The fear of cell phone radiation and its effects on the human body is not entirely new. But with the planned 5G grid expansion in Germany, it is increasing. Is the new technology harmful to health?

The introduction of fifth generation (5G) mobile networks is planned not only in Germany but worldwide . As much as we all like to have fast internet, some people wonder if the new technology could be at the expense of health.

What does 5G mean?

The fifth generation of mobile communications will use higher frequencies and bandwidths. Users can then transfer mobile data many times faster than older mobile standards – at rates of up to ten gigabits per second.
Previous G-networks use frequencies between 700 megahertz and six gigahertz. The 5G network operates at frequencies from 28 to 100 gigahertz. By comparison, 4G is ten times faster than 3G. The fifth generation puts on again properly: It should be about a thousand times faster than 4G.
The Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson predicts that by 2024 over 40 percent of the world’s population will use 5G technology.

Icon image Snail in front of dataset Germany still has a lot of catching up to do in mobile network expansion in many regions

The supply of the ultra-fast network is complicated by the short millimeter waves. They can not cover very long distances and fail on house walls as fast as on groups of trees. For this reason, amplifier antennas will be indispensable, giving the waves a new boost on average every 150 meters.
So we have to be prepared for the fact that, in addition to the mobile towers already distributed throughout the country, it will soon be necessary to mount reinforcing antennas on street signs, lanterns and mailboxes (which would, after all, once again be given a raison d’être). Because fast Internet without stable connection makes no sense. However, if the number of antennas that should amplify low-frequency radiation increases, we can barely escape the permanent influence of the rays.

Reason to worry?

There may hardly be anyone who does not own or use a smartphone, laptop or other digital device. Equally omnipresent, however, is the fear of mobile phone radiation.
Around 250 scientists from around the world have recently signed a petition to the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO). In it, the experts warn that radiation-emitting devices such as “mobile and cordless phones […] and broadcast antennas” due to the electromagnetic waves generated by the radio waves electromagnetic field (EMF) can increase the risk of cancer.
The specific warning is: “The effects include increased risk of cancer, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damage, structural and functional changes in reproductive systems, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and adverse human well-being.”
Numerous scientific studies using 2G, 3G and 4G technologies have been able to show which traces electromagnetic fields can leave in the human body: stress, sperm and testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects, including changes in brain electrical activity, and cellular DNA damage.

Nuclear spin images of a brain (Colourbox)Are the smaller heads of children more at risk?

Not only people are affected, according to the warning scientists. There are more and more indications of harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation on animals and plants.
Sarah Dreßen from the Research Center for Electromagnetic Environmental Compatibility at the University of Aachen refers to a study from the USA. It was able to establish a clear link between strong radio frequency fields that meet today’s standards and cancer in rats.
Tests on mice exposed to EMF nine hours a day over a two-year period showed changes in the nervous system, brain, heart and testes. Increased cell death was also noted.
“When high-frequency fields in the millimeter-wave range (30-100 GHz) are used for 5G, the situation looks much worse than for the known mobile radio frequencies,” the researcher writes in an e-mail to DW.
Some scientists warn against a particularly big danger for small children. Because of the smaller skull and the smaller thickness of the cranial walls, the child’s brain is exposed to radiation to a very high degree.
Despite these findings, WHO’s International EMF Project, which addresses the health effects of electromagnetic fields on humans, argues that “after several decades of EMF research, no major risks to general health were identified.” However, with the indication that “uncertainties persist”.

Telephone dial cable (Imago / G. Liver)Old-fashioned, but certainly without radiation risk

What to do?

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has demanded a thorough examination of the health risks of the new 5G technology.
The agency used auctioning of 5G licenses last Tuesday to advise consumers on how to protect themselves from cell phone radiation.
“Especially with increasing data transmission volumes, the own radiation exposure of the consumers when telephoning and surfing [in the Internet] should be reduced to a minimum.”
If you have a landline, you should rather use it to make phone calls. Basically: Use the phone only as short as possible. Writing text messages is better than talking on the phone. In addition, the worse the reception, the worse the phone call is in terms of radiation. Because the worse the connection to the next radio mast, the more intense is the electromagnetic field of the smartphone.

Mobile work on the move (picture-alliance / dpa / C. Klose)Headsets reduce the radiation exposure by a greater distance to the device

If you want to surf the Internet, you should connect to the nearest Wi-Fi network. Using a headset to make and receive calls exposes the head to less radiation. A greater distance between the device and the body is also important to limit the radiation exposure.
A connection between cancer, which often develops over a period of 20-30 years, and 5G radiation was not found, the BfS concluded. “The technology is too young to draw conclusions.”

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