- Is WiFi radiation dangerous?
- What effects do electromagnetic fields from mobile phones or WiFi routers have on our health?
- Here you learn why knowledge is the best protection.
Bob: Hey Alice, what’s up with all this electro smog? I heard that WiFi radiation is unhealthy and the new 5G frequencies are also super harmful. Now there are even WiFi routers in schools! Is there no way to shield, attenuate or neutralize the radiation? Or do I have to move into a cave? What kind of effects does radiation from these technical devices have on our health?
Alice: Haha. Yes, better than a cave would be to wrap you completely in aluminum foil. Do you think you are electro-sensitive?
Bob: What is that?
Alice: Electrosensitivity is when people think they can feel weak electromagnetic radiation.
Bob: Ah, I know somebody! He always insults everyone if they don’t turn off their cell phones in his presence. He also wears a stone around his neck to protect him from electrosmog. I just always switch off the WLAN at night. It calms me down a bit. But does that even make sense?
The nocebo effect
Alice: It makes sense if you really believe that WiFi radiation is unhealthy. Then you should turn it off at night, because the nocebo effect will hurt you whether it’s true or not.
Bob: What is the nocebo effect?
Alice: It’s the negative counterpart of the placebo effect. When you think something is unhealthy, your body reacts to it. You actually get symptoms.
Different forms of radiation
Bob: Okay. But is WiFi really dangerous?
Alice: That would surprise me very much. Let me explain why: all electromagnetic radiation is made up of photons. So the sun radiates photons, a candle radiates photons, your body heat radiates photons, a microwave warms your food with photons, a laser beam consists of identical photons, also WiFi radiation, mobile phone radiation and 5G radiation consists of photons. Just like the light of a light bulb, radio waves and the light and heat of a campfire. Gamma rays, which are caused by radioactive decay, also consist of photons. The only difference between all these photons is their frequency.
Bob: Okay, so what?
Alice: Well, we can sort these photons by their frequency, so that their frequency increases from left to right. The image we get then is called the electromagnetic spectrum.
Alice: As you can see, the frequency range that we call light and are able to detect with our eyes is extremely small. Most of the electromagnetic radiation is invisible to our eyes. Everything in the electromagnetic spectrum to the left of the visible range has a lower frequency than the light emitted by a light bulb. And everything to the right of it has a higher frequency.
Bob: Okay, and which frequencies are harmful now?
Danger from ionization
Alice: Quantum physics saves us here. It explains why only photons with frequencies in the ultraviolet (UV) range or higher can ionize molecules and atoms. A photon which has a lower frequency has no chance.
Bob: What happens when photons ionize stuff?
Alice: With enough energy, a photon is able to knock an electron out of an atom. This creates free radicals. They can damage cells and their genetic material. That’s why UV radiation can cause sunburn, and X-rays and gamma rays can cause cancer.
Bob: That means anything lower in frequency than UV radiation can’t damage cells?
Danger from heat
Alice: Not by ionization. But there is another mechanism. It’s heat. When non-ionizing radiation hits molecules, they start to vibrate a bit more. When there is a lot of radiation, the molecules vibrate so much that their bonds break and cells are damaged. However, the legally introduced limits for radiation in WiFi and 5G are so low that these vibrations are far from being able to destroy anything. Even if you stand right next to the WiFi-router, you won’t even feel the heat generated by the WiFi radiation. A fire, an infrared lamp, or even an old 60-watt light bulb produces much more heat in your body. This means that if WiFi radiation or 5G were unhealthy, a light bulb would probably be fatal. And in many schools children are still exposed to these light bulbs. Don’t they know that?
The fear of radiation
Bob: Ha ha. Okay, that makes sense. But what about all those people who are electrosensitive? Are they all crazy? I know a couple of teachers at some schools who scare the hell out of students and their parents.
Alice: There are actually very few people who can hear very specific high frequency radiation. This is the so-called Frey effect. It is probably caused by temperature fluctuations of a millionth of a degree. However, most people do not seem to be bothered by this and it is extremely unlikely that this radiation is dangerous for humans. With radiation from WiFi or mobile phone antennas, not a single person has been able to distinguish in an experiment whether the WiFi is turned on or the mobile phone antenna is in operation. Nevertheless some people get symptoms for which they blame electromagnetic radiation.
Bob: And how do you explain that?
Alice: As I said, by far the most likely explanation is the nocebo effect. If you think something is unhealthy, then it is unhealthy. If you know such a person, do something good for them and explain to them what I just explained to you. It may be enough to cure him or her of their symptoms. No need for tinfoil or a cave. Understanding and knowledge is enough.
Bob: This is awesome. People used to be afraid of trains, apparently, because they thought the high speeds were unhealthy. They actually got symptoms. So you see, fear can make people sick.
Alice: Yes, it can. It even goes so far that when the German Telekom puts up a new mobile phone antenna, they first wait a few months. Then, at some point, they get complaints from people who suffer from headaches, nausea and hair loss, which they attribute to the radiation from the antenna. However, the antenna is not yet in operation.
Bob: Oh man, that must be embarrassing.
Alice: Yeah, but that’s the way humans work. If they don’t understand something, they are afraid of it. It’s not conscious.
Bob: And the fear really makes you sick.
Alice: It does.
Bob: I’ve heard of some studies that supposedly prove the potential danger of mobile phone radiation. Does the REFLEX research project ring a bell?
Alice: Yes, I’ve heard of it. Apparently, their findings could not be reproduced. Here you can find a detailed discussion of studies that allegedly prove health risks.
Bob: But how do we know now that 5G is 100% safe? There aren’t any long time studies, are there? Shouldn’t we really prove that 5G is harmless before we put up 5G antennas everywhere?
Alice: The problem is that it is very difficult to prove harmlessness. Proving harmlessness is theoretically possible, but for ethical reasons it is very difficult in practice. Therefore, we should be guided by our knowledge of the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. And as long as no harmfulness has been proven, I would say: In doubt for the accused. I would assume that the radiation exposure of 5G, WiFi and mobile phone radiation is harmless to health, because apart from heat and ionization we know of no mechanism by which radiation can harm humans. But that fear is unhealthy is a scientific fact. This means that the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to try to understand physics and let it take away your fear. This is 100% healthier than our fear of the unknown.
Bob: Thank you Alice, that’s something you should learn in schools.
Apart from ionisation and heat, we know of no mechanism by which electromagnetic radiation could be dangerous to humans. Quantum physics prohibits ionization with WiFi/cell phone/5G radiation and legal limits prevent damage from heat. Therefore, it is very unlikely that this radiation could be dangerous to humans. Because of the nocebo effect, the belief in danger is therefore very probably the most unhealthy thing about this radiation.
What do you think about that? Can you think of any examples of the nocebo effect? Do you know a person who is electro-sensitive? Would he or she be willing to face a scientific experiment?
Should we develop radiation protection devices? Are there alternatives to aluminium foil?