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The 5G Health Hazard That Isn’t

How one scientist and his inaccurate chart led to unwarranted fears of wireless technology.

In 2000, the Broward County Public Schools in Florida received an alarming report. Like many affluent school districts at the time, Broward was considering laptops and wireless networks for its classrooms and 250,000 students. Were there any health risks to worry about?

The district asked Bill P. Curry, a consultant and physicist, to study the matter. The technology, he reported back, was “likely to be a serious health hazard.” He summarized his most troubling evidence in a large graph labeled “Microwave Absorption in Brain Tissue (Grey Matter).”

The chart showed the dose of radiation received by the brain as rising from left to right, with the increasing frequency of the wireless signal. The slope was gentle at first, but when the line reached the wireless frequencies associated with computer networking, it shot straight up, indicating a dangerous level of exposure.

“This graph shows why I am concerned,” Dr. Curry wrote. The body of his report detailed how the radio waves could sow brain cancer, a terrifying disease that kills most of its victims.

Over the years, Dr. Curry’s warning spread far, resonating with educators, consumers and entire cities as the frequencies of cellphones, cell towers and wireless local networks rose. To no small degree, the blossoming anxiety over the professed health risks of 5G technology can be traced to a single scientist and a single chart.

Except that Dr. Curry and his graph got it wrong.

According to experts on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation, radio waves become safer at higher frequencies, not more dangerous. (Extremely high-frequency energies, such as X-rays, behave differently and do pose a health risk.)

In his research, Dr. Curry looked at studies on how radio waves affect tissues isolated in the lab, and misinterpreted the results as applying to cells deep inside the human body. His analysis failed to recognize the protective effect of human skin. At higher radio frequencies, the skin acts as a barrier, shielding the internal organs, including the brain, from exposure. Human skin blocks the even higher frequencies of sunlight.

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“It doesn’t penetrate,” said Christopher M. Collins, a professor of radiology at New York University who studies the effect of high-frequency electromagnetic waves on humans. Dr. Curry’s graph, he added, failed to take into account “the shielding effect.”

Dr. Marvin C. Ziskin, an emeritus professor of medical physics at Temple University School of Medicine, agreed. For decades, Dr. Ziskin explored whether such high frequencies could sow illness. Many experiments, he said, support the safety of high-frequency waves.

Despite the benign assessment of the medical establishment, Dr. Curry’s flawed reports were amplified by alarmist websites, prompted articles linking cellphones to brain cancer and served as evidence in lawsuits urging the removal of wireless classroom technology. In time, echoes of his reports fed Russian news sites noted for stoking misinformation about 5G technology. What began as a simple graph became a case study in how bad science can take root and flourish.

“I still think there are health effects,” Dr. Curry said in an interview. “The federal government needs to look at it more closely.”

An authoritative mistake

Dr. Curry was not the first to endorse the idea that advances in wireless technology could harbor unforeseen risks. In 1978, Paul Brodeur, an investigative journalist, published “The Zapping of America,” which drew on suggestive but often ambiguous evidence to argue that the growing use of high frequencies could endanger human health.

In contrast, Dr. Curry’s voice was authoritative. He became a private consultant in the 1990s after federal budget cuts brought his research career to an end. He had degrees in physics (1959 and 1965) and electrical engineering (1990). His credentials and decades of experience at federal and industrial laboratories, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, seemed to make him a very strong candidate to conduct the Broward study.

“He was a very bright guy,” recalled Gary Brown, an expert in the district’s technology unit who worked with Dr. Curry to prepare the reports. But Dr. Curry lacked biological expertise. He could solve atomic and electromagnetic puzzles with ease, but he had little or no formal training in the intricacies of biomedical research.

In 2000, Dr. Curry, writing on letterhead from his home office in the Chicago suburbs, sent the Broward district two reports, the first in February 2000 and the second in September of that year. The latter study went to the superintendent, the school board and the district’s head of safety and risk management.

The frequency graph in the second report was far more detailed. Its rising line bore annotations noting the precise locations for the wireless-network dose and, far lower down, for radio, television and cellphone signals.









