CORVALLIS, Ore. — As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, so do conspiracy theories surrounding it. So it’s no surprise that 5G, the fifth-generation of wireless technology, faces additional scrutiny during its coincidental coronavirus-era rollout. Many skeptics fear that 5G will bring about dangerous health hazards, particularly for those who live near towers hosting the technology. A recent study by Oregon State University researchers, however, shows there’s little to worry about.
It will likely take years to convert the entire globe, but the switch from 4G to 5G began in 2019. And while 5G promises download speeds, connectivity and bandwidth that will dwarf 4G, those faster speeds come with increases in radiofrequency radiation.
Concerns abound about possible health risks from exposure to higher levels of radiofrequency radiation. Many worry the radiation will cause cancers, genetic damage and neurological disorders to nearby residents. Some critics complain that plants and animals will also feel the impact from the expanded technology.
But the new study, conducted on embryonic zebrafish, disputes these health concerns.
“Based on our study, we don’t think 5G radiation is that harmful,” says study co-author Subham Dasgupta, a postdoctoral fellow in the university’s College of Agricultural Sciences, in a release. “It’s predominately benign.”
Embryonic zebrafish make for good test subjects because the fish is an ideal human stand-in to study interactions between environmental stressors and biological systems. Research on zebrafish helps establish probable human responses because of the similarities in chromosomes and developmental processes they share with humans.
In the experiment, researchers placed zebrafish embryos on plates inside a copper box. They exposed the embryos to 3.5 GHz radiofrequency radiation — the frequency level of a 5G-enabled cellphone — for two days. The radiation entered the box through an antennae, and the copper retained the level within the box environment.
No serious impacts from 5G radiation
The results show the zebrafish suffered no serious changes in mortality, development, or behavioral response to light. Researchers, however, did note a modest change in how the embryos respond to sudden sound. They plan to study this result further.
Researchers will continue to study the effects of 5G radiation on the same test subjects in this study. They’ll look for changes on a genetic level and throughout the development process from embryo to adult.
Because of the ever-evolving changes to cell phone technology, researchers also want to get ahead of the curve and study the impacts to zebrafish of even higher frequencies and higher levels of radiofrequency radiation exposure.
Study results are published in the July 9, 2020 issue of the journal PLOS ONE.