01.06.2020 change 01.06.2020

Fears of 5G resemble fears people had about electricity, says Professor Andrzej Krawczyk

5G antennas are smaller than 4G antennas. In the photo 5G antennas are lower. Credit: Andrzej Krawczyk 5G antennas are smaller than 4G antennas. In the photo 5G antennas are lower. Credit: Andrzej Krawczyk

People are afraid of the unknown and of new technologies, electrotechnology expert Professor Andrzej Krawczyk says in an interview with PAP.

PAP: How would you comment on the statement that 5G technology is linked to the coronavirus pandemic?

Professor Andrzej Krawczyk: Fake news appeared a while ago that 5G increased the incidence of coronavirus, blocked the immune system or made it easier for viruses to access body cells. These are absurd, completely unfounded statements.

PAP: But 5G and the coronavirus pandemic do have something in common. They both directly affect our lifestyle, they can change the world and bring an uncertain future. Maybe it is this fear of jumping into the unknown that finds its expression in a conspiracy theory?

A.K.: That is possible. People are afraid of the new, the unknown, of that which changes their lives. But hardly anyone expected the COVID-19 pandemic. And the spread of 5G is quite expected. This is not revolutionary technology. Its implementation is a consequence of an ordinary evolutionary process in engineering.

PAP: What did 5G evolve from?

A.K.: In mobile telephony, we started from the first generation, hence the name 1G. Phones were only used for conversations at the time. They were big and heavy. Then 2G technology appeared that enabled sending text messages. Then 3G allowed us to use the Internet on a mobile phone. 4G brought even faster Internet and the ability to send MMS or video recordings. 5G offers internet a thousand times faster than before, it will be several dozen gigabits per second instead of dozens of megabits per second.

PAP: But 5G opponents appear, for example in social media. Where does the idea to protest against this technology come from?

A.K.: Protests against mobile telephony are not only related to the 5G network. This is a very old story of people's fears. Even the introduction of electricity at the turn of the 20th century sparked similar protests

PAP: I am reminded of the cruel experiment conducted by Thomas Alva Edison, who killed an elephant by connecting it to AC.

A.K.: Yes, Edison wanted to show that alternating current promoted by his competitor, Nikola Tesla was far more dangerous than direct current. Edison also experimented on convicts with an electric chair to discourage people from alternating current. It worked on the imagination. Then, in the 1970s-1980s, people's fear of electromagnetism focused on high-voltage lines. It was said, for example, that cows grazing under these lines did not give milk; people were destroying installations. However, since then, no studies have shown that these power lines could hurt anyone. Over time, the energy of protests has shifted to the mobile network, and this has been the case since its inception.

PAP: I notice a common factor of the protests against high voltage poles and mobile telephony base stations. I think it is the sinister, unpleasant architecture of these installations.

A.K.: People are afraid of large things that disrupt harmony in public space. And high voltage poles are indeed similar to base stations in this respect.

But with 5G technology we can move away from these large antenna towers. 5G antennas will be small, incorporated into the city's infrastructure: street lamps, house walls. It will be possible to blend them into the city space so that they cease to be noticeable. This is one of the advantages of 5G. Maybe the disappearance of the large antennas will help people stop being so afraid of this technology? By the way in England or the Netherlands, where there were also protests against 5G, people burned base stations of the 4G network! What's the point?

PAP: Maybe the base stations remind us that the "Big Brother is watching" and we will not be able to hide from the reach of new technologies... How big is the 5G antenna?

A.K.: It is a MIMO antenna, a small, flat device measuring several dozen by several dozen centimetres. If the construction of infrastructure is cleverly planned, then such antennas will be invisible, they will blend into the city space. These subconscious fears associated with the size of devices will cease to exist. Another advantage of these antennas is that they can support a lot of devices, including cell phones, at the same time.

PAP: But 5G antennas will also be more densely deployed in cities. Will they expose people to the more electromagnetic radiation?

A.K.: No. Contrary to appearances, they will work with much less power. Now, to reach one person, the antenna on the base station emits a signal in a wide area. In contrast, the "box" antenna will send directional electromagnetic radiation beams to one user. Other people will be outside the range of this electromagnetic field. Another advantage is that connections will be faster and will not break. The 5G network will end the technical problems we have today with disappearing callers during teleconferences or the inability to reach loved ones during New Year's Eve.

PAP: What are the practical applications for 5G?

A.K.: Autonomous cars need fast data transfers. Rapid advances in telemedicine will also be possible. Imagine that a patient in the hospital in Pcim can be operated on by the best surgeon from Boston or Oxford. And this is only a tiny part of the possibilities the development of the Internet of Things offers.

PAP: But maybe 5G is not really necessary to achieve such fast and efficient Internet? Maybe we just need cable Internet via fibre optics?

A.K.: It can't be done. Of course, fibre optics will continue to be used for long-distance connections, but you can't reach every phone, every laptop, every car with fibre optic. At least from some point the Internet must travel via an antenna that will send the signal to the device.

PAP: In the context of 5G, there are voices that electromagnetic radiation is not natural. And what is unnatural is treated as bad.

A.K.: Every technology we use is unnatural. Is it natural that we can travel on an airplane, above the ground, at a speed of 1,000 km per hour? Not really. But why would it be bad? In addition, the artificial electromagnetic field is in symbiosis with the natural electromagnetic field.

