WiFi, including 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and soon to be 5G, is thought by many to be the best thing since sliced bread, but as it’s still so new, we don’t really know much about it in terms of whether it could cause any long-term health effects. However, new studies are being released sharing information on whether WiFi is actually safe, and this research is showing that it may be having a bigger impact than we realised, but not just on us, but on the bees.
Scientists have conducted studies which involved placing mobile phones near or in hives in call-making mode. The bees would sense the signals transmitted when the phones rang, which confused them and made them disoriented, so when they flew out of the hive they weren’t able to find their way back, so they’d become lost and sadly, die.
The impact of this mass die out of bees has been felt all over the world, as the population of bees in the U.S. and the U.K. has decreased by almost half in the last 30 years. It was thought by many that insecticides and pesticides were the main causes behind large masses of bees dying out, but with all this new research coming out, WiFi is now believed to be the bigger killer, with it impacting birds as well.
Now, I’ve talked about the safety of WiFi before, but with the new 5G coming out around the world by the end of 2019, concerns about it are increasing with many people concerned about its safety on our health (and with good reason too).
What is 5G?
5G simply stands for the fifth generation of wireless mobile networks. Every 10 years or so, the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) release new standards for wireless communication. These standards are updated based in part on consumer demand.
Back when mobile phones were first created, around 30+ years ago, they were analogue (1G) but then switched to digital with the next generation (2G). As new digital generations were created, the speed at which we could send and receive information became faster and faster.
Every generation has increased in frequency to allow for more data to be transferred. 4G mobile phones (which most people have now) are currently 2 gigahertz (their level of frequency which they are currently operating at), while the new 5G reaches up 90 gigahertz, and include something new called MIMO. This stands for multiple in, multiple out, meaning there isn’t just one stream of data, but MULTIPLE data streams, making it much, much faster.
Benefits and Negatives of 5G
Some of the benefits of 5G include its ability to send and receive information much faster (an obvious one), and reduced lag time to a millisecond (so when you tap a link the page will load up almost instantly).
5G also supports more connections, so things other than phones like stoves, fridges, locks, etc. The idea of this is that it’ll make life easier by connecting everything together where you can control them remotely. This sounds great to most of us in theory.
But, there are some serious concerns we aren’t told about with the introduction of this new network stream:
- More cell towers due to reduced coverage: Coverage has declined with every new generation of mobile networks. You may have noticed new cell towers going up in your area that never used to be there before? This is because the higher frequencies are more easily absorbed by objects and are aren’t able to pass through walls as easily. With the new 5G coming in, there won’t necessarily be more cell towers going up, but what will happen is more small cells, like antennas, will be installed on rooftops, light poles, and other places around the community.
- Health concerns: The main concern – which I’ll be talking A LOT about in this post – is the potential health issues 5G may bring. With the introduction of new 5G networks brings much higher EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure.
- Privacy risks: As the tower locations change, it can be much easier to pinpoint exactly where you are. So, say for instance, your phone connects to a tower that serves around a 1 km space radius, you are likely to be somewhere in that space. Even turning your location off on your phone won’t help.
- Cypersecurity may be at risk: As every wireless technology will eventually be under the 5G network, cypersecurity may be affected. As more and more objects become connected to the network, there is a higher chance that information to be accessed.
What’s the Big Deal with EMFs?
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs), a.k.a electromagnetic radiation or electromagnetic frequencies, are made up of photons in an electric and magnetic field that run perpendicular to one another. These fields travel together in an invisible waveform. Two forms of EMFs are:
- High-frequency EMF radiation: This is an ionising radiation and runs on a higher frequency than visible light. Things like X-rays, gamma rays, and Ultra-violet (UV) light are some examples of this form of EMF.
- Low-frequency EMF radiation: This is non-ionising radiation and runs on lower frequencies than visible light, so things like computers, microwaves, visible light, WiFi, mobile phones, smart meters, power lines, MRIs, and Bluetooth are a few examples.
The EMFs produced from 5G technology are thought to be non-ionising, though still function at a much higher frequency then previous generations.
