3G, 4G, and 5G Networks: Why the Difference Can Affect Your Health
When smartphones first arrived on the scene, 3G networks were a hot commodity, thanks to their quick speeds and high bandwidth.
Then, 4G networks took their place, with even stronger technology that made their predecessor seem molasses-slow.
While this advancement has given us amazing capabilities, the electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) emitting low-grade radiation from these devices and cell towers are associated with several health issues.
And with the arrival of the most powerful network yet, 5G, beginning to roll out in some cities, health experts are deeply concerned about its potential impact.
In this article:
- 3G, 4G, 5G - What's the Difference?
- How Wireless Networks Affect Health
- Research on the Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use
- How to Break Your Phone Addiction
- Can’t Reduce Your Cell Phone Time? You Can Still Reduce Your Exposure Risk
3G, 4G, 5G—What’s the Difference?
As smartphones have advanced in technological capability, you may have noticed the numbers increasing in mobile data capability as well. The difference between all the Gs (which stands for “generation”) is the level of speed, security, and reliability, which are enhanced with each iteration to keep up with the demands of modern life.
Current 4G technology was developed to better cope with cloud computing, mobile video conferencing, content streaming, and more, and an even stronger, lightning-speed 5G network is becoming available from the major telecommunication companies Verizon and AT&T.
How Wireless Networks Affect Health
Although we can’t fully gauge the health effects of 5G until it rolls out on a wide scale, more than 180 international scientists and doctors from the Centre for Research on Globalization have been lobbying for a moratorium on its rollout.
According to this group, the steps required for widespread 5G implementation will cause increased and unavoidable exposure. (5G only works at short distances, for which many more antennas will have to be installed, particularly in urban areas--in most neighborhoods, a small station must be installed about every 5 homes!)1
This moratorium is based on a review of many scientific publications showing that “EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.”
So, even though telecom companies may be following the rules, we are still susceptible to the health effects of EMF exposure, which include:
- Cancer risk
- Cellular stress
- Free radical increase
- Genetic damages
- Learning and memory impairment
- Neurological disorders
- Reproductive system changes in structure and function
The state of California has acknowledged these potential effects by amending a recent bill on the placement of cell towers, stating that they cannot be installed on a fire department facility.2 This change was in response to a report by the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Division of Occupational Health, Safety, and Medicine, which took a strong stance against using fire stations as locations for cell phone towers and transmissions, due to their growing concerns about EMFs being hazardous to the health of emergency personnel.3
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has also classified radio frequencies (RFs, a type of EMFs) as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans as well, based on epidemiological evidence showing an association between RF exposure from mobile phones and various head cancers.
WHO has commissioned further studies on longer lifetime exposure that younger generations will experience. They have also noted changes in brain activity and sleep, with more research coming to determine the extent of these changes.4
The effects of radio frequency exposure are known to wireless and mobile phone companies, as evidenced by the fact that manufacturers like Apple have information in their fine-print insert that comes with your phone, about how to use devices to reduce radio frequency exposure.
Because they’re operating within legal limits, however, it does not benefit them to make changes that may affect what’s most attractive about their wireless products: high speed, security, and reliability.
Research on the Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use
Cell phones are ubiquitous these days. Even your grandmother probably has one in her pocket.
It’s hard to imagine that such a common and essential part of modern life could be harmful, and you can’t “see” radiation emitting from your phone. But growing evidence suggesting negative effects on the body has been ignored by leading telecommunications companies for years.
From brain tumor risk to DNA damage and reproductive issues, the electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) emitted from cell phones can alter our bodies in ways that threaten our short-term and long-term health. These are some of the documented health risks:
- Increased Risk of Brain Tumors: Numerous studies over the years have shown that EMFs trigger oxidative stress,5 which can ultimately lead to cancer. In particular, a landmark $25 million study from the U.S. National Toxicology Program in 2016 found that when rats were exposed to cell phone radiation, there was an increase in brain tumors known as gliomas. A subsequent Italian study provided additional damning results, as the growths researchers observed were comparable to tumors found in epidemiological studies involving mobile phone users.
- Decrease in Brain Cells: In a study of adult male rats subject to 900-MHz of electromagnetic frequency exposure, Turkish researchers discovered a decrease in certain brain cells compared to rats without any radiation exposure.6 These findings are particularly important if children are exposed (with phones, devices and gaming), as they are in a vulnerable state while their brains develop and their skulls are thinner. Excess exposure to EMF radiation may potentially inhibit proper growth.