Broadcast television (UHF)

Over all, Dr. Curry’s reports cast the emerging topic as crucial for public health. He warned that children were especially vulnerable to the cancer risk of wireless technology. “Their brains are developing,” he noted in his first report.

Dr. Curry belonged to a national group of wireless critics, and his two reports for the Broward district soon began to circulate widely among industry foes. One reached Dr. David O. Carpenter, who for decades had clashed with the science establishment on the health risks of radio waves.

Dr. Carpenter’s credentials were impressive. He graduated magna cum laudefrom Harvard in 1959 and cum laude from its medical school in1964. From 1985 to 1997, he served as dean of the School of Public Health at the State University of New York in Albany, and in 2001 became director of its Institute for Health and the Environment, where he still works. His resumé lists hundreds of journal reports, jobs, grants, awards, advisory boards, books and legal declarations.

Dr. Carpenter stirred global controversy in the 1980s by asserting that high-voltage power lines could cause leukemia in nearby children. He appeared as an authority in Mr. Brodeur’s 1989 book, “Currents of Death.” But federal researchers failed to find solid evidence to support the warnings.

In late 2011, Dr. Carpenter introduced Dr. Curry’s graph in a lawsuit that sought to force the Portland, Ore., public schools to abandon their wireless computer networks. The suit had been filed by a worried parent.

As an expert witness, Dr. Carpenter said in a legal declaration on Dec. 20, 2011, that the graph showed how the brain’s absorption of radio-wave energy “increases exponentially” as wireless frequencies rise, calling it evidence of grave student danger. The graph “illustrates the problem with the drive of the wireless industry toward ever higher frequencies,” he said.

In response to such arguments, the industry noted that it obeys government safety rules. The judge in the Portland case said the court had no jurisdiction over federal regulatory matters, and dismissed the lawsuit.

Despite the setback, Dr. Carpenter’s 2011 declaration, which included Dr. Curry’s graph, kept drawing attention. In 2012, he introduced it as part of his testimony to a Michigan state board assessing wireless dangers, and it soon began circulating online among wireless critics.

And he saw a new danger. Between 2010 and 2012, the frequencies of the newest generation of cellphones, 4G, rose past those typical of the day’s wireless networks. Dr. Carpenter now had a much larger and seemingly more urgent target, especially since cellphones were often held snugly against the head.

“There is now much more evidence of risks to health, affecting billions of people,” he said in introducing a 1,400-page report on wireless dangers that he edited with an aide. “The status quo is not acceptable.”

His BioInitiative Report, released in late 2012, gained worldwide notice. But mainstream science rejected its conclusions. Two Oxford University researchers described it as “scientifically discredited.”

A ‘fact’ is born

Unbowed, Dr. Carpenter worked hard to revise established science. In 2012, he became editor in chief of Reviews on Environmental Health, a quarterly journal. He published several authors who filed alarmist reports, as well as his own.

“The rapid increase in the use of cellphones increases risk of cancer, male infertility, and neurobehavioral abnormalities,” Dr. Carpenter wrote in 2013.

In subsequent years, as the frequencies of wireless devices continued to rise, an associated risk of brain cancer was repeated uncritically, often without attribution to Dr. Curry or Dr. Carpenter. Instead, it came to be regarded by activists as an established fact of modern science.

“The higher the frequency, the more dangerous,” according to Radiation Health Risks, a website, in reference to signals from 5G towers. The idea was echoed by a similar website, 5G Exposed — “Higher frequencies are more dangerous to health” — on a page entitled “Scientific Discussion.” Over all, the site bristled with brain-cancer warnings.

Recently, Dr. Carpenter told RT America, a Russian television network, that the newest cellphones represented a dire health threat. “The rollout of 5G is very frightening,” he said. “Nobody is going to be able to escape the radiation.”

In recent months, the network has run a series of segments critical of 5G technology. “The higher the frequency, the more dangerous it is to living organisms,” a RT reporter told viewers in March. The show described children as particularly vulnerable.

