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5G Wireless: The Evolution of Human Connectivity, or a Dangerous Threat to our Health?

A hand holding a mobile phone that is emitting a speech bubble that reads "5G", a "like" button, a navigational marker, a stack of envelopes, and a strip of road with a truck on it.

Written by Peter Hong
Illustrated by
Jerrie Feng

In the early 1990’s, the world entered the age of the smartphone, and with it, the age of wireless connections. Smartphones have become so widespread, you would be hard pressed to find someone in a major city anywhere in the world without one! It makes sense that everyone wants to be connected to the largest source of information and social media in the history of mankind (especially to read interesting STEM articles from the SCC). As more people get connected, the need for faster connections grows. Previously, we’ve transferred from 2G (second generation) cellular networks to 3G, and then again to 4G. Now, we’re in the middle of the transition to 5G! The job of 5G radio frequency is to be faster, more responsive, and able to connect many devices at once. That sounds nice and all, but a lot of people are wondering whether it has dangerous effects on the human body.

There are a couple of different versions of 5G floating around right now, including the one which involves lots of small antennas on almost every street corner, each of which emits radio waves. Being constantly flooded with this radiation seems quite scary upon first glance! The main concerns involve how “humans have never been exposed to this much radiation,” or that the “World Health Organization has declared radio-frequency (wifi) radiation to be ‘possibly cancerous’.” However, there is no solid evidence supporting any claims of danger. The only effect that this kind of radiation has on the human body is heating, and the Federal Communications Commission’s current limitations don’t let 5G reach the heating threshold of 1.6 watts per kg. You should be totally safe as long as you don’t sit directly next a cell tower.

Interestingly enough, if you have ever held a boombox or a portable radio, you’ve received much more of the same kind of radiation than a 5G device emits in your pocket. In fact, being ‘possibly cancerous’ is actually one of the lowest danger levels that can be assigned to something by WHO. This means that 5G is about as cancerous as your morning coffee or a nickel you got in change. Quite frankly, there isn’t even a good reason for why radio waves would cause cancer; the frequency is too large to disrupt the cells in your body the same way more dangerous forms of radiation do, like UV rays and X rays. Overall, there has been no increase in brain tumours in any developed country with good cancer registration and documentation since the introduction of 5G networks.

There are a lot of dangerous things in the world, but much to the dismay of conspiracy theorists, 5G is not one of them. So go on out there and get ready to enjoy connection speeds like you’ve never seen before!