5G is here: Should we worry about radiation?

Scientists are warning governments of the health risks emerging from wireless radiation.

By Alvin R. Cabral (Open Source)

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Published: Sat 22 Jun 2019, 9:44 PM

Last updated: Sat 22 Jun 2019, 11:46 PM

Oftentimes, we merely look at specs and, arguably the most important factor, price, when it comes to purchasing mobile phones. Take time out to peek at the fine print and you may be missing something very important and very health-related.
There are growing concerns on the amount of radiation being emitted by cellular phones, and this has just been amplified by the rollout of the fifth generation of mobile networks (5G), raising alarm bells among industry leaders who continuously warn of the health risks associated with innovation.
The link between the use of cellular phones and cancer has been there for a very long time now - and it has proven to be controversial. As these devices emit a form of non-ionising radiation called radiofrequency radiation, or more commonly known as radio waves, parts of the body nearest to the phone's antennae have the potential to absorb these. It is much like the risk from x-rays and gamma rays, which can induce carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, in the human body.
The good news, however, is that there is no hard evidence supporting the idea that cellphones indeed induce cancer. Sure, studies have been made, but there are no substantial results that can come to this conclusion. The International Agency for Research on Cancer's Working Group had, however, classified cellphone use as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans'; though this is based on limited evidence, the operative word here is 'possibly', which is self-explanatory.
As at June 2019, there are over 5.13 billion unique mobile phone subscribers globally, according to GSMA Intelligence. That number almost doubles to almost nine billion on the basis of mobile connections, including licenced cellular IoT.
"For most people nowadays, their smartphone is within arm's reach 24 hours a day. It's in their pocket while they're at work, it's in their hand on the train ride home and it's on their bedside table as they go to sleep," Martin Armstrong, data journalist at industry information portal Statista, wrote in a recent report.
"With this level of proximity and usage, many can't quite shake the niggling feeling that they might be risking damage to themselves in the long run."
Statista referenced a study by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, showing the 15 cellphones that emit the strongest radiation. The Xiaomi Mi A1 was No.1 with 1.75, and both Xiaomi and OnePlus had four entries on the list. HTC and Google had two apiece, while Sony Mobile and ZTE each had one. Apple also had two - the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8.
It was an almost completely unrecognisable list on the flip side: For the devices with the least radiation, the Samsung Galaxy Note8 and the ZTE Axon Elite were tied atop with a 0.17 rating; the former had five entries on the list, tied with Nokia, while the latter had one. LG and Motorola had two each, while HTC had one.(For both lists, there were actually 16 that made the cut, as the last two entries on each list were both ties.)
The UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, meanwhile, has for a long time maintained its compliance with international radiation standards, guaranteeing that the general public is not exposed to harmful non-ionising radiation in excess of the limits set out by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
As for 5G, the building and rollout of more infrastructure to run this standard is also raising a concern. Basically, with more antennaes erected, the more radiation would be emitted. At the recent Wireless Technology Symposium held in Toronto, health experts warned of the risks associated with the new innovation.
They pointed out a new type of radiation, the so-called 'millimetre waves', or, as designated by the International Telecommunication Union, extremely high frequency, a band of spectrum between 30 and 300 gigahertz.
"It's not been made clear to the public that 5G won't just be another number and a letter on your cell phone," Frank Clegg, former president of Microsoft Canada, said at the event.
"It requires an entirely new infrastructure of thousands of small cellular antennaes to be erected throughout the cities where it's going to be installed."
The event, which was attended by scientists from 42 nations, are warning governments of the rising health risks emerging from wireless radiation.
"The most prevalent symptoms include headache, fatigue, decreased ability to concentrate, tinnitus, irritability and insomnia," environmental health consultant Dr Riina Bray added. "Impacts on the heart and nervous system are also of concern."
This is a reason why the industry leaders are calling for a moratorium for 5G - a technology that will further revolutionise our world and make smartphones harder to part with.

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