The booming 5G market could ultimately be slowed, or possibly even halted, by three looming concerns — briefly summarized here in Q&A format:
Q: Could 5G RF electromagnetic fields be making you sick?
A: Probably not. The debate continues and conspiracy theories abound, but so far experts have found no solid evidence that 5G causes negative health effects in humans or animals, and scientists have discovered no link between exposure to 5G radio frequencies and cancer. However, researchers have studied EMFs in general and found mixed results, and most agree that more research needs to be done — particularly as 5G radio towers become widespread.
Q: Could the C-Band spectrum of 5G pose a threat to U.S. air travel?
A: Possibly. Earlier this month a large alliance of U.S. aerospace and aviation companies started pressing the FCC to halt the auction of the C-Band spectrum until more research on the effects of 5G operations in the C-Band can be understood and aviation groups can improve the resilience of future radar altimeter designs.
Q: Could the booming 5G market be slowed down by health advocacy groups?
A: Yes. For instance, on Aug. 13, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) won its case against the FCC, challenging the agency’s decision not to review its 1996 health and safety guidelines for wireless-based technologies, including 5G.
Concerning the health effects of 5G radiation, the American Cancer Society echoes the summaries of most medical experts on its website: “At this time, there’s no strong evidence that exposure to RF waves from cell phone towers causes any noticeable health effects. However, this does not mean that the RF waves from cell phone towers have been proven to be absolutely safe. Most expert organizations agree that more research is needed to help clarify this, especially for any possible long-term effects.”
According to the article “Experts Find No Link Between 5G RF and Cancer” written by Gap Wireless — a Canadian supplier of mobile broadband and wireless — published in the April 2020 AGL magazine: “While some high-range frequencies, like X-rays, can pose a health risk, 5G does not fall into that category, and the reason why is relatively straightforward: Human skin. According to a study by Cornell University, human skin blocks high frequencies, like sunlight. Because 5G falls even lower on the electromagnetic spectrum than UV, the supposition is that it is unlikely to penetrate human skin. What does that mean? Generally speaking, experts agree that 5G does not pose a threat to human health or the environment.”
“Generally speaking,” the article continues, “experts agree that 5G does not pose a threat to human health or the environment. “The typical safety perimeter for a standard cell site is on the order of 9.8 feet-16.4 feet, whereas the typical height of a cell tower is 164+ feet,” he continued. “So, for example, if we are 164 meters away from a transmitter that has been identified by Safety Code 6 regulations to have a safety perimeter of 16.4 feet…ten times further away than the minimum recommendable distance.”
Meanwhile, the CTIA has developed a website to address the fears and misinformation about 5G — particularly the recurring headlines purporting that 5G is untested and RF radiation from cell towers could cause cancer. The CTIA says such headlines are being used as ammunition to close down or prevent the addition of cell sites on school campuses or near residential neighborhood nationwide.
The CTIA website addresses the 5G issue in a Q&A format. One example:
“Q: Are cellphones, cell towers, small cells and antennas safe?
A: Radiofrequency energy from wireless devices and networks, including radiofrequencies used by 5G, have not been shown to cause health problems, according to the international scientific community. To cite one example, the Food and Drug Administration said, “Based on the FDA’s ongoing evaluation, the available epidemiological and cancer incidence data continues to support the Agency’s determination that there are no quantifiable adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current cell phone exposure limits.”
The issue of 5G’s C-Band spectrum posing a threat to U.S. air travel has been on the aviation industry’s radar for a few years now. But the issue came to a head just recently when a large group of major aerospace and airline companies warned the FCC that the C-Band spectrum of 5G operations could have disastrous effects on the nation’s air travel. The C Band spectrum of 5G refers to a mid-band spectrum ranging from 3.7 gigahertz to 4.2 gigahertz.
Earlier this month, just a few months before the C-Band spectrum is scheduled to be put to use commercially, the aviation groups started pressing the FCC to halt the auction of that spectrum until more research on the effects of 5G operations in the C-Band can be understood and aviation groups can improve the resilience of future radar altimeter designs. Meanwhile, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have collectively spent almost $100 billion on C-band spectrum licenses for 5G earlier so far this year.
The deployment of 5G in the C-band could lead to possible harmful radio frequency interaction with radar altimeters,” David Silver, AIA vice president for Civil Aviation, recently told Aviation Today magazine. “Protecting the frequency bands used by these sensors, which provide direct measurements of an aircraft’s clearance height over terrain or other obstacles, is imperative to the safe operations of thousands of civil aircraft and the well-being of the flying public.”
As far as the booming 5G market be slowed down by health advocacy groups, there’s this: On Aug. 13, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) won its historic case against the FCC, challenging the agency’s decision not to review its 1996 health and safety guidelines for wireless-based technologies, including 5G.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that “the FCC’s failure to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its 1996 radiofrequency (RF) emission guidelines adequately protect the public against the harmful effects of exposure to radiation from 5G and wireless-based technologies unrelated to cancer, renders the agency’s decision capricious, arbitrary and not evidence based, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The court judgment remanded the decision to the Commission.”
According to the court, analysis provided by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on which the FCC relied for its decision, was also not evidence based, failing to meet the level of analysis required from a government agency. The court also dismissed the FCC’s attempt to construe other agencies’ silence as consent.
“The court’s decision exposes the FCC and FDA as captive agencies that have abandoned their duty to protect public health in favor of a single-minded crusade to increase telecom industry profits,” said CHD Chairman and an attorney on the case Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The bottom line is that much misinformation and many conspiracy theories circulate in news cycles about the dangers of 5G — including it being radioactive, causing cancer, destroying plant life and killing the birds and bees. More research needs to be done on the technology, but so far, no concrete evidence yet exists that 5G causes negative health effects.
However, 5G does generate one big negative: The technology’s power-hungry base stations consume up to three times more power than 4G and LTE networks. This massive electricity consumption will certainly leave a bigger carbon footprint on the environment and could be a big problem for countries that depend on fossil fuels for electricity generation.
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor