Radiation Again!


Is 5G dangerous?

This past spring, there were protests in the U.K. among people who claimed that 5G spread COVID-19, but that was widely debunked. The bigger concern is whether there’s a connection between RF waves and cancer. Radio-frequency waves are a type of radiation—but that’s not as scary as it sounds.

“There is a big difference between ionizing radiation [such as X-rays] and non­ionizing radiation [such as RF],” Foster says. Ionizing radiation is definitely dangerous: The photons that carry this energy can break chemical bonds and form free radicals. Significant exposure has been linked with many serious illnesses, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. But nonionizing radiation is too weak to break chemical bonds, and its waves lose strength as they travel. However, some research connects cell phone use in general with tumor risk, including one study conducted over a decade, says Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., of the School of Public Health of University of California, Berkeley. Also, research in rats from this year showed that exposure to cell phone RF radiation caused DNA damage. However, that study used doses of RF radiation higher than what’s emitted by cell phones. Numerous other studies have not found any correlation between RF radiation and disease, and the FDA, the World Health Organization, and the E.U. say there is a lack of scientific evidence to connect cell phone RF radiation with health concerns.

Is it safe to use 5G networks?

Though 5G networks are unlikely to pose any new threat, there are steps you can take if you’re concerned about your cell phone usage. Since RF waves lose strength as they travel away from your phone’s built-in antenna, you can turn off your phone and put it in another room when you don’t need it. You can also create some distance between your body and your phone by taking calls through a headset or ear buds instead of holding the phone to your ear.

This article originally appeared in the July 2020 issue of Prevention.


Within weeks after Röntgen revealed the first X-ray photographs in January 1896, news of the discovery spread throughout the world. Soon afterward, the penetrating properties of the rays began to be exploited for medical purposes, with no inkling that such radiation might have deleterious effects.

The first reports of X-ray injury to human tissue came later in 1896. Elihu Thomson, an American electrical engineer, deliberately exposed one of his fingers to X rays and provided accurate observations on the burns produced. That same year, Thomas Alva Edison was engaged in developing a fluorescent X-ray lamp when he noticed that his assistant, Clarence Dally, was so “poisonously affected” by the new rays that his hair fell out and his scalp became inflamed and ulcerated. By 1904 Dally had developed severe ulcers on both hands and arms, which soon became cancerous and caused his early death.

During the next few decades, many investigators and physicians developed radiation burns and cancer, and more than 100 of them died as a result of their exposure to X rays. These unfortunate early experiences eventually led to an awareness of radiation hazards for professional workers and stimulated the development of a new branch of science—namely, radiobiology.

Radiations from radioactive materials were not immediately recognized as being related to X rays. In 1906 Henri Becquerel, the French physicist who discovered radioactivity, accidentally burned himself by carrying radioactive materials in his pocket. Noting that, Pierre Curie, the co-discoverer of radium, deliberately produced a similar burn on himself. Beginning about 1925, a number of women employed in applying luminescent paint that contained radium to clock and instrument dials became ill with anemia and lesions of the jawbones and mouth; some of them subsequently developed bone cancer.

In 1933 Ernest O. Lawrence and his collaborators completed the first full-scale cyclotron at the University of California at Berkeley. This type of particle accelerator was a copious source of neutrons, which had recently been discovered by Sir James Chadwick in England. Lawrence and his associates exposed laboratory rats to fast neutrons produced with the cyclotron and found that such radiation was about two and a half times more effective in killing power for rats than were X rays.

Considerably more knowledge about the biologic effects of neutrons had been acquired by the time the first nuclear reactor was built in 1942 in Chicago. The nuclear reactor, which has become a prime source of energy for the world, produces an enormous amount of neutrons as well as other forms of radiation. The widespread use of nuclear reactors and the development of high-energy particle accelerators, another prolific source of ionizing radiation, have given rise to health physics. This field of study deals with the hazards of radiation and protection against such hazards. Moreover, since the advent of spaceflight in the late 1950s, certain kinds of radiation from space and their effects on human health have attracted much attention. The protons in the Van Allen radiation belts (two doughnut-shaped zones of high-energy particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field), the protons and heavier ions ejected in solar flares, and similar particles near the top of the atmosphere are particularly important. Public domain

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