 5G is the fifth generation of mobile data, and that boasts peak speeds twenty times faster than its predecessor, 4G LTE. The downside to 5G is that due to its higher frequency range it cannot transmit as far as 4G LTE. Therefore, smaller towers must be built that are closer together in proximity. This means more towers and more radio waves passing through public space and people homes. This additional exposure to radiation has faced pushback from people concerned about their health.

A legitimate health concern is getting cancer from radiation, but cell phone radiation has not been categorized as carcinogenic. Doctors stand behind led walls to protect themselves from radiation when administering x-rays to their patients because the waves admitted are a type of ionizing radiation. This type of radiation can directly cause cancer by breaking chemical bonds in DNA.  However, according to the American Cancer Society, signals from cell phone towers are a type of non-ionizing radiation that is not strong enough to cause cancer.

There are however also concerns of indirect cause to cancer from cell phone radiation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation as possibly cariogenic in 2011.  According to the American Cancer Society, this classification means that "there could be some risk associated with cancer, but the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal and needs to be investigated further."

The most severe risks associated with cell phone and computer usage does not come from the electromagnetic radiation of Wi-Fi routers and cell phone towers. Instead, these risks come from more obvious causes like automobile accidents, change in sleep schedule, and visual impairment.  A recent study by the National Safety Council found that twenty-six percent of all car accidents were caused by drivers using a cell phone (although only five percent were caused by texting and driving). Another way cell phone usage can negatively affect health is that it can hinder sleep. Most screens emit a blue light that can suppress the amount of melatonin produced by the body. This may make it harder to sleep. However, some devices have a mode that filters out blue light to prevent this problem. Because cell phones can be small, sometimes users may find themselves straining their eyes to look at the screen which can eventually lead to poor eyesight. There are many more health concerns regarding cell phone usage, and these are only a few.

With the rollout of 5G towers people will be exposed to more electromagnetic radiation due to the proximity and the sheer number of new towers required to provide 5G to users. The public does not have too much to be concerned about when it comes to their health because no hard evidence confirms that cell phone radiation is carcinogenic and any studies that do are inconclusive and require further research.