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The waves are frightening. With each new network standard, voices are raised against the dangers of electromagnetic radiation and its potential effects on health. But what is really happening? At present, radio waves emitted by wireless networks, whether fixed (Wi-Fi) or mobile (from 2G to 5G), are classified in group 2B, i.e. “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization.
There are three other groups: Group 3, “Not classifiable as to carcinogenicity”, Group 2A, “Probably carcinogenic to humans” and Group 1, “Carcinogenic to humans”. In substance, group 2B, in which the waves of our telephones are classified, therefore, seems the least dangerous, since it is the one that is the least likely to be harmful to humans. However, there are few studies on the effects of long-term exposure.
It should be noted, however, that more than a hundred entities are included in this group 2b, mainly substances, but also foods such as pickles, spices such as cloves, turmeric and the many sauces that accompany French fries.
Delay for better protection
A consortium of more than 170 scientists from 37 different countries tried to slow down the deployment of 5G until all doubts about the impact on the human body and the environment were cleared up. The team of researchers also draws attention to a study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (a US federal agency) that shows a statistically significant increase in the occurrence of heart and brain cancers in animals exposed to radio waves, despite the fact that these waves are well below the health limit recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. The consortium hopes to make its voice heard by the authorities and to have hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields and multiple chemical hypersensitivity recognized worldwide as real diseases. The problem is that it is very difficult to study this impact over a short cycle. Such a study could take years, even decades.
A potential danger to be put into perspective
For other scientists, this alarming sound is not alarming, to say the least. Firstly, because 5G will certainly be deployed on new frequencies, but 2G will gradually disappear. So there wouldn’t necessarily be more waves than before, just a higher frequency of them. Just as much as in the 3.5 GHz band the question arises, so much so in the 26 GHz band, it would be less of a problem because of the nature of the waves emitted. As a reminder, the waves beyond 24 GHz are called “millimetre” waves and are very high-powered, which allows ultra-fast transfer speeds and almost non-existent latency, but their range is very small, a few tens of metres at best in an urban environment. There is little risk, therefore, that this type of wave will cross the epidermis and upset the human anatomy. On the other hand, what can be feared is that 5G antennas and relays will flourish absolutely everywhere in cities, with the risk that exposure to the waves will be permanent and reinforced by the increasingly astronomical quantity of connected objects. For the moment, we are only at the stage of a few personal objects and a little home automation, but add to this connected cars, public transport or drones for parcel deliveries and you will understand the problem.
The researchers want to reassure themselves by explaining that the new 5G antennas transmit differently than 4G or 3G antennas. Rather than sending the strongest possible signal in all directions to flood an area, as is currently the case, they direct their signal to the devices that need it. Coupled with the fact that data transfers will be much faster, there would not actually be any more health risks, as users would be exposed to the waves for a shorter period of time and the waves would be routed more to public places such as roads than to homes.
So 5G remains a relatively unclear subject, even at the scientific level. Research has so far not established a direct link between 4G and the increase in cancer, which could very well be related to diet or pollution as well. If there is a health hazard, it would be relatively limited (due to its categorisation in group 2b) – and 5G could even reduce the risks – theoretically. One thing is certain: it is advisable to sort the true from the false to avoid the deployment of fake news.
It is also important to remember the importance of 5G deployment: faster download speeds for consumers are only one of the simplest uses of this technology, which should ultimately save many lives, particularly through its use in the medical field.