The new cellphones are to employ a range of radio frequencies up to dozens of times higher than those Dr. Curry identified two decades ago as endangering student health. But mainstream scientists continue to see no evidence of harm from cellphone radio waves.

“If phones are linked to cancer, we’d expect to see a marked uptick,” David Robert Grimes, a cancer researcher at the University of Oxford, wrote recently in The Guardian. “Yet we do not.”

In a recent interview, Dr. Carpenter defended his high-frequency view. “You have all this evidence that cellphone radiation penetrates the brain,” he said. But he conceded after some discussion that the increasingly high frequencies could in fact have a difficult time entering the human body: “There’s some legitimacy to that point of view.”

He noted that, in cities, 5G service requires the placement of many antenna towers, because walls, buildings, rain, leaves and other objects can block the high-frequency signals. “That’s why they put the towers so close together,” he said. “The waves don’t penetrate.” If human skin also blocks 5G signals, Dr. Carpenter acknowledged, “maybe it’s not that big a deal.”

Dr. Curry, now 82, was less forthcoming. In an interview, he said he no longer follows the wireless industry and disavowed any knowledge of having made a scientific error.

“They can say whatever they want,” Dr. Curry said of his detractors. “I’ll leave it to the young in the business and let them figure it out.”

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/16/science/5g-cellphones-wireless-cancer.html

Dr. Ron Melnick, 76, oversaw the design and protocols for the EMF rodent experiment. He retired from the NTP in 2009, having spent 28 years studying the toxicity of everything from perfluorinated chemicals, which leach from Teflon cookware, to the by-products of water chlorination. One of his most consequential investigations involved butadiene, a compound found in cigarette smoke and tailpipe emissions. In the wake of Melnick’s studies of the chemical, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration reduced the permissible exposure by 99.9 percent. 

The protocols that Melnick crafted for the rodent study—not least the reverberation chambers as an approximation of human exposure—came under rigorous review from officials at the EPA, FDA, NIOSH, and the Bioelectromagnetics Society, among others. From these peer reviewers, the unanimous conclusion was that this would be the most authoritative animal study yet conducted in the U.S. for assessing human risk. It would also, as it happens, be the most expensive toxicity investigation that taxpayers ever funded, at a cost of $30 million.

Not long after the publication of the final results of the NTP study, a group of researchers at the Ramazzini Institute, a nonprofit cancer research lab in Bologna, Italy, released the findings of their own study of the health effects of EMF radiation. The lead author of the experiments, Dr. Fiorella Belpoggi, had spent most of her 44-year career, like Melnick, looking at suspect agents—solvents, plastics, pesticides, fuel additives, and asbestos, among others—and now had turned her attention to the toxicity of microwave EMFs. 

“I cannot affirm that millimeter waves are dangerous, but no one can affirm that they are not.”

Rather than using Melnick’s custom-designed reverberation chambers to examine the effects of radiation from nearby sources, the Ramazzini team examined exposures from more distant “farfield” sources, such as cell towers.But the results aligned. “They observed, as we did, an increase of glial cell tumors of the brain and Schwann cell tumors of the heart,”Belpoggi told me in an email.“Such rare tumors in the same strain of rats, in both studies statistically significant, at different levels of exposure—near-field and farfield—in two different laboratories, cannot be just by chance.” 

I asked Belpoggi about the significance of the NTP and Ramazzini studies for determining human safety exposure limits. “What I do not understand is why, for example, the chemical industry has to demonstrate the safety of a compound before putting it into the market,” she replied, “but the technology industry has no such rule, and they disseminate their products without any study of the impact on public health.” She offered one theory to explain the discrepancy: “The economic value of the telecom industry now is enormous.” Like Martin Pall, Belpoggi called for application of the precautionary principle, both for exposure from current microwave systems and for the new system of 5G millimeter waves. “I cannot affirm that millimeter waves are dangerous,” she told me, “but no one can affirm that they are not.”

