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Is 5G bad for your health?

11/02/2022

The more 5G appears in the news, the more attention there is for the health risks of this new technology. Two arguments keep coming up: the fact that the radio frequency of 5G would cause cancer and the fact that 5G requires a larger number of antennas than its predecessors. In this blog post, we take a closer look at these arguments and what scientific research on the subject tells us.

The impact of a high-frequency band

The first argument is based on the highest frequency band for 5G in Europe, which is 26 GHz. This frequency band is higher than the bands currently used for 2G, 3G and 4G. A higher frequency band means shorter waves, which in turn means a faster internet connection. In other words, 5G would achieve its fastest speeds in the 26 GHz frequency band. However, there is a caveat here. Also on the other bands there is a remarkable difference in speed between 4G and 5G, so the 26 GHz band is not required to experience the benefits of 5G.

This leads to low interest from telecom operators to use the 26 GHz band for 5G. For example, a 5G Observatory report, published in October of 2021, says that the 26 GHz frequency band has only been appointed in seven EU member states. In Belgium, this frequency band is also not included in the 5G auction that will take place in mid-2022. In the future, it is possible that the 26 GHz frequency band will be taken into use after all: more scientific research will already be available on this band. The first studies already indicate that there is no link between exposure to radiation at this frequency and health effects, such as cancer, but the longer-term effects are being analysed continuously.

A bigger number of antennas for 5G

The 5G frequency bands, as mentioned earlier, have shorter waves than some frequency bands of previous generations. These shorter waves have the disadvantage of being less able to deal with walls and other objects. Therefore, more antennas need to be installed to ensure sufficient coverage. All those antennas, is that bad for our health? According to several studies, installing more antennas for the rollout of 5G does not pose any health risks, provided the current standards are respected. In a report of Departement Omgeving Vlaanderen, where they virtually simulated the launch of 5G, neither the norms per operator nor the cumulative norms were exceeded.

Moreover, 5G antennas are much more directional than, say, 4G antennas. The radiation from 4G antennas is based on distance: if you stand closer to a 4G antenna, you will be exposed to more radiation than if you stand further away from a 4G antenna. With 5G antennas, it works differently: the antenna only targets the users of the 5G network. We call this beamforming. For example: someone who stands next to a 5G antenna, but does not use his smartphone, is thus exposed to less radiation than someone who does use his smartphone at that moment.

The conclusion, based on scientifically substantiated research and simulations, is that 5G radiation is not dangerous and poses no health risks. In this context, it is obviously important that the standards are respected at all times. Research bodies at, for example, the Flemish Environment Department continue to monitor the health effects of 5G, not only now but also in the future.

Sources:

5G Observatory: http://5gobservatory.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/5G-Obs-PhaseIII_Quarterly-report-13_final-version-11112021.pdf

Agoria: https://www.agoria.be/en/node/49632

IMEC: https://www.imec.be/nl/artikelen/experten-zijn-duidelijk-5g-netwerken-zullen-aan-de-stralingsnormen-van-de-wereldgezondheidsorganisatie-moeten-voldoen

DataNews: https://datanews.knack.be/ict/nieuws/5g-straling-moeten-we-ons-nu-wel-of-geen-zorgen-maken/article-longread-1570291.html

Departement Omgeving Vlaanderen: https://omgeving.vlaanderen.be/is-5g-schadelijk-voor-de-gezondheid

IT Daily: https://itdaily.be/blogs/infrastructuur/5g-gevaarlijk-of-niet/

NPO Kennis: https://npokennis.nl/longread/8064/is-5-g-gevaarlijk#id-5268

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