5G Technology Sparks New Concerns About Wireless Radiation Health Effects

With newer and faster 5G wireless technologies looming on the horizon, concerns about the basic safety of cell phone radiation continue to plague consumers and researchers alike.

Over the next 10 years, it’s estimated that the wireless service provider industry will invest $56 billion in the development, testing, and implementation of 5G networks throughout the country, with service speeds up to 10 times faster than current 4G connectivity to be made available to the public by 2020.

Part of the upgrade’s infrastructure involves adding thousands of new base stations to transmit the 5G airwave signals. Unlike current cell towers, these stations might be the size of a smoke detector, affixed to existent buildings or utility poles.

The prospect of more numerous and invasive signal stations has some advocates concerned about the potential health effects of electromagnetic radiation frequencies coming from the devices.

“Right now, you don’t have to live next to a cell tower,” said Desiree Jaworski, executive director of the Center for Safer Wireless. “If you’re concerned about it, you can move away. But once they have these cell antennas everywhere, you won’t be able to do that.”

The widespread use of cellphones and other smart-enabled devices is only likely to continue to grow with improved 5G capabilities. Wireless phones are known to emit radiation 24 hours a day, even when they’re not in use. However, the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have set limits on the amount of radiofrequency radiation that can be legally produced by electronic devices.

The potential effects of this kind of radiation on human health are still up for debate. In May, the National Toxicology Program released preliminary findings that suggested cell phone radiation exposure led to an increased chance of brain tumors in male rats. Some experts have suggested the study is flawed, though final results will not be completed until 2017.

“I don’t think it’s clear that there are health risks, but it’s also not clear that there are no health risks,” said epidemiology professor Leeka Kheifets of UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. The National Toxicology study “was just an indicator that more and better research is needed,” she added.

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