Is 5G safe or dangerous? Here are the facts

It is the dawn of a new era.

The 5G era.

A network technology that is promised to disrupt industries, enable countless innovations and take us one step closer to The Jetsons.

Is 5G safe or dangerous? Here are the facts

We know most major carriers around the world are already working hard on building their 5G networks. In the US, specifically, AT&T has just launched the first commercial 5G-capable device, the Netgear Nighthawk 5G mobile hotspot. As for phones, the first 5G models are expected to land in the first half of 2019, so it's safe to say we're almost there.

As the first 5G towers are beginning to go online, though, and as we're starting to learn more about what makes the technology tick, like the fact that 5G will be capable of operating at much higher frequencies than current 4G LTE networks, some customers are beginning to express concerns if this new technology will be safe, or at least be as safe as what we have right now.

What are 5G millimeter waves?


So far, carriers have been using spectrum bands anywhere from 600MHz to 2.6 GHz to deliver the goods to us. This is the low end of the microwave range. With 5G, however, some way higher frequency bands will be opened for service, including the so-called millimeter waves, which you might have heard of. To be clear, some lower-frequency spectrum like T-Mobile's 600 MHz or Sprint's 2.5 GHz will also be utilized for 5G transmissions, but carriers will increasingly be taking advantage of higher bands, such as 3.5 GHz, 6 GHz, and even 30 GHz, and up! 30 GHz sounds too much? That's where those millimeter waves actually begin!

AT&T's Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspot is the first commercial 5G device.

AT&T's Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspot is the first commercial 5G device.


While we still don't know exactly what bands AT&T's Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspot works on, AT&T has said the device will be using millimeter waves. So we know the Nighthawk 5G, powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G Modem, will be cruising at or above 30 GHz. Why? Millimeter waves are found in the range of 30 - 300 GHz. That's because a wave with a frequency of 30 GHz has an approximate length of 10mm, and a wave of 300 GHz has a length of 1mm. It's safe to say that even if some higher bands are eventually unlocked for 5G use, the technology probably won't exceed the millimeter range during its entire lifetime.

Now, the million dollar question is...

Are these 5G millimeter waves safe?


You might hear some say that these millimeter waves are of such high frequency that they'll eventually fry your brain. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case at all! As high as 30 GHz may seem to us today, the reality is these waves won't be nearly powerful enough to do any harm.

There are electromagnetic waves of unbelievably higher frequencies out there, and beyond a certain threshold, those do become dangerous to living beings partying down here on Earth. The good news is this danger-danger threshold is way higher than 30, or even 300 GHz!

To find where this threshold is, we must ask:

What's there beyond millimeter waves?


Is 5G safe or dangerous? Here are the facts
Image by the University of Washington

So we know these new 5G bands of about 30 GHz or above won't be powerful enough to do any harm to us. Phew, that's good to know, isn't it?

So what could be dangerous?

As we established, the so-called millimeter wave range extends up to 300 GHz waves. That's also the far reach of the entire microwave range. What follows beyond microwaves is the infrared range, also sometimes called infrared light. Generally invisible to the human eye, infrared waves span the range of 300 GHz to 385 THz (Teraherz)! Thus, infrared waves have lengths varying from 1 mm (the shortest microwave length) to 780 nanometers (1000 nanometers equal 0.001 of the millimeter, just for orientation).

Radiation types by wavelength and frequency

Infrared radiation obviously has many uses here on Earth, and it's also not of the dangerous type. In fact, more than half of the energy from the Sun (heat) is said to reach Earth in the form of infrared radiation. Thank you, infrared!

So, as these cute and tiny waves get more and more intense, they eventually move into the spectrum of what we perceive as "visible light", which includes wavelengths of 700 nm to 400 nm, or frequencies of 430 THz to 790 THz. Thankfully, the visible light spectrum is not harmful to organisms here on Earth as well.

When do things get dangerous?


What follows after visible light, however, gets us into harmful territory.

Ionizing radiation hazard symbol

Ionizing radiation hazard symbol

We're talking about our old friend – Ultraviolet! (Not the movie.) The ultraviolet spectrum features wavelengths from 400 nm to 10 nm and frequencies from 790 THz to 30 Petaherz! (1 PHz = 1,000,000 GHz). The beginning portions of ultraviolet usually aren't considered harmful, but somewhere inside this range is where we observe the transition from non-ionizing to ionizing radiation.

Ionizing radiation means the radiated particles have so much energy they can actually disrupt electrons from molecules or atoms, causing them to acquire a positive or negative charge. Now, we're no physicists here so we can't explain the technicalities, but apparently that's bad! You don't want ionization on your body! So, somewhere within the ultraviolet spectrum is where things start getting dicey.

Above ultraviolet, there's the x-ray range (10 nm to 0.1 nm / 30 Petaherz to 30 Exaherz). Everyhing above the ultraviolet spectrum is ionizing, and so this applies to x-rays too. As we all know, though, small doses of this are not considered harmful, and can actually help our welfare through medical applications.

Finally, there are gamma rays (wavelengths less than 0.1 nm and frequencies of more than 30 EHz). Being quite adept at penetrating matter, these little, ionizing rascals should be avoided like the plague, when not used in controlled and constructive manner (they do have applications in medicine and industry).

Conclusion


Benefits of 5G

Benefits of 5G


Well, now we know! Radiation is categorized into non-ionizing and ionizing. Non-ionizing types of radiation, like radio, microwave, infrared and visible light are considered safe, while ionizing types, like ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays are potentially dangerous.

