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Expert Voices

5G is not linked to the coronavirus pandemic in any way. Here's the science.

5g coronavirus conspiracy theory
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A conspiracy theory claiming 5G can spread the coronavirus is making the rounds on social media. The myth supposedly gained traction (opens in new tab) when a Belgian doctor linked the "dangers" of 5G technology (opens in new tab) to the virus during an interview in January (opens in new tab).

Closer to home, Facebook group Stop5G Australia (opens in new tab) (with more than 31,700 members) has various posts linking the disease's spread to 5G technology.

Peddling such misinformation is not only wrong, it's destructive.

Related: 13 coronavi (opens in new tab)rus myths busted by science 

The Guardian (opens in new tab) reported that since last Thursday at least 20 mobile phone masts across the UK have been torched or otherwise vandalized. Mobile network representative MobileUK published an open letter stating:

"We have experienced cases of vandals setting fire to mobile masts, disrupting critical infrastructure and spreading false information suggesting a connection between 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic."

Celebrities - stick to what you know

Many outlets and people have rushed to debunk this myth, including federal minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts Paul Fletcher (opens in new tab). But myriad groups and public figures continue to perpetuate it.

Actor Woody Harrelson (opens in new tab) and singer Keri Hilson have both shared content with fans suggesting a link between 5G and COVID-19.

Stop5G Australia members have claimed the Ruby Princess (opens in new tab) cruiseliner's link to 600 reported infections and 11 deaths is because cruises are "radiation saturated." That's wrong.

While cruise passengers can access (opens in new tab) roaming wifi services on board, these are not 5G services (opens in new tab). Maritime cruises have yet to implement 5G technology.

One petition (opens in new tab) is calling on the Australia government to stop 5G's rollout because the technology can supposedly "negatively affect your immune system" (a claim for which there is exactly zero evidence (opens in new tab)). It has received more than 27,000 signatures.

How 5G radio signals (radiation) work

The electromagnetic spectrum, from highest to lowest frequency waves.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The difference between 5G and previous generations of mobile services (4G, 3G) is that the latter use lower radio frequencies (below the 6 gigahertz range (opens in new tab)), whereas 5G also uses frequencies in the 30–300 gigahertz range (opens in new tab).

In the 30-300 gigahertz range, there's not enough energy to break chemical bonds or remove electrons when in contact with human tissue. Thus, this range is referred to as "non-ionising" electromagnetic radiation.

It's approved by the federal government's Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency as not having the negative health effects of more intense radiation (opens in new tab).

Read more: There's no evidence 5G is going to harm our health, so let's stop worrying about it (opens in new tab)

Radiation can come into contact with the skin, for example, when we put a 5G mobile to our ear to make a call. This is when we're most exposed to non-ionising radiation (opens in new tab). But this exposure is well below the recommended safety level.

5G radiation can't penetrate skin, or allow a virus to penetrate skin. There is no evidence (opens in new tab) 5G radio frequencies cause or exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus.

Also, the protein shell of the virus is incapable of hijacking (opens in new tab) 5G radio signals. This is because radiation and viruses exist in different forms that do not interact. One is a biological phenomenon and the other exists on the electromagnetic spectrum.

5G radio waves are called millimeter waves (opens in new tab), because their wavelength is measured in millimeters. Because these waves are short, 5G cell towers need to be relatively close together - about 250 meters (opens in new tab) apart. They are organized as a collection of small cells (a cell is an area covered by radio signals).

For 5G to cover a larger geographic area, more base stations are needed in comparison to 4G. This increase in the number of base stations, and their proximity to humans, is one factor that may stir unfounded fears about 5G's potential health impacts.

Your phone may be dangerous, but its radiation isn't

COVID-19 spreads (opens in new tab) through small droplets released from the nose or mouth of an infected person when they cough, spit, sneeze, talk or exhale. Transmission occurs when the droplets come into contact with the nose, eyes or mouth of a healthy person.

So if an infectious person speaks through a phone held near their mouth, enough infectious droplets may land on its surface to make it capable of spreading the virus. This is why it's not advisable to share mobiles during a pandemic. You should also regularly disinfect your mobile.