Are EMFs Dangerous?
The human body itself is made up of a very intricate electromagnetic system. Processes in the body like the circulatory system, the nervous system, and mitochondria run using electrical impulses. Our planet and solar system even have their own natural EMFs, an example of Earth’s own magnetic field would be when we use a compass to locate which way’s north. The sun is a natural source of EMFs like visible light and UV rays, but we are built to cope with (and even require) these forms of electromagnetic energy to thrive.
Everything in the natural world functions on a resonance of 7.83 Hz (Schumann Resonance). The problem only arises when we come into contact with man-made EMFs. The body’s electromagnetic frequency is much weaker compared to man-made EMFs, and because these EMFs are so strong, it is theorised that they can interfere with the electromagnetic systems inside our own bodies (like what’s happening with the bees).
We are constantly exposed to WiFi, mobile phones, and other EMFs every day (I think we can all agree that majority of us don’t go anywhere without our phones anymore, even to the bathroom!), and it’s not even uncommon for people to be exposed to man-made EMFs for as much as 24 hours a day! (Think about the high levels of radiation your body would be dealing with on a constant basis!)
Is Non-Ionising Radiation Safe?
There is not a sufficient level of evidence to say whether or not non-ionising radiation is safe, but just because there is a lack of research in this area, doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet, it just means we don’t know… yet. There haven’t been as many studies conducted on non-ionising radiation as there have been on ionising radiation, with no clear studies showing the safety of non-ionising radiation at this time.
But we do know something. Ionising radiation (like X-rays) can cause measurable harm, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that non-ionising radiation could potentially be harmful too, especially since with each new generation of mobile technology, it gets ever closer to ionising radiation levels. It’s crazy but 5G networks are already 1/3 of the way to reaching levels of ionising radiation!
What Does 5G Mean for Our Health?
5G technology is a whopping 45 times the frequency of 4G, but while this may be the case, we still don’t know what this could mean for our health. Technology is advancing so rapidly that we don’t really get enough time to see how it may impact our health before the next thing comes out.
I didn’t have a mobile phone until I was 14 (my mum refused to allow me to get one, much to my protest. But I’m very grateful that she did looking back on it now), and at the time I was mortified as “everyone else had one” and I was the “only one” without a phone (I had to give all my friends my home phone number to our landline, and I was so embarrassed because they would always ask, “don’t you have your own phone?”). When the day finally came when I was allowed to get one, it was a simple Nokia brick phone (who remembers those? 😆), virtually indestructible, and nothing like the smart phones we have today. All I could do was call and text on it, no google searches, Instagram updates, or Facebook feeds, the extent of my “fancy” new phone was taking a picture, which was no where near as crystal clear as the camera phone photos you see today. This was only 8 years ago, so you can see just how quickly technology has become a huge part of our lives!
In one generation, we’re seeing a complete change in our technological and electrical environment. Kids as young as 1 know how to operate a smart phones at a basic level, with primary school aged kids owning phones now! The way we live and raise our kids has dramatically changed too. The other day I was on the train, and across from me I saw a family of 5, with the kids (ages varying from 3 to 10) and their parents, all on smart phones and tablets, not engaging with one another at all! (But that’s another topic for a later date).
Kids, babies, and those growing in the womb are at the most risk due to their size, and current EMF guidelines are based on fully grown adults, not tiny babies and kids.
What Health Risks EMFs Pose
According to a 2017 review, EMF exposure may affect the health of humans by causing:
- changes in antioxidant levels
- oxidative stress
- decreased learning ability
- cognitive impairment
Furthermore, a 2014 study discovered that even low-frequency EMFs may cause DNA damage and potentially even cancer.
How 5G May Increase These Health Concerns
Based on the health concerns we are already seeing with EMFs, and how 5G is just going increase the EMF load on our bodies, many health experts have strong concerns about the effects this will have on our health over the long-term.
