Is 5G dangerous for your health? The question is rising, and worries too, as this new mobile phone technology rolls around the world.
Would 5G be dangerous for your health? While the deployment of this Technology began in the United States and has been finalized in South Korea, France is also preparing to take the train of modernization. The point on what the science says.
What is 5G?
A major disruption in the telecom industry, this technology will deliver much higher throughput than today’s 4G, with faster access to content and the ability to circulate billions of data without clogging. The 5G will allow all kinds of electronic equipment to be connected to each other, which will make it possible to generalize futuristic applications: autonomous cars, automated factories, remote surgery, “smart” robots…
To increase the data volume, the 5G will use a higher frequency band than the current mobile telephony: from 3.4 gigahertz (GHz) first and then, over time, above 26 GHz. But the higher the frequency, the shorter the range of the waves. This is why the deployment of 5G Technology will require increasing the number of antennas, a prospect that worries some NGOs.
Deployment began in the United States, and South Korea announced coverage of its entire territory in April. In Europe, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, and Monaco are among the first countries to have started deploying 5G. Germany has allocated the necessary frequencies to the operators and France will soon do the same
Radiofrequency and health: what does science say?
Mobile phones but also television, radio or Wi-Fi: the sources of exposure to radio frequencies are numerous, causing “fears” , as recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despite much research, there is currently no indication that exposure to low-intensity electromagnetic fields is dangerous for human health says WHO.
This lack of effect in the short term is “for the various sources of exposure, mobile phones are among the most present in number and intensity,” says Olivier Merckel, expert of the French health agency Anses.
Nevertheless, some studies evoke “a possible increase in the risk of brain tumor, in the long term, for intensive users of mobile phones,” says ANSES. For this reason, CIR, the WHO cancer agency, rated radio frequencies as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 2011, recommending hands-free kits for mobile phones.
Moreover, in a 2016 report, ANSES considered that the waves of laptops, tablets or connected toys could have effects on the cognitive functions – memory, attention, coordination – of children. She recommended limiting their exposure.
Biological or health effects?
“The main biological effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields is of a thermal nature” , that is to say, the increase in temperature of exposed areas, according to the WHO. This is the principle of microwave ovens, and that is why power thresholds are imposed on laptops.
In addition, “studies have shown the existence of biological effects on some very specific parameters, such as sleep or tension,” says Olivier Merckel. But, and this point is important, the biological effect does not necessarily mean health effect, that is to say, health hazard. A distinction is difficult to grasp for the general public.
Biological effects are a sign that the body adapts to variations in its environment. For example, stress increases the level of adrenaline and physical effort body temperature is a normal and reversible physiological response, says Brahim Selmaoui, a researcher at Ineris.
The whole question is whether the accumulation of biological effects exceeds the capacity of our body to adapt, which can then have consequences for health.
Are questions specific to 5G?
The frequency bands with which we begin to deploy Latest 5G technology, about 3.5 GHz, “are close to those currently used for 4G or wi-fi,” notes Olivier Merckel. This does not radically change the questions that science asks.
On the other hand, it is different for the bands which will be used then, from 26 GHz it is called 5G Technology millimetric. From 10 GHz, electromagnetic energy hardly penetrates the body but is concentrated in the skin: it raises different questions about potential health effects, says Olivier Merckel.
“At 70 GHz, the brain is not exposed at all, the concentration is superficial, on the skin or ears,” says Brahim Selmaoui. At present, data are lacking on these issues.
In 2012, ANSES evaluated the risks of body scanners used in airports, which also operate with millimeter waves. Conclusion: This type of scanner would not present a health risk. But if the waves are the same type, the use is different: with the 5G Technology, the exposure of the public will be much wider.
ANSES is preparing to launch expertise on the specific potential effects of 5G Technology signals on humans and hopes to conclude it for “the end of 2020,” according to Merckel.
A society that goes too fast?
Beyond the issue of the airwaves, NGOs opposed to 5G Technology fear that it will make us switch to a world “out of control”: a society where everything will go too fast and where people will always be more connected, eyes still more focused on the screens.
ANSES will launch a specific study on the question of the societal impact of these technologies. “It’s very broad: it’s about looking at the effects of our exposure to digital tools on broader health, that is, a state of physical, social, and mental well-being, putting the side of the question of radiation, ” says Olivier Merckel. This expertise will take a long time: “at least two or three years,” the expert predicts.