Will you grow an extra ear from too much Snapchatting?

This week has 16 year-old Shannon O’Connor joining the team for work experience, and today she looks at the potential for damage of radio frequency radiation on society. Here are her thoughts.

Telecommunications has been evolving significantly in recent years. With an increased pressure for increased connectivity in major cities, many people in the suburbs and poverty stricken areas are at risk of being left behind. However, it can said that the major issue surrounding wifi, and wireless on the whole, progress is the lack of care being taken to support the healthcare of society’s vulnerable.

The US National Toxicology Program tested on lab rats and mice to find what affects radio frequency (RF) energy used in cell phones could have on individuals in the long term. The lab animals were exposed for approximately to 2G and 3G frequencies nine hours a day, starting before birth and continuing for up to two years on large groups of rats and mice.

A draft of the final results was published in February 2018. It showed that an increased risk of ‘malignant schwannomas’ (rare heart tumours) was found in the male rats open to RF radiation. Interestingly, the majority of exposed male rats lived longer than rats who were not open to RF radiation. While these are shocking results, the two conflicting statements call the validity of the research into question. What results like these could mean for people is questionable, but there clearly is an impact on the health of living organisms.

When speaking to Tiago Rodrigues, (General Manager) from the Wireless Broadband Alliance earlier this week, questions began to arise from the innovations suggested by the company in exposing a larger amount of people to wifi radiation signals. He began to explain the larger concept of the company’s work but failed to mention the safety checks carried out.

In response to questions regarding the impact of RF radiation on people, Rodrigues stated the organization had not done any specific research and was not on the charter of the Alliance. On a personal note, he suggested that the industry needed some common level of agreement on assessing the radiation impacts. A concise and collaborative approach needed to be taken as there were no consistency in the way results were actually developed.

It has become apparent through speaking to Rodrigues and taking up further research into this matter that someone needs to take the lead and a conclusive decision needs to be made in standardizing how to measure the health risks attached to radiation from our networking devices.

While there does seem to be some concerns regarding the health impact today, with 5G on the horizon, the number of cell towers is certainly going to increase. In Germany for example, Deutsche Telekom’s CFO Thomas Dannenfeldt has suggested the number of towers could increase to 50,000 from 28,000 today. And this is just DT’s towers, what about the other German companies?

There is an increased need for answers, perhaps something which the World Health Organisation, European Commission or the United Nations could kick start? These conclusive tests could finally provide an explanation as to how this may impact those in the future such as myself.

  • Private Networks in a 5G World

  • 5G Networking Digital Symposium

  • LIVE: Getting the Best out of 5G

  • 5G Ecosystem Digital Symposium

  • 2020 Vision Executive Summit

  • TechXLR8

  • BIG 5G Event

  • 5G World

  • 5G Latin America


  1. Avatar T.S 23/06/2018 @ 1:05 am

    The February Draft of the National Toxicology Program Study on cell phone radiation was followed by an external review of the February Drafts in March 2018. At the three day conference, the expert NIEHS reviewers voted that the increases in malignant schwannoma in the heart in Male rats exposed to both GSM and CDMA) be recommended as “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity”
    * malignant glioma in the brain in in Male (GSM) some evidence of carcinogenic activity
    More here

  2. Avatar AF 29/06/2018 @ 11:18 am

    You’re right that further research is needed (that’s always true) but this has been the case for at least 30 years, since the possible biological impacts of RF radiation and HV power lines were first touted as mobile telecoms became widespread. The US military, for example, have noted that long-distance HV power lines tend to increase the size of trees closer to the power lines. Other studies have found plant growth to be stunted.

    We’re not going to grow an extra anything on our head from using Snapchat (think about it), so the point is standardizing investigative approaches on the impacts of RF on different areas of the body as well as different organisms.

    The two problems with these studies are, first, methodological – they’re *really* complex to implement and I’ve [personally] yet to come across one that doesn’t have some deep methodological criticism to be levelled at it. Second, plausible and demonstrable mechanisms by which biological impacts are supposed to occur.

    Specific to telecoms, of course, you have also that the modulation and power management techniques for legacy radio are very different to modern radio. 2G frequency hopping for example is known to sometimes cause tingling in the surface of the skin but doesn’t really factor in 3G onwards (and 2G uses two different frequency hopping techniques).

    And you want to know whether to study RF at the UE, or at the cell tower. Those two subject ‘populations’ (statistically speaking) – those who live near towers and those who use cellular devices – are both very different and yet also overlapping. That was difficult enough in 2G but the greater number of smaller (likely lower-power) cells in 5G makes it both harder and more critical.

    All that said and content aside, a well-written article with mature writing style.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.