Dr. Martin Pall, a biochemistry health professor and expert on EMF health effects wrote in his letter, discussing the potential health effects we face due to EMF exposure, which include:
- Nervous system issues
- Hearing loss or deafness
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Huge increase in male infertility and a drop in sperm count
- Reduced blood oxygenation
- Dysfunction of the immune system, potentially leading to autoimmunity
Dr. Pall also goes on to explain that the impact on plants, animals, and insects may be just as serious, with thousands of different species being at risk.
We deserve to know the health effects of 5G, and assumptions should not be made about it’s safety. It is a big responsibility of the industry to investigate the safety of it’s products (in this case, 5G).
Biggest Concerns for 5G
The (much) higher frequency and the expected increase in exposure for most people are the two biggest concerns around the new 5G network. As I mentioned earlier, 5G will be operating at a 90 gigahertz frequency, while the generations before it only operated at a frequency below 5 gigahertz.
The increase in towers or antenna cells throughout communities will also bring with them an increase in exposure. These cells will have a maximum coverage area of around 2 km (1.25 miles), with some covering around only 15 metres (50 feet), so many will be needed for relatively small areas.
So if you live in quite a populated area (i.e. not in the middle of nowhere), there is a high chance you’ll be living, working, or sending your kids to school near a source of high EMFs.
Ways to Minimise 5G Exposure
It can feel a little overwhelming learning about all these concerns with 5G and EMFs, so thankfully there are some simple things we can do to help reduce our exposure (courtesy of Wellness Mama):
Choose Not to Use 5G
While 5G may be coming out soon, you don’t have to jump on the bandwagon with it. You can turn off the 5G functionality in your router and avoid buying 5G devices. If you’re only streaming music or a video once in a while, 4G will be more than suffice.
Use Airplane Mode
Mobile phones and tablets emit an electromagnetic frequency when the receivers are turned on. As we often use these devices close to our bodies, exposure levels for them tend to be really high. If you need to use a device, but don’t need to be connected, switch it to airplane mode.
Keep Devices Away From the Body
One of the easiest ways to avoid EMFs is to put some distance between you and your devices. Don’t keep your phone in your pocket, use your laptop that’s plugged into a monitor (that you can place around 2 feet away from you), and opt to use the speaker phone setting rather than hold the phone close to your ear.
Keep Sleeping Areas EMF-Free
The time we set aside for sleeping can be the most important time to minimise EMFs. While we sleep, the body goes around repairing itself, and our cells during this time can be even more sensitive to toxins. A great habit to adopt is to keep devices away from your bedroom at night, and turn off devices and WiFi at night too. This can lessen EMF exposure by around 33%!
Move the WiFi
As long as you can connect and get a signal from your WiFi, there’s really no reason for it to be in your house. You may want to think about moving it to the garage or porch to reduce EMFs. If it’s not possible to move WiFi out of the house entirely, consider moving it to a location far away from any bedrooms.
Switch to Hard-Wiring Instead of WiFi
Consider hard-wiring instead of using WiFi, as it can save you from a lot of exposure to EMFs. Doing this may also give you more consistent and faster internet too. Even though it’ll be more work, it can be worthwhile.
If you’d like, you can go a step further an invest in some shielding products. This is especially helpful if you aren’t able to avoid being near devices all day (like if you work at a computer 😉). You can give a Defender Pad a go, where you place it under your laptop, and use EMF shields for your phone.
Reduce Kids Technology Use
Setting firm limitations on screen time can be a really good way at reducing EMF exposure, as duration is one of the factors for deciding how dangerous an EMF is.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
* * *
What are you going to do about 5G wireless?
Wells, Katie. (April 26, 2019). Is 5G Safe? What You Need to Know. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/403178/5g-emfs-safe/
Zimmer, Lori. (May 21, 2011). It’s Official – Cell Phones are Killing Bees. inhabitat. Retrieved from https://inhabitat.com/its-official-cell-phones-are-killing-bees/
Mihai, C. T., Rotinberg, P., Brinza, F., & Vochita, G. (January 8, 2014). Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields cause DNA strand breaks in normal cells. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897901/