While 5G is expected to employ a higher range of frequencies than previous cellular technologies, it'll still be found safely within the confines of the microwave spectrum, including those millimeter waves. "Millimeter waves" may sound scary to some, but currently there is no reason to believe that 5G networks in themselves are going to be dangerous.

Having all this in mind, we should feel safe in this new 5G world that is about to occur, fully enjoying the quality of life improvements it's going to bring about.

Was the information you found in this article helpful? Do you feel better now, knowing that 5G networks are going to be safe? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below!

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22 Comments

1. Ichimoku

Posts: 81; Member since: Nov 18, 2018

Need more time for mature. Better stick with LTE for now.

2. ZerosAndOnes

Posts: 82; Member since: Oct 12, 2018

Not a single research was ever done about effects of 5G. You can ASSUME whatever you want but until a proper research of effects is done all this is a fantasy story and you should have at least stated that you are using specs as your backing instead of proven facts which do not exist currently. I don't doubt that 5G is safe but it has NOT been proven in any credible way.

3. splus

Posts: 128; Member since: Nov 26, 2011

Well, how come I get a headache if I put a phone with hotspot enabled next to me for an hour or two? Some magic rays perhaps? All this talk about radiation not being harmful is simply not true. Especially if you use a phone or wifi a lot, in a long term, your brain will get numbed down. Which we see in more and more people nowadays.

4. jacky899

Posts: 314; Member since: May 16, 2017

I get headache when I have long conversations eith phone against my head. Now I only use speakerphone. I would be even more cautious of 5G.

5. AbhiD

Posts: 496; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

All i see is a hypothetical apologistic article for 5G without any research or proof.

6. PiXel1225

Posts: 4; Member since: May 24, 2014

What do you mean by "no research"? The only known and accepted way currently that radiation can affect the human body, is by it being ionizing. There is no magical way of it being fatal just because we decided that it may be. There is specific proof of how ionizing radiation corrupt the human DNA and lead to cancer, but not-ionizing? If that was the case, then everyone would eventually die due to the visible light, long before even the radio was conceived. You want to talk science, then go on and read something considered respectful.

21. Chonsy

Posts: 2; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Hey, I'm a scientist and I want to talk about science! When an oscillating electrical field passes through any particle system (i.e. your body) it changes the relative electrical fields of the atoms and their electrons with a magnitude dependent on the electrical resonant frequency of those atoms. What happens then and why is that important? It changes the ionization energy of those atoms, so even if the radiation is non-ionizing, it is most certainly changing the ionization energy of those atoms, which then opens up a whole host of lower energy phenomena as potential ionizers as well. In short, by existing in an environment with permanently oscillating electrical fields (i.e. cell phone radiation) you are putting your body at risk of reactions that would not occur without those fields. So even if it isn't that radiation directly ionizing your atoms, it is step 1 in a sequence of reactions that will. Notice the proportion of people getting cancer rising exponentially since the 90's? Yeah me too! Safe as f**k and totally backed up by legitimate science!

22. Chonsy

Posts: 2; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Oh one more thing, the resonant frequency of the vast majority of biological atomic systems is in the microwave range as is the resonant frequency of water, the bandwidth 5G is rolling out on. Probably worth mentioning.

7. Valdomero

Posts: 553; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

Imagine the amount of energy needed to transfer data packets through the air with light! Oh 5G... I can see it in 1st world countries with full potential in a couple years, for 3rd world ones (or more politically correct, developing countries) like mine, that'll take like 5 years to become a trend.

8. yyuu1000

Posts: 260; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

I would not use it, after extensive research I try to call only on speaker

9. syntaxlord

Posts: 239; Member since: Oct 01, 2018

PA, what's with the images?

10. p51d007

Posts: 694; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

If people understood RF radiation, and how things resonate, not to mention the power required to cause harm, they'd know that 99% of the human race won't be bothered by these frequencies. Birds, bees, insects and the like, that is another question, but unless you climb a cellphone tower, I seriously doubt these will bother you.

12. TMHKR

Posts: 202; Member since: Dec 08, 2012

Having faster speeds is not an excuse if it means animals will be harmed.

11. TMHKR

Posts: 202; Member since: Dec 08, 2012

IoT idiotism aside, why is 4G suddenly "not good enough"?

13. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1261; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

In short, 5G is about 1 billion times too weak to harm the human body even with a lifetime of exposure.

14. rouyal

Posts: 1514; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

Safe? Maybe. Dangerous? Possibly. Gimmicky? Definitely.

15. rkoforever90

Posts: 405; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

So what a about other living beings like insects or birds I saw a video which says birds got burned during test run of 5G in Netherlands

16. Soundjudgment

Posts: 370; Member since: Oct 10, 2016

Suuuuuuuuuuure you did. More fake/distorted news.

20. shroomflies

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 24, 2018

How hard was it to google "Birds got burned during test run of 5g in Netherlands"?.. Not hard at all, genius! youtu.be/ah8Bpg6ep1k

17. Truthalltime

Posts: 38; Member since: Dec 08, 2018

I wonder if our journalist here did a coarse in medical physics at the very least (I don't see any references and these are some very hard facts).

18. davidjensen

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 24, 2018

double post

19. davidjensen

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 24, 2018

Electronic Silent Spring, Katie Singer 2014 I have not read it yet. She is an expert in fertility and she mentions the effects of RF on eggs. A comment on the internet said 80 percent of insects have disappeared since the 80's, which is about when cell phones started. Singer said her sources were mostly from outside the USA. The use of cell phones and WIFI has become massive in many parts of the world. I am sure there is no mention of 5G in the 2014 book. However, 5G requires many small transmitters. A comprehensive study of this subject seems to be ignored.

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