Claims Of 5G Health Risks Are Frequently Based On A Single, 20 Year Old Flawed Graph

from the ill-communication dept

If you've spent any time on Twitter, you've probably seen a rising tide of folks expressing worry about the health impact of 5G.

To be clear, the widespread, long term impact 5G (especially millimeter wave) will have on human health hasn't been adequately studied yet, which makes absolutist claims on either side of this argument shaky from the start. As such, a lot of the recent health concerns being spread about 5G aren't based much on actual science, if they rely on actual science at all. Numerous news outlets (like RT) have similarly proclaimed that 5G will "kill you," without providing much in the way of hard evidence. Their recent segment on the "5G apocalypse" is just one of several the outlet has been running over the last few years or so:

This week however, the New York Times penned a report noting that one of the key bits of "evidence" used by those insisting 5G will be harmful wound up not being evidence at all. Since 2000, those professing that wireless signals can cause brain cancer have relied on a chart by physicist Bill P. Curry, proclaiming to show that tissue damage increases with the rising frequency of radio waves:

Curry's data was widely used to justify removing wireless communications from many schools, reposted repeatedly online by purported health experts, and even laid the foundation for several lawsuits alleging negative wireless health impacts. It wound up as the foundation for other, broader, but equally shaky theories. The only problem: it was never true. The graph failed to acknowledge that human skin tends to block higher frequencies, making the entire chart inaccurate:

"It doesn’t penetrate,” said Christopher M. Collins, a professor of radiology at New York University who studies the effect of high-frequency electromagnetic waves on humans. Dr. Curry’s graph, he added, failed to take into account “the shielding effect.” You Make the Call: ‘Moving Forward With the American Dream’ in New Jersey Dr. Marvin C. Ziskin, an emeritus professor of medical physics at Temple University School of Medicine, agreed. For decades, Dr. Ziskin explored whether such high frequencies could sow illness. Many experiments, he said, support the safety of high-frequency waves."

Having reported on this subject a few times, I will say that this is a seedier, deeper rabbit hole than you might think. While Russian news outlets do seem to be enjoying amplifying fear on this subject, there's plenty of home grown folks pushing 5G health risk claims as well. I've found a long line of academics happy to go on the record claiming 5G could pose a health risk. I've also found plenty of others proclaiming any health concerns are fluff and nonsense. But pretty uniformly you'll find one consensus buried under the mess: far, far more study is necessary before anybody engages in absolutism one way or the other.

Filed Under: 5g, bill curry, fearmongering, health risks, radiation, research, studies, wireless


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Jul 2019 @ 6:46am

    5G will travel further on our flat planet!!!
    5G causes autism!!!
    5G insert any other panic here...

    Reality is so screwed up we're inventing new boogeymen to be scared of rather than deal with the very real ones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 7:42am

    somewhere in the middle

    the truth is probably somewhere in the middle of:
    5G is carcinogenic <-- AND --> 5G is COMPLETELY harmeless

    Regardless, who volunteers to have that sweet 5G tower in their backyard (and front yard because...range)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 7:54am

      Re: somewhere in the middle

      If you count somewhere in the middle as "do not implant 5g hardware directly in your brain matter otherwise you will be fine" which to be fair applies to nearly everything already.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dpot, 22 Jul 2019 @ 9:30am

      Re: somewhere in the middle

      If you choose two extremes and they're physically and/or logically impossible, then, by definition, the real effects must be "somewhere in the middle"!

      The range we are interested in is from "possibly some risk but nothing to be concerned about" and "definitely unacceptably high risk". That's a very different matter and there's no reason to assume that the risks of 5G lie somewhere in the middle of such a range.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 8:04am

    Indirectly 5G can have an impact upon your health is you live in an area frequented by hurricanes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 8:26am

    But pretty uniformly you'll find one consensus buried under the mess: far, far more study is necessary before anybody engages in absolutism one way or the other.

    Absolutely!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SirWired, 18 Jul 2019 @ 9:45am

    The basic physics here aren't that hard.

    Skin attenuates radio signals. Period. End of Story. There is no conceivable mechanism by which 5G could cause health issues at any dose a consumer would be exposed to. The only effects on tissue would be due to simple heating, which are not going to be significant at the small fractions of a watt smartphones run at. I'm not sure what there is to study.