In the U.S., the FDA ignored the Ramazzini findings. As for the NTP report, the agency issued a statement in 2018 denying the study’s validity for determining human safety, despite the fact that it had commissioned the study, and the federal government had lavishly funded it, for that very purpose. Reaffirming the FCC’s 1996 exposure limits, the director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the FDA, Jeffrey Shuren, wrote in a letter that the FDA had “concluded that no changes to the current standards are warranted at this time,” and stated flatly that “NTP’s experimental findings should not be applied to human cell phone usage.” The FDA assured the public, in direct contradiction of the NTP results, that “the available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects.” 

Ron Melnick was shocked. “I’ve never experienced a government agency dismissing cancer results, as was done by the FDA with cancer and cell phone radiation,” he told me. “FDA asked the NTP to assess human risk, the results were provided—and now they’re saying they don’t accept the results?”

CTIA had asked Eric Swanson, the telecom consultant, to comment on the NTP study, which he attacked, in his emailed statement, for what he called the “unreliable statistical significance of the … study conclusions.” He warned of the likelihood of false positives due to “obvious flaws in the study.” Yet the putative flaws he identified, according to Joel Moskowitz, had been debunked by both former and present NTP staffers, among them Ron Melnick in an article for the journal Environmental Research, in which he refuted the “unfounded criticisms” one by one. “The methods employed by the NTP are considered by most toxicologists to be the gold standard,” Moskowitz told me. He called the FDA’s dismissal of the study “a travesty” and suggested that “political considerations” were likely to blame. 

Political considerations—meaning industry influence—may be playing an outsize role in the scientific determinations of other groups that have granted microwave telecom systems a clean bill of health. The WHO’s conclusion that the systems are safe, for example, relies on exposure limits recommended by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, a nongovernmental organization whose advising scientists on EMF issues are closely tied to telecom companies. Last year, in a series titled “The 5G Mass Experiment,” a pan-European group of investigative journalists found that of the 14 chief scientists at ICNIRP who crafted cell phone EMF safety guidelines, 10 had received funding from industry. The conclusion was that these ICNIRP members comprise a “small circle of insiders who reject alarming research,” effectively serving their telecom paymasters by setting lax exposure limits. 

The WHO itself appears to be divided on the issue. Its own cancer research branch, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified microwave EMFs as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 2011. Last year, an IARC advisory group of 29 scientists examined the peer-reviewed research on cancer risk and then advised that IARC revisit its 2011 decision and prioritize microwave EMFs for another review. It is uncertain whether IARC will do so.

On my way to meet Debbie Persampire, riding the Long Island Rail Road from New York City, I sat in a car near a group of preteens, who each clutched a smartphone close to their body. The kids giggled and swiped and played music and videos as their mothers sat silently nearby, mesmerized by their own phones.  

Our embrace of the wonders of wireless might someday prove to be a vast crime against humanity.

Persampire picked me up at the train station, and I mentioned the scene in the car. “The science is telling us the devices are utterly dangerous,” she said. “The combination of the danger with their clearly addictive nature—well, we need to start thinking about what we’re doing.”

Persampire’s answer was to start a grassroots coalition called Citizens for 5G Awareness, which has been busily agitating since its founding in 2018. It has pestered elected officials with email and letter-writing campaigns, testified before county commissions, organized street rallies and protests, hosted public screenings of its new favorite film, Generation Zapped, and, not least, shared grim YouTube videos. One documents an experiment conducted by schoolchildren who discovered that plants were unable to grow when placed near a Wi-Fi antenna. Another shows a teenage girl in Eugene, Oregon, testifying that Wi-Fi exposure in her school made her sick.  

At Persampire’s house, I met several of the group’s core members, including Fay Tsamis, a real estate manager who tried to convince the local school district to ban Wi-Fi from classrooms. When school officials dismissed her concerns, Tsamis took the enormous step of removing her kids from Wi-Fi exposure to homeschool them.

As I talked with these newly minted citizen activists, I was reminded that modern public health calamities, from asbestos to auto safety to leaded gasoline and tobacco, often follow a predictable narrative. Industry dismisses the health risk, government regulators shrug and look away, and a beleaguered minority is left to sound the alarm. Sometimes, as with the anti-vax movement, they’re proven wrong; but sometimes their warnings are all too prescient. According to Persampire, some 200 new antennas, designed to operate with 5G millimeter waves, have already been built in the Huntington municipality.

