Written by Jennifer Jenkins.
Theodora Scarato, the Executive Director for the Environmental Health Trust, came to St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s library on February 24th to discuss the debate over cell phone radiation and the push for 5G networks. The Environmental Health Trust is a nonprofit organization that wants to inform the general public of environmental health risks.
In her lecture, Scarato presented her organization’s work researching and campaigning information on scientific studies, government policies and individuals involved in the movements for cell phones and 5G networks. Scarato claims there are side effects to heavy cell phone use such as headaches, DNA damage, memory problems, damage to reproductive organs and oxidative stress. She also referenced effects like an increased risk of brain tumors and reproductive organ cancers.
Scarato believes, “Awareness is the first step in fixing the problem.” She wants everyone to be aware of the possible health problems that can come from your environment. We should educate ourselves on our products and should “use the power of our pocketbooks” to influence the markets and therefore make changes in our society. Scarato and the Environmental Health Trust’s opinions on cell phone radiation and the rise of 5G have been mentioned and debated with in articles by Vox and The Scientific American.
Scarato’s lecture referenced the paper “Exposure of Insects to Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields from 2-120 GHz,” Dr. Henry Lai, Dr. Ronald Melnick and other sources to support her case on health problems from cell phones. Scarato’s sources are only a few in the debate. There are also many sources that oppose her view and claim that there is no significant data that shows direct effects between cell phone usage and human health. For example the paper, “Mobile phone use and incidence of brain tumour histological types, grading or anatomical location: a population-based ecological study” concludes that “there has been no increase in any brain tumour histological type or glioma location that can be attributed to mobile phones” in Australia. The paper shows the results of a study on brain tumor rates during different periods of cell phone use. There are papers supporting both sides of the argument.
At the end of her lecture, Scarato pointed out what she wants the students to remember in three points: a 5G appeal has been signed by over 250 scientists, there is no scientific consensus on this topic, and that people need to look over the research and evidence that’s out there.
The four major network carriers in the United States— Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—are currently advertising their 5G networks and technologies. They are introducing the next generation of networks after LTE to the consumer. This new generation aims to give us faster communication, uploads, and downloads. According to CNN, “5G is expected to be nearly 100 times faster than 4G.” This is because of the different frequency airwaves the 5G networks use. This change for faster internet sounds great, but what is the catch?
The Pew Research Center estimates that about 96% of Americans own a cellphone of some sort. 81% of Americans own smartphones and many are using their smartphones as their main gateway to the internet. These statistics shouldn’t be surprising since our phones really are quite convenient. They can play the roles of a radio, personal computer, and television. Our phones help us communicate, create, and gain weight (depending on the app, of course).
We often have our cell phones in our pockets, our hands, and beside our pillows at night. With new phones that use 5G networks, we would be bringing the different frequencies along with cell phone radiation closer to our bodies. The Connecticut Department of Health Environmental & Occupational Health Program addressed possible health concerns over cell phone use by providing users with guidelines on how to limit their exposure from the effects of cell phones. They suggest reducing phone use, keeping it away from the body, and keeping phones on airplane mode when possible.