We’re living in an era where the demand for innovative technology is at an all-time high, which is why 5G coming to cities is welcomed by many people, companies, and governmental entities. Deployments will be implemented through installing new cell towers, and adding beacons on existing infrastructure like street lights and utility poles. For most cities where trials are or will be conducted, companies overseeing these operations like AT&T don’t have exact numbers on the amount of infrastructural installments needed to distribute 5G connectivity. Due to their powerful but short wavelengths, cell towers need to be in much closer proximity to each other.
Despite 5G’s unparalleled quality in streaming, downloading, and reception, there are some people with growing (even hostile) reservations. The influx of cell towers is causing concern regarding some of the negative and potentially harmful effects 5G could bring about that range from health and environmental issues, to their effects on a community’s real estate market. Below are three major worries communities have with rising cell towers aimed at deploying widespread 5G connectivity.
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5G uses microwave technology, so their towers—in some cases—can emit the same level of radiation as a microwave in someone’s home. Studies show cell tower radiation could cause genuine health problems, and it’s been determined effects on humans and the environment from 5G have barely been studied. Some researchers believe it could be years before the true health consequences of microwave radiation emerge since we have just one generation living in a cradle-to-grave lifespan of exposure to this level of manmade radio frequencies.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), 5G cell tower microwave radiation exposure has been linked to an array of symptoms from head, heart, and muscle issues; sleep complications like insomnia and fatigue; and breathing difficulties, to high-pitched ringing in ears, memory impairment, dizziness, and erratic mood swings. This is in addition to previous studies linking microwave radiation exposure to illnesses like cancer, heart disease, neurological dysfunction, even immune system suppression and cataracts.
Researchers are testing 5G on millimeter waves, which vegetation and rain are susceptible to absorbing. As water falls from the sky, scientists fear plants can be contaminated with radiation and ultimately become inedible. In 2010, a study on aspen seedlings determined exposure to radio frequencies caused leaves to exhibit necrosis symptoms, while Armenian-based trials revealed low-intensity millimeter waves invoke peroxidase (a stress protein in plants) isoenzyme spectrum changes of wheat shoots.
Since 2000, there have been documented instances of radiation sources (like cell towers) causing birds to abandon their nests, along with experiencing health issues like plumage deterioration, locomotion problems, and reduced survivorship. Non-ionizing microwave radiation has also been linked to declining bee populations, which reduce a queen’s egg-laying capabilities. A 2012 Loyola College study concluded that out of 919 research studies conducted on birds, plants, bees, humans, and other animals, 593 subjects showed signs of being affected by RF-EMG radiation.
Another environmental concern comes from 5G satellites, which have shorter lifespans, and will require more frequent launches than we currently see. A new type of hydrocarbon engine is expected to power these suborbital rocket fleets, which would emit black carbon and other hazardous substances like chlorine into the atmosphere. According to one Californian study, these emission rates could potentially cause significant changes in global atmospheric circulation, along with ozone and temperature distributions.
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3. Property Values
The widespread deployment of 5G will result in thousands of small cell towers emerging in our neighborhoods, with some even being installed in our front and backyards. Many homeowners are worried about ramifications like declining property values (in addition to health concerns). One study from the National Association of Realtors revealed having cellphone towers in communities directly impacts housing prices, with properties dropping 20-30 percent not being uncommon throughout areas where cell towers are installed.
Not only will 5G cause many more cell towers to emerge, but they’ll be in closer proximity to each other. Expert projections have telecommunication conglomerates like AT&T needing 400 small towers just to cover the uptown section of a city the size of Charlotte, North Carolina, while almost 28,000 might be needed to expand across a whole area of a city that size. Because the high-frequency waves for 5G don’t travel as far as current wireless frequencies, these cell towers will need to be roughly 100-500 yards apart. One way to accommodate this need is resort to “small cell” sites that use installments like streetlights and utility poles (as mentioned earlier).