- DNA Damage: Among the negative effects EMFs have on our bodies is potential DNA damage. Subjects in a 2009 study7 were exposed to 1800 MHz-like frequencies for 15 minutes per day for seven days. This resulted in the release of free radicals, which create oxidative stress and destroy DNA molecules. This level of frequency is on par with most cell phones. Although free radicals can be neutralized with enough antioxidants in the diet, think about how long you actually use your phone. Most people spend hours on their devices every day, not just 15 minutes.
- Parotid Gland Tumors: Do you talk on the phone with the device up to your ear, or do you use earbuds with a microphone? It’s time to go the hands-free route, as studies show a consistently elevated risk for tumors within the mouth’s parotid glands as phone use increase, particularly in subjects who spend a lot of time with the phone held next to the face.8
These are far from all the studies on the effects of cell phone use on human health. Renowned researcher Dr. Magda Havas has collated thousands of studies on the biological effects of EMF exposure, many of which explore the link between mobile networks and health concerns.
Being proactive about your health and staying in the know about how technology affects the body is essential to keeping you and your family safe from increased risk of health problems due to EMF exposure.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself. I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching this topic, and I'm sharing my Top-5 EMF Action Steps for free, to show you free and inexpensive options to decrease your exposure.
Whether the network is 3G, 4G, or 5G, though, the way people use and carry their cell phones prolongs exposure next to some of our most sensitive organs. It has troubled me for a long time that carrying around a cell phone in pants pockets places it right next to sensitive reproductive organs, and girls and women often stick emitting phones in their bras, increasing breast cancer risk, decreasing the body’s energy immediately, and causing risk to heart function.
How To Break Your Phone Addiction
Because cell phones are an integral part of our daily lives, it can be tough to break up with your phone, even if it does improve your health. You do have a few options, however, to become a little less dependent on your favorite device:
- Download an app like Moment that tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone. This way, you have a baseline to work with and can track your progress over time.
- Turn off notifications that aren’t essential, such as pings from social media and your personal email.
- If you find you need an even more aggressive approach to unplugging, download an app like Offtime that blocks social media after a set amount of time, or even Flipd, which locks your phone from use during a scheduled period.
- Delete mindless games. The fewer distractions you have from your present surroundings, the less time you’ll feel the habitual urge to spend with your phone.
- Place your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode if you’re not expecting any calls.
- Add in other habits, like going for a walk sans cell and enjoying nature instead of the latest podcast, or visiting a friend and leaving your phone in the car or at home.
Our devices can be difficult to limit, without intention. Leaving it at home has the additional benefit of making us more present and attentive to those we care about, and to more important matters.
Can’t Reduce Your Cell Phone Time? You Can Still Reduce Your Exposure Risk
Sometimes it’s not practical to be without a cell phone or other mobile technology. Staying connected to family or work is often not optional!
Turn your Wi-Fi off at night. Ground your computer so you aren’t exposed to Wi-Fi during the day. Turn “airplane mode” on when your cell phone is within 6 feet of you, but you aren’t using it. These are simple, easy hacks, but other important protective measures are in my free EMF Action Steps Checklist.
My top inexpensive solution for protection from EMFs and other stress is the Harmoni pendant.
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
- Nyberg, Rainer; Hardell, Lennart. “Scientists and Doctors Warn of Potential Serious Health Impacts of Fifth Generation 5G Wireless Technology.” Centre for Research and Globalization. September 18, 2017.
- Hueso, Ben, et al. “SB-649 Wireless telecommunications facilities.” California Legislative Information. Last amended March 28, 2017.
- International Association of Fire Fighters. “Position on the Health Effects from Radio Frequency/Microwave (RF/MW) Radiation in Fire Department Facilities from Base Stations for Antennas and Towers for the Conduction of Cell Phone Transmissions.” n.d.
- “IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans.” World Health Organization - International Agency for Research on Cancer. May 31, 2011.
- Kivrak, EG et al. Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on the antioxidant defense system. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure. Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2017, Pages 167-176.
- Kivrak EG, et al. Effects of 900-MHz radiation on the hippocampus and cerebellum of adult rats and attenuation of such effects by folic acid and Boswellia sacra. J Microsc Ultrastruct (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmau.2017.09.003
- Guler, G et al. The effect of radiofrequency radiation on DNA and lipid damage in non-pregnant and pregnant rabbits and their newborns. Gen. Physiol. Biophys. (2010), 29, 59–66. doi:10.4149/gpb_2010_01_59
- Sadetzki, S et al. Cellular phone use and risk of benign and malignant parotid gland tumors--a nationwide case-control study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008 Feb 15;167(4):457-67. Epub 2007 Dec 6. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwm325
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