Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt — FUD – that is, perhaps, the most steadfast set of feelings held throughout the ages. Fear of the unknown has led to everything from genocide to revolution and war. And it continues today with 5G.
There is no doubt RF is dangerous. So are automobiles. The trick is to use them safely. As we have individuals using vehicles with reckless abandon, we also have 5G hawkers wanting to push out 5G without vetting its unknown hazards.
Since the beginning of the modern use of RF for communications, there have been fears that such waves can have an adverse effect on life forms. In truth, this is 100 percent true. So, we have learned, over time, how to use RF so as not to cause harm.
It is not rocket science. RF energy distribution is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. Therefore, all we must do is bind it by those two simple parameters – power and distance. We understand the physics of RF and its propagation characteristic well, make that relatively easy to accomplish safe boundaries.
However, since the beginning of the modern RF era, there has been the equivalent of the timeless battle between good and evil, arguing over whether incidental and over time exposure is harmful to the body.
It has been related to any number of conditions such as tower location, antenna placement, radiation patterns, and more. And, it is not reserved for the telecom segment. The issues of harmful RF have emerged in medical and consumer environments as well.
The latest volley around this is being fired by conspiracy theorists. Attention-getting acts include vandalism of cell towers and creating FUD with false information and claims. Some of the perpetrators even seem to think COVID-19 has something to do with 5G.
For example, recently, Thomas Cowan, a U.S. doctor, took the position that 5G poisoned cells in the body forcing them to excrete waste which eventually became known as COVID-19. It is prudent to note that he is on disciplinary probation and being investigated by the Medical Board of California for using unlicensed drugs. He is also an author of books promoting ideas contrary to conventional medical procedures and a champion of the anti-vaccination movement.
Nevertheless, he made an internet video that was reposted by several ignorant celebrities and went viral. Other media outlets such TV stations (ITV and ESTV) and countless social media sites followed suit. It was just the fodder to set off the gullible who take what they want from data and fabricate it to suit their beliefs.
The most laughable conspiracy theories include that the lockdowns around the globe are a coverups for governments to secretly support the installation of 5G antenna, en masse, while we are all at home huddling around our various communications devices. There are similarly ludicrous claims, such as the belief that the Glastonbury festival was being used as a scaled experiment for 5G on the masses, 5G is being developed as a military-grade weapon, and viruses can communicate through the radio airwaves.
As well, enemies of the state, such as Russia, are busy fanning the conspiracy theory flames. A recent YouTube video published by RT (formerly Russia Today a government-funded international TV network) suggested that children playing near 5G cell towers could suffer cancer, nose bleeds and learning disabilities.
Researchers have raised the possibility of covert state-backed campaigns — though, to date, none of the social media platforms have announced concrete evidence of clandestine foreign operations focused on the topic.
In the end, much like the conspiracy theories about China’s spy equipment and that COVID-19 is a weaponized virus unleashed on the United States by China, all such claims about 5G are utter nonsense.
There is a “but” however. And that refers back to the beginning of this editorial – safe deployment. With existing systems, it is easy to find the sweet spots and we have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on how to find the edges and make sure these systems are as safe as possible.
With 5G, the lines are not as clear. While there is substantial evidence that distribution of radiating elements is safe when the rules are followed, the wild card is densification with mmWaves.
Particularly in the mmWave band, we are wandering into areas that are not as well documented as existing platforms. While we can extrapolate, not everything scales from platform to platform.
The densification of 5G radiating elements is a moving target at mmWave frequencies where many types of local networks (small cells) are going to emerge. This, because it is the only spectrum with sufficient bandwidths to support the plethora of new services being envisioned.
Additionally, autonomous cars, augmented reality (AR), smart homes and more will generally look to mmWave frequencies for enhanced functionality. The volume of these will coupled with living at higher frequencies and smaller propagation characteristic. That makes it quite likely that we will be bombarded with such waves, far more regularly than we are now. And, therein lies the issue – exposure over time.
While we understand this very well with current environments, we have little experience with complex settings where dense, multiple mmWave situations exist using new transmission schemes. Even if it turns out to be as expected, potentially, the amount of time we are exposed to such waves alone, becomes a concern.
There is reputable, scientific evidence of this. For example, in 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program concluded a 10-year study on the effects of cell phone radiation (2G and 3G, 900 MHz phones, barely on the edge of mmWave) on laboratory rats. There was clear evidence that these frequencies caused malignant Schwannomas in the heart, and some evidence that they caused malignant gliomas in the brain. The exposure level was four times that of typical environments. However, in uber-dense deployments, it is quite possible that 5G mmWave environments may reach such levels.
The point is that, without a doubt, RF waves have the ability to alter living cells and DNA. Most studies use levels far beyond what we typically experience with existing systems. But, with 5G mmWave that will change. It is highly probable we will be constantly bombarded with such radiation and we do not have a good understanding of these types of environments on humans and animals.
The time has come to stop hiding behind old data (the FCC rules on this have not changed since 1996) and saying it is valid for mmWave frequencies – it is not. There is no doubt we will be deploying 5G radiators en masse. We need to have a clear understanding on exactly what this will do to humans and other living things.