PAP: Natural electromagnetic field?

A.K.: Of course! We are used to electromagnetic fields because we emit them ourselves. After all, currents flow in us, they transmit signals in the body. And these currents generate their own electromagnetic field. Each of us is an electromagnetic being.

PAP: Since electric current is an integral part of our lives, doesn't the artificial electromagnetic field somehow disrupt our natural electromagnetic fields?

A.K.: No. This is a symbiosis rather than disruption. There are theories that the 5G signal is used for mind control. This is absurd. Such an electromagnetic field cannot change thoughts.

PAP: The fear of controlling the brain can also be understood at another, symbolic level: cell phones change our state of mind. Maybe some people are afraid that further digital progress will lead to further weakening of bonds between people and contact with nature. And spiritual life will cease to be more important than the constant flow of new stimuli...

A.K.: It's true, communication between people has completely changed since phones appeared, not just cell phones. In the past, to find out how someone was doing, you had to visit them. Now you can call or read their posts on social media. It is a result of progress. But when trains appeared, there were fears that railway was a bad invention, because it would help people move away from each other.

Of course, you can protest against new technologies to prevent people from moving away. But maybe you should take care of these relationships in your life instead. Meet with the people you care about. Spend time as you want to. Raise children according to these values. New technologies are just tools and we decide how to use them.

PAP: Let's get back to the effects of electromagnetic radiation on humans. Can it have a negative effect on the body?

A.K.: I am not saying that electromagnetic fields do not affect people. If someone tells me to sit on a radar antenna, I won't. With the strength of the electromagnetic field that a radar emits, I could over-heat some parts of my body. It's the same with microwaves. But the power of a microwave oven or a radar is much, much greater than that of a phone or base station. To quote Paracelsus, 'all things are poison', and the risk of poisoning is just a matter of dose. Take, for example, the phenomenon of water flowing from above. It's nice when you're in a warm shower. But if you get under a huge waterfall, you can die.

PAP: Let's bring your metaphor to 5G. Is the radiation emitted by the base stations a shower, a downpour or a waterfall?

A.K.: A nice shower.

PAP: From January this year, to enable the construction of the 5G network, the electromagnetic radiation standards have been changed in Poland. Many times higher doses than before are now allowed. Doesn't it bring us closer to the waterfall?

A.K.: Not at all. We remain in the shower. The standards that changed earlier this year are adapted to those in the countries of Western Europe or the United States. And those standards are still 50 times lower than the value that could possibly, and not certainly, affect the body in any way. So we are very far from the electromagnetic field around us affecting our bodies.

PAP: Can you say it with 100% certainty? After all, it has never been tested whether if a person spends a lifetime in the electromagnetic field such as the one 5G network generates, it will not affect their health somehow.

A.K.: But the transition from 4G to 5G has nothing but advantages when it comes to b radiation. Firstly, because the signal will be more precisely directed to the user and not to everyone around. In addition, it will be a slight change in frequency. We now have 2.6 GHz, and the new networks will work at frequencies of 3-3.5 GHz or 6 GHz. These interactions are very similar and far from disrupting the processes in the body. But the difference is only a plus: a higher frequency will cause the radiation to attenuate better in the skin. The 5G frequencies will therefore be a gain over 4G. Meanwhile, the FDA (American Food and Drug Administration - ed. PAP) report summarizes that none of the 4G studies conducted over the past decade has shown any link between electromagnetic fields and cancer, most commonly associated with electromagnetic fields.

PAP: But this is only human research. And the electromagnetic field will have an uninterrupted effect on the entire biosphere for decades. Maybe we can't predict with 100% certainty that no species of acacia, fungus or beetle will react negatively to this radiation?

A.K.: I would not expect such a field to negatively affect any organisms. But it is indeed impossible to predict what will happen in the future. As far as trees are concerned, the effects of the electromagnetic field from mobile phones on them has been studied with no alarming conclusions.

As for beetles, there is a paper by a Polish-Slovak research group on the effects of electromagnetic fields on ticks. The methodology of this research conducted by nature scientists, without a single electromagnetism expert, is debatable. And the media turned up the message by reporting that smartphones attract ticks. That is quite funny, because this was not the conclusion from this study. This research must be repeated on a model closer to the technology that we actually use.

PAP: You said that electromagnetic radiation can heat up body cells. You've talked to me on your mobile phone for the last hour and a half. Do you feel the electromagnetic waves from your phone heating your ear?

A.K.: We did research a few years ago, we measured the ear temperature during a half-hour phone conversation. For comparison, we also checked the temperature when someone was holding the phone by their ear with the battery removed for half an hour. In both situations, the ear temperature increased by 1 degree Celsius. So heated ears are not the result of an electromagnetic field, but the fact that when you hold something to your ear, it obstructs air circulation around your face. So, to answer your question: no. The electromagnetic waves from my mobile phone have not warmed up my ear, they are far too weak to do that.

Professor Andrzej Krawczyk is the President of the Polish Society of Applied Electromagnetics, an electrotechnology expert and author of the blog elektrofakty.pl. He deals with the theory of electromagnetic field and the impact of electromagnetic radiation on the body.

Interview by Ludwika Tomala (PAP)

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