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Any ‘5G & EMF nightmare’ is nonsense – electromagnetic radiation can be dangerous, but not at levels used by ordinary telecommunications equipment

IN SHORT: Despite persistent rumours, electromagnetic radiation such as that used in 5G telecoms technology does not cause cancer or in any other way negatively affect human health. Organisations, companies and individuals claiming otherwise are likely to be profiting from these lies.

Several posts warning about “the 5G & EMF nightmare” have been shared to Facebook in late 2022. The posts promote an upcoming webinar about the supposed dangers of electromagnetic (EM) radiation and the communication technologies which rely on it.

The posts claim that “What you can't see WILL hurt you” and the webinar registration page claims that EM radiation is linked to conditions like cancer. 

But is there any truth to these claims?

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What is EM radiation, and what is 5G?

Electromagnetic (EM) radiation is a form of energy transfer most familiar to us as visible light. The colour of this light depends on a property called its frequency which is also connected to how energetic the light is. Blue light, for example, has a higher frequency than red light. This also makes blue light more energetic than red light.

The posts typically use the term “EMF” which stands for “electromagnetic field”. This describes the fields which make up electromagnetic radiation and can be used interchangeably with terms like “EM radiation”. 

The electromagnetic spectrum is like a map of the different frequencies of EM radiation. It includes visible light in the middle of the spectrum, as well as frequencies which are invisible to humans on either side of this visible portion.

Higher-frequency radiation includes, in order of how energetic they are, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays. The lower-frequency end of the spectrum includes, in order of descending energy, infrared, microwave, and radio frequency radiation.

Most communication technology relies on the very low-frequency radio spectrum. 5G is the fifth generation of mobile communication technology. It allows for faster communication speeds and more reliable connections than the previous four generations of this technology.

One of the ways in which it does this is by using higher frequencies on the EM spectrum, although they still fall predominantly within the radio frequency spectrum.

But is this radiation harmful to humans?

Radiation at the frequencies used by communication technology does not cause cancer

The posts promoting the “5G & EMF nightmare” webinar claim that “studies that show EMF’s” can be “carcinogenic (cause cancer)” and “mutagenic (damage your DNA)”. These claims are technically true, but they are missing vital context.

EM radiation has been strongly linked to cancer. For instance, ultraviolet light, emitted by the sun, causes skin cancer. Sunscreen is designed to block this kind of light.

It’s also possible for EM radiation to damage genetic material (or DNA). Gamma rays, for example, can break the bonds between the DNA in a person’s cells, and this is one of the ways in which radiation is thought to cause cancer.

But ultraviolet light and gamma rays are on the higher end of the EM spectrum. Importantly, it is only this very high-energy area of the EM spectrum, called ionising radiation, which has been linked to these kinds of side effects. Despite ongoing research, lower frequency, non-ionising radiation has not been linked to cancer.

Non-ionising radiation can still transfer heat. Microwave radiation is used to heat food in a microwave oven and even human bodies give off heat, in the form of infrared radiation.

But the intensities at which radiation can do something like heat food or damage a person’s health are far higher than those used by communications equipment. This is to some degree self-evident: you couldn’t heat food by placing it near a cellphone. The Facebook posts’ claim that “what you can't see WILL hurt you” is false.

As Africa Check reported in April and May 2020, there are strict international safety standards in place to ensure that communications equipment does not expose humans to unsafe levels of radiation.

One expert told us that radiation exposure levels around cellular communication equipment are “orders of magnitude lower” than safety guideline limits. And an investigation by the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom found that the highest radiation levels at 22 sites where 5G technology had been implemented were “0.039% of the maximum set out in the international guidelines”.

Live Better Group made misleading claims in the past, still provided no evidence

The webinar linked to on Facebook is hosted by an organisation known as the Live Better Group. It claims to have existed since 2015 although its website was created in 2020, and first appears in the internet archive in that year.

It has hosted what seem to be identical webinars in the past. Its claims have been debunked by fact-checkers such as USA Today, which found in January 2022 that the Live Better Group’s claims about 5G were unproven, and contacted the group to ask for its evidence but received no response.

The Live Better Group continues to host these webinars, despite a lack of evidence for their claims, likely because the webinars act as advertising for products and services provided by the group. 

A review of an older webinar says that anyone who registers for the webinar is required to sign up for marketing emails from the Live Better Group and other organisations.

The review also notes that “during the 5G & EMF Nightmare webinar, viewers will see offers for various 5G protective equipment”.

It is not clear what these products are or how they are supposed to work, but products meant to “protect” against EM radiation have become a lucrative industry, despite the fact this “protection” is unnecessary.

Many of these high-profile products have been demonstrated to be ineffective, scams, or even actively harmful

Readers familiar with our reports on debunked conspiracy theories about supposed links between 5G communications technology and the Covid-19 pandemic will not be surprised to learn that these claims are also false. 

The Live Better Group has provided no evidence to back up their dramatic claims about EM radiation, and has continued to repeat them despite evidence that they are incorrect. Any products, including this webinar, the group is selling should at best be regarded as sold under false pretences.

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