In 2017, numerous signatories of the EMF Scientist Appeal called for a moratorium on the rollout of 5G wireless. These scientists were so distressed by the technology’s risks that they invoked the principles of the Nuremberg Code regarding experimentation on unwitting subjects. Our embrace of the wonders of wireless, they said, might someday prove to be a vast crime against humanity—one in which the telecom industry treats the public like so many lab rats confined to our personalized toxic reverberation chambers.

Sours: https://newrepublic.com/article/157603/5g-going-kill-us-all
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5G – The misinformation which is still circulating

It is true that several hundred birds and sparrows died in The Hague between 19 October and 3 November 2018. However, detailed research conducted by the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre, Erasmus University, and Ghent University found that the death of birds was not caused by the 5G network, but most likely by poisoning.

After incorrect allegations about the impact of 5G on birds, a new conspiracy theory emerged – that the 5G network is spreading coronavirus.

However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), viruses cannot be transmitted by means of radio waves transmitted by telecommunication devices. This has been confirmed by the fact that coronavirus is present even in countries that do not have a 5G network. The World Health Organization reminds that the coronavirus is transmitted by means of respiratory drops, when a person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. A person can contract the virus if they come into contact with an infected surface, and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Various websites and tabloids have written about this topic, but the main questions are: is the 5G network is safe?; can it affect our health?; and will it change the world?

The 5G network (the fifth generation of mobile internet) was launched in certain parts of the world as early as 2018. This network allows a much higher internet speed, which means faster loading and sending of data. It enables more people to use the same network, without lags, delays, or related problems.

Experts claim that 5G is a safe network and that it is not to blame for the deaths of birds and the spread of coronavirus.

This network is not harmful to our health. However, the excessive use of technology and reading of information that is not accurate are detrimental to our health! So let's choose what we watch, listen to, and read!

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF's young reporters have been checking the accuracy of information published on social networks and in the media. In verifying the accuracy of information, they have followed the model of the Public Disclosure Platform "Raskrinkavanje" and partly used its publicly available methodology.

Sours: https://www.unicef.org/montenegro/en/stories/5g-misinformation-which-still-circulating
Is the 5G Radiation From Your Phone Killing You? Using GQ EMF-390 EMF Meter

5G Will Not Kill Us All, but Stupidity Might


On Friday, TheNew Republic published an article by Christopher Ketcham, under the thoughtful and modest title, “Is 5G Going to Kill Us All?”

It’s astonishing to see an article like this run in a publication of TheNew Republic‘s history and caliber, particularly at a time when 5G conspiracy theorists are actively destroying cell phone towers and wrecking installations thanks to baseless conspiracy theories linking 5G to coronavirus. There have been 77 arson attacks since March 30, with staff reporting 180 incidents of abuse. Articles like Ketcham’s only fan the flames.

Preserved here, just in case they have an outbreak of sanity and decide to change the title.

Let’s Talk About the Author

I can’t speak to any of Christopher Ketcham’s writing on any other topic, but when it comes to wireless technology, he’s been banging the same drum for a decade — and using exactly the same rhetorical techniques to do it.

In a story written in 2010, Ketcham begins by telling us the story of Allison Rall back in 1990, a young mom with three children whose cattle sicken and children fall ill after a cellular tower is installed nearby. He immediately ties her case to a statement by an EPA scientist named Carl Blackman, who tells us/her, “With my government cap on, I’m supposed to tell you you’re perfectly safe,” Blackman tells her. “With my civilian cap on, I have to tell you to consider leaving.”

In the most recent story, we are introduced to Debbie Persampire, a woman “who believes cell phones are poisoning her children.” Ketcham presents this statement uncritically, even as he describes how the woman covers the rooms of her house in an EMF-reducing paint that sells for ~$66 per liter. Her family, we are told, “trusts her.” Whether her doctor trusts her is not discussed.

