Fear of cellphone radiation effects on the human body is nothing new, and we are constantly warned about the possible consequences of regular exposure to wireless signals.
Skeptics say that none of the studies are conclusive so far. And the wireless industry is always ready to reassure the public that there's no concrete link between cellphone exposure and health issues.
But with the current rollout of the much faster and more powerful 5G standard, will it put us at greater risk?
Related article: What is 5G all about anyway? Click here to read more about the ongoing 5G revolution.
What's different about 5G anyway?
First, 5G operates on higher radio frequencies than older cellphone standards. While previous 1G, 2G, 3G and even 4G networks work between 700 MHz to 6 GHz frequencies, 5G works in the ultra-high 28 to 100 GHz frequencies (also known as the millimeter wave bands).
The good news is that these ultra-high frequencies allow for blazing fast data transfers (5G can wirelessly achieve 10 Gbps in theory, imagine that). These bands are less congested, too, with less interference from other wireless signals.
The bad news? These higher frequency waves can't travel long distances nor pass well through objects. To compensate, antennas (mini cellular stations, really) will have to be installed every 500 feet on average. Soon, there will likely be a 5G antenna on every lamp post you see. This means our exposure to radio frequency radiation will be higher than ever.
Remember we're not just dealing with cellular signals. We're also constantly bombarded by radio frequency radiation from other appliances including Wi-Fi routers and Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.
Bonus: The future may get here faster than we think, as the world races toward 5G wireless technology. 5G will be faster, revolutionary and could even fight terrorism?
Radio frequencies and your health
So will this bombardment of radio radiation increase our health risks such as cancer and other ailments? One thing about cellphone radiation is that it's low energy so it's generally safer than high-energy radiation sources like X-rays.
However, past studies have certainly linked certain types of brain cancer and fertility problems to cellphone use. Although these are not conclusive, radio frequency radiation is linked to health issues like:
- Brain cancer, tumors of the acoustic nerve (necessary for hearing and balance) and the salivary glands
- Lower sperm counts and inactive, less mobile sperm
- Headaches and effects on learning and memory, hearing, behavior and sleep
Some people also claim that they have EMF hypersensitivity and say exposure to radio frequency radiation trigger multiple symptoms like headaches, muscle aches and pain, rashes, insomnia and nosebleeds.
The FDA believes that the current scientific data does not show an "an association between exposure to radiofrequency from cell phones and adverse health outcomes" but it continuously reviews new studies and research that could prove this otherwise.
At this point, the FDA is basically saying that the current data suggest that the cellular industry's radiofrequency safety limits are still acceptable for protecting our health.
However, on a related note, the FDA also admits that "extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields" are possibly carcinogenic to humans.
With so many cellphone users now, the age-old question of whether they can cause health problems really needs to be answered. Listen to this Komando on Demand podcast as Kim takes a deep dive into this extremely important topic.
How to reduce cellphone exposure
Here are the factors that determine your exposure to cellphone radiation -- your distance from the phone, the strength of the signal, and how long and how often you use the phone. Basically, the farther away the cellphone is from your body, the less the exposure.
Here are the key points to ponder:
- Increase the distance between your cellphone and your body by using the speakerphone or a headset (Bluetooth headsets have weaker EMFs).
- Opt to send text messages instead of calling.
- If you're streaming or downloading files with your phone, try to keep it away from your head and body.
- Do not carry it in your pocket or directly on your body unless the phone is off.
- Take off your headset when you're not on call. In addition, I think this applies to music listening with wireless headphones too (AirPods, wireless earbuds, etc.)
- Do not to sleep with your cellphone in your bed or near your head.
When are you most at risk?
It is also recommended that you limit your cellphone use when reception is weak. Your phone's RF energy is stronger when your cellphone only shows one or two bars. If this is the case, try increasing the distance between you and the phone by using the speaker or a headset.
Here are situations when a cellphone's RF signal is the strongest:
- At the start of a call, when the phone is trying to connect to a cell tower
- When a cellphone only has one or two bars
- When in a moving car, bus or train (as the phone switches from one tower to another)
- When you are streaming music or movies or downloading or sending large files
Furthermore, keeping cellphone calls short (use the speakerphone for longer conversations) and to not rely on gadgets that claim to shield or neutralize cellphone EMFs.
In related news, security flaws already found in 5G technology
Well, 5G is barely a few months old, and -- no surprise -- researchers are poking holes in its security. Purdue University and University of Iowa researchers discovered three vulnerabilities in 5G that can be used to track someone's location, intercept phone calls and send fraudulent text messages.