There is no convincing reason – either in theory or according to hard evidence – that 5G technology, by design, could present novel risks to any living thing's health, human or otherwise.

Nevertheless, comparisons with weapons based on similar electromagnetic frequencies, apprehension over new technology, or the dangers of radiation mean some remain concerned.

Based on reasonable assessments of research to date, regulatory bodies around the globe conclude the spectrum and intensity of radiation utilised by the technology fall well within safe standards.

What is electromagnetic radiation?

The term radiation describes different forms of energy emitted from a source into the surrounding space. This includes chunks of an atom's nucleus, small speedy particles, and waves in the electromagnetic field, which we generally refer to as light.

Those waves come in a spectrum of wave sizes that carry different amounts of energy. Long, stretched-out waves don't pack much punch and are easily blocked, but can spread out over a long distance. Shorter waves that move at a higher frequency carry more energy, but don't cover distances as easily.

Just to complicate matters, different materials absorb specific frequencies, causing their electrons to buzz with energy, potentially even breaking bonds or emitting their own wavelengths of radiation.

The energy in super short gamma rays, X-rays, and even ultraviolet rays can break apart DNA at reasonably low intensities, for example, raising the risk of cancer. This is why we wear sunscreen. But the fact they can pass through materials with ease makes short wave radiation like X-rays useful for medical imaging.

Back down at the lower end of the spectrum (closer to the spectrum covered by 5G technology) there is barely enough energy for materials such as water to shimmy and shake with heat, as we see in our microwave ovens.

Could 5G's microwaves damage your body?

5G technology involves tiers of data delivery broken across three parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Middle and lower tiers cover frequencies also used by previous wireless cellular standards, while the highest tier uses slightly shorter microwave-like frequencies.

In theory, those waves can penetrate a short distance into the skin and cornea.

While the waves aren't energetic enough to break apart molecules, they could technically cause molecules in parts of the cell to jiggle, warming slightly. Fortunately the microwave 'shine' from 5G's towers is extremely weak, meaning any potential heating is likely to be swamped by other environmental conditions such as sunlight.

That's the theory at least. And there are good reasons to think it's accurate, especially given the balance of research on radio frequency radiation from cellular communications finds there is no indication of an adverse impact on our health.

As with any technology or discovery (novel or otherwise) there is always the possibility we've missed something. Not all experts agree that we can rule out any chance that low intensity, long wavelength radiation could on some level affect our body's chemistry. While unlikely and currently unsupported, 5G's increased reliance on shorter wavelengths could yet be demonstrated to have some small, difficult to detect influence on the health of humans or the environment.

But for now, those chances don't seem to be greater for 5G than for any previous standard.

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