From that point, Ketcham pivots. Now, we’re told that a 2018 study by the National Toxicology Program discovered evidence that exposing rats to cell phone radiation can cause various forms of cancer. Again, it’s the exact same story structure — a sympathetic emotional hook, a mother in desperate straits, and finally, a government figure or body with critical information showing a major problem that somehow, somehow, has been swept under the rug.

The only problem is, it’s claptrap from start to finish.

Let’s talk about why.

As Ars Technica has detailed in multiple stories, the NTP report Ketcham uncritically quotes is riddled with methodological flaws to the point of uselessness. For starters, the control rats — the rats not being exposed to any radiation — died at nearly twice the rate of the exposed rats. Right off the bat, that’s a massive problem — the control rats died so quickly, they don’t represent a control group at all. Furthermore, the result makes no sense on its face. There is no known biological reason why rats being exposed to cell phone radiation would live longer. Clearly something else was impacting the male rat population.

Furthermore, the higher incidence of cancer that Ketcham refers to was only found in the male rats, where 48 percent of the control group died early. In female rats, where this did not occur, incidents of cancer between the two groups were identical. The control and exposed groups of mice, tested under the same protocols as the rats, saw no change in cancer rates.

Ketcham does not address these points. Instead, he pivots to a 2011 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, finding that cell phone radiation is a “possible human carcinogen.” This is true. But he completely neglects to report any of the context of that finding.

The WHO classifies cell phone radiation as a Category 2B risk, meaning “This category is used for agents for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.” For comparison — because context is important — processed meats, including bacon, hot dogs, and sausage are classified as Group #1 — “Carcinogenic to humans.” Red meat like beef, pork, and lamb is Group #2A: “Probably carcinogenic to humans.”

In other words, if you think it’s justified to get upset over the Group 2B classification on your Wi-Fi but aren’t worried about the bacon-wrapped steak you just ate for lunch, the WHO believes your priorities are vastly out of whack.

Ketcham loves to draw frightening associations in his texts. Readers, for example, are told that what little we know about 5G spectrum usage comes from military applications, which “gives some observers pause.” After all, the government has a weapon called the Active Denial System, which uses millimeter waves to make your skin burn painfully. The fact that the AWS is designed to hit targets with a 100kW output beam is conveniently ignored.

That looks EXACTLY like my cell phone. Especially the giant pain-firing radar dish on the top.

Pro Tip: Do not stand in front of anything that outputs 100kW of energy. No matter what it does, you will not like it.

Near the end of the article, Ketcham again grounds his critique of 5G in the poorly regarded, highly erroneous (as in, shot full of errors) Ramazzini study, again meticulously deconstructed here, by Dr. John Timmer of Ars Technica. Again, none of these errors are mentioned in the piece he writes, which collectively paints the picture of an FCC overrun by industry hacks and individuals less interested in truth than in a rush to judgment to placate the industry.

This is not a piece of journalism. It’s a piece of propaganda written by an author who knows exactly how to create a solid-seeming article, to feed a line of argument he’s been making for a decade using the same rhetorical techniques and half-disclosed facts. The New Republic is in desperate need of a science editor.

5G is a lousy technology to buy into at the moment, in my opinion, based on the newness of the technology, the limited coverage still available in most US cities, and the high power consumption associated with 5G modems. Qualcomm,Verizon, AT&T, and the other companies that deploy it have been more than willing to misrepresent various aspects of the service, sometimes while quietly admitting its limitations, as Verizon did. The chances that anyone not living in a major city center will benefit from mmWave 5G deployments right now is minimal. There is some T-Mobile 5G coverage available in certain cities, but that depends entirely on where you live. All of this will change in the future as 5G evolves, but I don’t expect it to happen before 2022 – 2023, especially now with the impact of the pandemic to consider.

But the reason 5G antennas are sprouting up by the hundreds isn’t that corporations want to saturate us in dangerous EMF. It’s because 5G signals are so short-range and weak, it takes hundreds of antennas to get any signal anywhere. The very facts that make 5G a laughable source of bodily harm are the reasons Ketcham leans on to paint it as an ominous threat.

