March 16, 2020 / 10:01 PM / 23 days ago

False claim: 5G networks are making people sick, not Coronavirus

Facebook users have been sharing posts claiming 5G, not the coronavirus, is making people sick ( here ).

The posts go on to include a list of various further claims that deny the reality of the virus and include various conspiracy-type arguments about the coronavirus. 

The coronavirus outbreak started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The Center for Disease Control says on its website the virus had links to a "seafood and live animal market" where a human might have contracted the virus from an animal. The virus then spread person-to-person ( here ). The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, tiredness, cough, and shortness of breath that can appear two to 14 days after being exposed to the virus ( here ). The coronavirus is spread person-to-person ( here ).

Mobile phones use radio waves. They send and receive radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs). 5G uses "beam-forming technology", which allows radiofrequency electromagnetic fields to go directly where needed ( here ).

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) after 7 years of research released 2020 guidelines on limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields. They include information about 5G.

The commission says the main effect that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields have on the human body is increased temperature of exposed tissue. The body can handle small increases to body temperature, such as through exercising, but radiofrequency exposure and increased temperature can be dangerous above a certain threshold ( here ).

According to the ICNIRP, "Another general characteristic of RF EMFs is that the higher the frequency, the lower the depth of penetration of the EMFs into the body. As 5G technologies can utilize higher EMF frequencies (>24 GHz) in addition to those currently used (<4 GHz), power from those higher frequencies will be primarily absorbed more superficially than that from previous mobile telecommunications technologies […] Accordingly, 5G exposures will not cause any harm providing that they adhere to the ICNIRP (2020) guidelines" ( here ).

Eric van Rongen, Chairman of ICNIRP, said in a video that there is no evidence that electromagnetic fields cause health effects such as cancer, electrohypersensitivity, infertility or anything else. The only two recognized health effects are nerve stimulation in up to 10 MHz and heating from 100 kHz ( here ).

The World Health Organization says no research has linked exposure to wireless technology with negative health effects ( here ). WHO said on its website it will continue to review research in this area and is conducting a "health risk assessment" of all radiofrequency ranges that will be available in 2022. 

Marvin C. Ziskin, Professor Emeritus of Radiology and Medical Physics, said there is no basis to expect that 5G would cause adverse health issues provided exposure limits are respected.

Ziskin told Reuters, “The weight of scientific evidence indicates that 5G emissions are not cumulative. That is, multiple exposures of innocuous exposures do not add to produce any adverse biological effect. I would add that there have been no health agency warnings about possible health risks of RF energy including millimeter waves at exposure levels that an average consumer would experience from communications technology. This is consistent with assessments of the issue by standards-setting groups such as IEEE and ICNIRP.”

Coronavirus symptoms can be found in detail on official government and international health organization sites. They bear no similarity to possible health effects stemming from mobile phone or 5G use.

VERDICT

False: There is no connection between the outbreak of COVID-19 and possible 5G health effects.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here  .​

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