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In preparation for the network’s unveiling, wireless carriers are setting up millions of towers across the United States, which are needed to facilitate the faster speeds 5G connectivity will feature.

“5G technology innovation is rapidly evolving. Network density is increasing to meet the demands of customers, and following the FCC’s aggressive action on 5G spectrum, the tiem is right to deliver the next generation of broadband services with 5G,” says Adam Koeppe, Vice President of Network Planning at Verizon.

Since its inception, one of the biggest concerns with radio frequency (RF) technology has been the potential effects it has on the body. With telecommunication companies readying themselves for the implementation of 5G, it’s raised concerns over the potential negative effects that new cell towers being installed to accommodate the network may have health-wise. The influx of new cell towers will cause a significant increase in generated radio frequencies, which has many people worried about radiation exposure, thus potentially increasing the risk of getting diseases like cancer.

These concerns derive from longtime fears surrounding a potential correlation between cellphone technology, and RF/electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation exposure. With the dramatic increase in smartphone use over the years, these fears have grown for some people. Cell towers popping up across the country are mainly next-generation structures that will accommodate 5G connectivity known as “small cells” or distributed antenna systems. While industry experts claim these cell towers are safe, many individuals and communities aren’t fully convinced.

While reputable sources like Cancer.gov offer publications stating there isn’t consistent evidence behind the correlation between RF/EMF exposure from electronic devices and cancer, some particular cases make this argument alive. The International Association of Firefighters for example, began opposing installing cell towers on fire stations in San Francisco, after firefighters began exhibiting health problems.

“The firefighters developed symptoms,” says Dr. Gunnar Heuser, who orchestrated a pilot study on firefighters at a station with cell towers. “The symptoms included problems with memory, problems with intermittent confusion, problems with weakness.”

Dr. Heuser believed their (firefighters) brain scans showed that even low-level RF exposure can trigger cell damage. Dr. Heuser’s studies even prompted him to begin advocating for a bill that would prevent cell towers from being installed on institutions like fire stations.

In addition, over 230 scientists from 41 countries signed an International EMF Scientist Appeal, which discusses grave concerns regarding increased EMF exposure, based on recent scientific publications that examine correlations between low wireless radiation levels and health problems. These researchers are advocating for stricter regulations and publicly funded studied on health effects from cell towers, which could ultimately confirm or debunk these public fears, despite the American Cancer Society (ACS) claiming they are largely baseless.

“Cellphones work by sending signals to (and receiving them from) nearby cell towers using RF waves. This is a form of electromagnetic energy that falls between FM radio waves and microwaves. Like FM radio waves, microwaves, visible light, and heat, RF waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation. They don’t have enough energy to cause cancer by directly damaging the DNA inside cells. RF waves are different from stronger (ionizing) types of radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light, which can break the chemical bonds in DNA,” the ACS explains. “At very high levels, RF waves can heat up body tissues. But the levels of energy given off by cellphones are much lower, and are not enough to raise temperatures in the body.”

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