5G does not cause cancer. LTE does not cause cancer. 3G does not cause cancer. 2G did not cause cancer. Your home microwave doesn’t cause cancer, either. They don’t cause coronavirus. Electrosmog does not exist. Wearing tinfoil around your head may treat your mental condition via the placebo effect, but it isn’t going to do anything else. Repeated tests of volunteers who claim to be sensitive to EM fields have demonstrated these individuals cannot tell when an EM field is active in a room.

By providing a platform to Ketcham, The New Republic has made itself a mouthpiece for a small handful of individuals who have maintained that wireless technology represents a massive threat to human life, even as the studies that they claim support their arguments collapse under the weight of methodological errors. Ketcham ignores the tremendous flaws in his own arguments. Don’t be fooled.

Now Read:

Sours: https://www.extremetech.com/internet/310361-5g-will-not-kill-us-all-but-stupidity-might

Kill 5g

The first link John Gregory saw pushing a connection between 5G and the coronavirus pandemic was on a French conspiracy website called Les moutons enragés, which loosely translates as “The rabid sheep.” A January 20 post floated that the millimeter wave spectrum used by 5G technology and Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, could be related, pointing to reports about Wuhan installing 5G towers before the outbreak. Three months later, conspiracy theorists making similar claims were setting cellphone towers on fire in Europe.

Gregory, a senior analyst at the internet trust tool NewsGuard, caught an early glimpse of the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory, but it didn’t take long before the fake news started to spread. Two days after the French blog post, a Belgian newspaper called Het Laatste Nieuws published an interview with a local doctor, who floated the unfounded claim that the coronavirus outbreak could be linked to 5G cellphone towers installed near Wuhan in 2019. The article was taken down within hours, but the theory had already spread to English-language Facebook pages. Gregory wasn’t surprised.

“There’s been a crowd that has been saying that 5G is harmful to human health for years, ever since 5G was first being proposed [and] well before any towers or networks were online,” he told Recode. “This is just their latest attempt to push those claims, tying them onto this current news story.”

Initial theories about the relationship between the coronavirus and 5G have now ballooned into all sorts of wild speculation. Some suggest that 5G networks cause radiation, which, in turn, triggers the virus. Others float that reports of the novel coronavirus were actually a cover-up for the installation of 5G towers. A few accounts push the idea that 5G and Covid-19 are part of a broader effort to “depopulate” Earth. Some think it might be connected to the American agriculture titan Monsanto.

As out-there as all this seems, it’s also dangerous. As certain people fall for these theories and act out, they stand to harm themselves and others. By early April, conspiracy theorists were setting cell towers on fire in Europe and starting to intersect with other conspiracy-minded communities like anti-vaxxers, raising fears that the towers could pose a threat to public health. In the face of these fears, it remains unclear if the platforms where these ideas are spreading — Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — can do anything to stop the madness.

5G conspiracy theories have been around for years

The loose and incorrect reasons some have connected 5G technology to the coronavirus outbreak are myriad and maddening. Some seem to think that both 5G and the coronavirus are new, so they must be connected somehow. Others point to suspicious sources like misunderstood legislation as evidence that the government is hiding something in this global crisis. But ultimately, most of these ideas draw on an established well of confused concern about 5G technology and longstanding fears about new cellular technologies.

“This really crosses the spectrum — lots and lots of political leanings and different types of conspiracy theory can find something in the 5G theory,” explains Tom Phillips, the editor of Full Fact, a UK-based fact-checking organization, pointing out that similar fears were expressed during the introduction of 3G and wifi. “A lot of those fears were just transplanted onto 5G when the rollout of that began.”

Tinfoil-hat types have found company on the internet from the early days of the technology. There are the 9/11 truthers, the people who call mass shooting survivors “crisis actors,” and those who believe contrails (water condensation left in the sky by airplanes) are actually odious chemicals. The theories, however untrue, tend to bleed into one another, and they can feed on crises where we still lack answers to many basic questions. The Covid-19 pandemic is no different.

