There have been a number of health concerns around 5G technology since it was first announced. It’s important to note that, from the perspective of potential health concerns, there’s nothing particularly special about 5G compared to previous forms of cellular tech.
5G uses a higher frequency, sure, but it’s still transmitted using radio waves, the same as 4G LTE and 3G before that.
This one isn’t exactly new—people have been concerned about the effects of radiation from cell phones and accompanying tech for a long time. Fortunately, since this is such an old concern, it’s been addressed in fairly good detail.
Yes, you’re technically being exposed to radiation from your 5G devices (and most other cellular or wireless networking tech). However, the type of radiation involved here has not been shown to be harmful to humans.
Basically, there are two types of electromagnetic radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation comes from three sources: high-frequency ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays. 5G (and other cellular tech) uses radio waves, which are non-ionizing. These don’t cause the cellular interactions that make the other types of radiation harmful—they’re too low-energy1. This is good, because we’re surrounded by radio waves nearly all day—Wi-Fi, car radios, 4G LTE and older cell networks, and more all use radio waves to transmit data.
Another related concern is that the use of cell phones—particularly 5G phones and networks—may increase the risk of developing cancer. On the surface, this assumption makes sense—radiation exposure is often associated with cancer development, cell phones put out radiation, and we hold them in our hands (and sometimes against our heads!).
This fear reached a fever pitch when 5G was announced, particularly in areas where Ultra Wideband and other powerful forms of the technology were being deployed. However, for the reasons stated above, 5G (and cell phones in general) don’t seem to increase your risk of developing cancer.
There have been a handful of studies done on electromagnetic fields from phones and in general to determine if they increase the risk of brain cancer. The results have been mixed—some have shown an increase in risk2, and some have not3. The overall results are inconclusive.
Along with ionization, the other main health concern around electromagnetic radiation, such as 5G, is tissue heating. This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: the radiation heats up, and eventually burns, tissue. This is actually the process that microwaves use to heat food.
Again, though, radio waves don’t really pose a risk here. Tissue heating is based on the total intensity of the radiation, and radio waves need a very high total intensity to cause damage. The amount used in cell phones, FM radio, and Wi-Fi is too low to pose a real risk—this includes 5G. The needed energy just isn’t there. In fact, radio waves in general very rarely have the energy to cause significant heating, much less actual tissue damage.