Does 5G have any health effects?

As the carriers around the world are in a race to get their 5G networks up and running, some people and even government officials have cited their fear about the health effects related to the next-get wireless technology.

5G technology will require the installation of hundreds and thousands of ‘small cells’ across all neighborhoods throughout a city. These small cells will emit higher frequency radio waves called ‘millimeter waves’ or ‘mmWaves’. Theses waves are far less reliable for long distance coverage, as explained in previous articles. Thus, to ensure ubiquitous and reliable 5G service, carriers will need to install a number of access points. Some of these access points will be much closer to people’s houses.

This leads to a couple of fears – Due to large number of access points, people will be exposed to more radiation than 4G services and millimeter waves could potentially be more dangerous due to their higher frequencies. Though millimeter waves aren’t the only ones that will be used to deliver the 5G service. T-Mobile has rolled out its nationwide 5G network on 700 MHz band, the same frequency was used for radio and television many years ago.

Image source: Wikipedia

However, there is nothing much to worry about. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet rays, X-rays and gamma rays all are parts of electromagnetic spectrum. The latter ones – UV rays, X-rays and gamma rays are known as ‘ionizing radiation’. These radiations are ‘definitely carcinogenic’ as they can break molecular/cellular bonds. On the other hand, visible light, millimeter waves along with other radio waves are known as ‘non-ionizing radiation’ and hence they are harmless for living cells. Even though the frequency of millimeter waves is higher than traditional frequencies used for GSM, 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi, it still falls far below the visible light and ionizing radiations.

Even though the non-ionizing radiation does not seem have any negative side effects, there is still one concern. Any electromagnetic energy produces heat, including the millimeter waves. However, to protect against these thermal effects, FCC and other governmental regulatory authorities set limits on how much energy a wireless device can emit.

Researchers are yet to find any concrete evidence linking mobile phones to any adverse health effects. World Health Organization has concluded that all current evidences do not confirm any negative health consequence caused due to exposure to the low band electromagnetic waves. Although, some studies need extended research.

Health concern is the most important aspect that needs to be clarified as the next-gen technology emerges. I will be sharing more information on this as it becomes available.

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