    There might be separate considerations for workers maintaining live transmission towers, which are already accounted for in existing occupational-health requirements.

    (And the strange fixation on brain cancer makes even less sense! If, for the purposes of argument, we pretended that 5G phones emitted, say, x-rays, there are cancer-susceptible organs that would be much more affected than your brain; notably the skin, salivary glands, and thyroid. Your brain is on the other side of your skull, and bone attenuates radiation quite well.)

    P.S. (If you want to read up on the literature about the topic, ignore any text entirely that does not specify frequency, dose, and duration. And if they do specify those three crucial items, actually pay attention. If you do pay attention, you'll see that the research shows a glimmer of an effect at well-in-excess of consumer doses for days. If you don't pay attention, it'll be like proclaiming "Driving past an asphalt plant is bad for you" after reading a study about people cleaning out tanks full of exotic volatile petrochemicals at an oil refinery for years on end.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SirWired, 18 Jul 2019 @ 9:50am

      Re: The basic physics here aren't that hard.

      Oh, and P.S....

      Calling RT a "News Outlet"? It's on a similar level of reliability as InfoWars or Trump's twitter feed. RT publishes enough outright propaganda to not belong as part of a serious discussion about anything at all, other than about propaganda.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 5:57pm

      Re: The basic physics here aren't that hard.

      And the strange fixation on brain cancer makes even less sense!

      It's because you're holding your phone to your head, I guess. Never mind that these days people seem to be texting and using apps more than calling (especially those who are inclined to use 5G.).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 8:27am

      Re: The basic physics here aren't that hard.

      Skin may attenuate them, but the 5G waves will go straight through through your eyeballs and into your brain and then bounce around in there. So keep your eyes closed around 5G towers or you will get brain cancer! Also don't forget that the sound of windmills causes cancer too though I'm not sure what type.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      OGquaker, 24 Jul 2019 @ 3:49am

      Re: The basic physics here aren't that hard....

      .... No, not that hard. Human ear cilia in the cochlea and semi-circular canals (human balance) are eighth, quarter or half wave at 5G. Not that we ever put our cell phones up to the ear.
      With a little training and discrimination, we won't need any telco device, like learning to sight read QR code. We aren't Cretins.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 18 Jul 2019 @ 10:12am

    No less fantastical are the claims that 5G will magically solve all internet competition problems at some future date, meaning NN was useless.

    (Yes, there actually was someone stupid enough to seriously make such a claim.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 10:24am

    Don't forget about a lot of fears carrying over from analog signal days. Enough Analog cellphones together could pop popcorn (not a great feat but a bit unexpected by many). Digital signals are generally safer (and stronger) but most people didn't pay much attention to the changeover.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 18 Jul 2019 @ 10:34am

    I would think just saying it's line of site based wifi should be enough to kill it

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 11:00am

      Re:

      Especially as it is even worse than wifi at going through walls. I suppose however the external transceiver to feed the In house wifi, needed to keep your phone connected, will just be another source of revenue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 18 Jul 2019 @ 12:36pm

    Do abit of physics.

    Anyone ever read how the Engineers USED to get warm, while building.monitoring the MW(microwave antenna's) that Coned from, they would wonder out to would Cook them abit and let them get warm in winter. That is hte Focused system..and 5G is in that Bandwidth. And the idea of setting a device in that High range, next to my Body parts, isnt really a nice thought.

    Also, your pacemaker wont like it either..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dank710 (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 8:35am

    It might not be a health risk but it will take away even more privacy. This will allow corps and govts to track people even easier than they can now. 5G will make us a less free society. When you lose total privacy you are no longer free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 8:57am

      Re:

      How does 5G affect privacy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Dank710 (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 10:06am

        Re: Re:

        It's going to connect even more devices than 4G currently does. More devices connected means they will be able to track you even more. Think Internet of Things. Whether it's your devices or the person living next you; 5G will allow them to be used to invade your privacy even more than already do.

        We will soon wish were living the novel 1984, as things will be even worse than that novel.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 9:18am

    So it's basically the same thing telcos are doing to prop 5G but with a - sign.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AndyG, 19 Aug 2019 @ 2:06pm

    5G is a very very bad idea

    Honestly, this article is full of misinformation! If you really want to learn more about the REAL dangers of 5G check this out https://eluxemagazine.com/magazine/dangers-of-5g/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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