Read more: Can I get coronavirus from mail or package deliveries? Should I disinfect my phone? (opens in new tab)

Why are we having this discussion?

To many of us, it's obvious a human virus can't spread via radio signals, and such a conspiracy may be linked to a wider distrust of the government in general (opens in new tab).

Addressing this myth is critical as property is now being damaged, and individuals attacked. Physical and verbal threats to broadband engineers (opens in new tab) can be added to a long list of assaults on health workers (opens in new tab).

At a time when millions are relying on fast internet to work and study from home, vital telecommunications infrastructure is at risk of being destroyed. Conspiracy theories have motivated arson attacks on 5G towers in Belfast, Liverpool and Birmingham (opens in new tab).

Youtube has announced (opens in new tab) it will devote resources to removing content linking 5G technology to COVID-19.

The announcement came after fingers were (opens in new tab) pointed (opens in new tab) at one video (opens in new tab), published on March 18 (and viewed more than 668,000 times), in which an American doctor claims incorrectly that Africa is less affected by COVID-19 because it's not a 5G region. The video remained online at the time of publishing this article.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

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  • Truthseeker007
    There is something to 5G not being very healthy . You have to be pretty gullible if you can't see that 5G is going to be a problem to sensitive people.
    Repeated Wi-Fi studies show that Wi-Fi causes oxidative stress, sperm/testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects including EEG changes, apoptosis, cellular DNA damage, endocrine changes, and calcium overload. Each of these effects are also caused by exposures to other microwave frequency EMFs, with each such effect being documented in from 10 to 16 reviews. Therefore, each of these seven EMF effects are established effects of Wi-Fi and of other microwave frequency EMFs. Each of these seven is also produced by downstream effects of the main action of such EMFs, voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) activation. While VGCC activation via EMF interaction with the VGCC voltage sensor seems to be the predominant mechanism of action of EMFs, other mechanisms appear to have minor roles. Minor roles include activation of other voltage-gated ion channels, calcium cyclotron resonance and the geomagnetic magnetoreception mechanism.

    Five properties of non-thermal EMF effects are discussed. These are that pulsed EMFs are, in most cases, more active than are non-pulsed EMFs; artificial EMFs are polarized and such polarized EMFs are much more active than non-polarized EMFs; dose-response curves are non-linear and non-monotone; EMF effects are often cumulative; and EMFs may impact young people more than adults. These general findings and data presented earlier on Wi-Fi effects were used to assess the Foster and Moulder (F&M) review of Wi-Fi. The F&M study claimed that there were seven important studies of Wi-Fi that each showed no effect. However, none of these were Wi-Fi studies, with each differing from genuine Wi-Fi in three distinct ways. F&M could, at most conclude that there was no statistically significant evidence of an effect. The tiny numbers studied in each of these seven F&M-linked studies show that each of them lack power to make any substantive conclusions. In conclusion, there are seven repeatedly found Wi-Fi effects which have also been shown to be caused by other similar EMF exposures. Each of the seven should be considered, therefore, as established effects of Wi-Fi.
  • Truthseeker007
    Admin said:
    A conspiracy theory claiming 5G can spread the coronavirus is making the rounds on social media. Peddling such misinformation is not only wrong, it's destructive.

    5G is not ed to the coronavirus pandemic in any way. Here's the science. : Read more

    Then why is the mainstream media always peddling misinformation such as CNN, FOX, MSNBC,CBS,NBC, ABC and Livescience? Maybe if we had real journalist in the field doing real journalism instead of pushing the "official story" and just reading a teleprompter maybe we wouldn't have so many conspiracy theories. And no the 5G has not been debunked this story is poor hogwash as most that comes from the mainstream. It gives absolutely no facts just opinion. And it just adds fuel to the fire the mainstream going around saying they are debunking things when they are not. People are tired of this!:mad:

    Even in your own article Stanley Shanapinda your saying how YouTube is censoring people and taking away free speech where you say "Youtube has announced it will devote resources to removing content linking 5G technology to COVID-19". Get a clue Mr. Shanapinda you are working for the Powers That Be when you post these kind of things. They will get rid of you in a heart beat when they are done with you and your fake journalism. Wake up!