Daily News Analysis

5G Effects

3rd June, 2021 Environment

GS PAPER III: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Context: Juhi Chawla has moved the Bombay High Court against 5G rollout in India. This lawsuit against 5G has raised debate around harmful effects of mobile phone radiation

What is 5G?

  • It is the fifth-generation of wireless networks for mobile broadband, or what is commonly referred to as 5G, that promises ultra-fast connectivity and low-latency.

Concerns regarding impact of 5G:

  • Concerns regarding impact of 5G and low intensity radiofrequency (RF) electronic magnetic field (EMF) radiation on human health, and its environmental impact have been raised by various scientists before too.
  • 5G technology and associated RF radiation from wirefree gadgets and network cell towers will be “extremely harmful and injurious to the health and safety of the people and also of animals and birds.

Why government is opting for 5G technology and when will it roll out in India?

  • 5G promises to revolutionise mobile broadband and is a big generational leap over the existing 4G technology.
  • This new technology will be capable of not just ensuring fast internet on our phones, but also help power IoT (Internet of Things) networks to run connected cars and homes smarter. It will also support streaming of rich media.
  • But 5G has not yet been rolled out in India though Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea have been given trial spectrum to test 5G technology in the country.
  • Once this is over, it is expected that networks will go live with the 5G bands by the end of this year. The 5G rollout is expected to gather pace in the country by 2022.

What are the fears around the impact of 5G radiation on human health?

  • The claim is that the more powerful 5G waves will emit more radiation and cause harm to humans as well as other living beings.
  • Also, 5G will require more towers in order to ensure better connectivity, and since it will power more than just our smartphones, it will increase human exposure to such radiation in general.
  • Cellular towers, which emit low-level RF-EMF radiation, are in general damaging our bodies.
  • But radiation from cellphone towers, mobile phones, WiFi routers is typically called non-ionising radiation like radio waves, microwaves, and optical radiation.
  • RF fields have been classified by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
  • Radiation at very high levels, also referred to as ionising radiation, heats up our tissue and can eventually lead to cancer.
  • This applies to medical devices such as a CT-scan machine or X-ray machine, which emit high-level ionising radiation.
  • There are increasing concerns that our smartphones, other WiFi-ready devices such as laptops, and mobile phone towers, which also emit low level RF radiation are damaging our bodies given the constant exposure.

Do cell phone towers negatively impact the environment?

  • Studies done in India have shown that bee colonies have collapsed due to exposure to radiation from mobile phone towers.