The genre of conspiracy theories linked to wireless technology has been around for decades, and the debate over whether things like cellphones lead to brain cancer or mind control has gained newfound relevance with the rollout of 5G technology. Some theories postulate that 5G, like earlier generations of cellular technology, also causes cancer or, somehow, kills birds. Others are more extreme, suggesting that the technology can cause “electromagnetic sensitivity,” bringing about headaches and harming the immune system.

Last year, the New York Times traced the present 5G anxiety to a Florida physicist named Bill Curry, who published incorrect research showing a correlation between rising frequency of radio waves and tissue damage in the brain. Curry failed to account for the fact that human brains are shielded from such radiation by their skin and skulls, but a chart he made about the theory has become canon in the world of cellular technology conspiracy theories. The Russian television network RT has pointed to such ideas to push theories about the dangers of 5G technology, as has Infowars founder Alex Jones. Infowars even sells a “5G Kills” T-shirt.

Many of the sites that promoted 5G conspiracy theories are now steering their audiences toward the 5G coronavirus connection. The “uncensored health news” website Natural News, for example, has long warned of the supposed dangers of 5G technology. Lately, the site has run headlines like: “Did the 5G rollout in Wuhan damage the innate cellular defense cells of the population, putting the people at risk of complications and death from coronavirus?”

And as the initial spread suggests, the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory has certainly found supporters on social media. Many Covid-19 conspiracy theories have festered on anti-5G Facebook groups, like the nearly year-old, 8,000-member-strong group “Stop 5G Global Community” and the three-year-old “Lawful Stop5G Rebellion No Violence,” which has almost 35,000 members. Twitter and YouTube similarly are hot spots for spreading 5G misinformation, and Bloomberg reports that there is some evidence of a coordinated effort to push 5G coronavirus content, though the details and origins of such a campaign remain unclear.

This idea went mainstream because influential people amplified it

It looks like the earliest posts linking 5G and Covid-19 popped up in mid-January. That newspaper article about the Belgian doctor is often cited as an inciting incident.

Still, it’s difficult to find the precise origin for the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory. Zignal Labs, an impact intelligence platform that studies online discourse, identified a Twitter account that on January 19 tweeted, “Wuhan has 5,000+ #5G base stations now and 50,000 by 2021 — is it a disease or 5G?” while retweeting a Russia Today article about a new, flu-like virus in China. Although the post got little engagement, it’s a sign that the theory had already been spreading to some degree. The 5G coronavirus conspiracy nevertheless festered on the internet for two more months before it started to surge in mentions, according to Zignal Labs data collected from Twitter and other platforms.

The plot really took off when celebrities started to tell their followers about the supposed link between of 5G and the pandemic. In March, interest spiked around the time that singer Keri Hilson tweeted:

People have been trying to warn us about 5G for YEARS. Petitions, organizations, studies...what we’re going thru is the affects of radiation.

5G launched in CHINA. Nov 1, 2019. People dropped dead. See attached & go to my IG stories for more. TURN OFF 5G by disabling LTE!!!

Interest surged again at the start of April, when the attacks on as many as 50 cell towers in the UK became an international news story, and eventually leading executives of companies like Verizon and Vodafone to ask government officials to intervene.

The flurry of celebrities amplifying the conspiracy theory continued. Rapper Wiz Khalifa tweeted on April 3: “Corona? 5g? Or both?” That same day, actor Woody Harrelson posted a video about the theory on Instagram, where he has more than 2 million followers (these posts have since been deleted). British rapper M.I.A., boxer Amir Khan, actor John Cusack, music producer Teddy Riley, and TV personality Amanda Holden all shared thoughts about the conspiracy with their millions of followers around this time. As recently as April 20, conservative commentators Diamond and Silk were warning their millions of followers of the supposed link between 5G and coronavirus.

QAnon supporters have also gotten involved in promoting the 5G conspiracy. One Q follower has argued that the symptoms of Covid-19 are suspiciously “similar to exposure to 5G,” which is not true, and has linked the rollout of 5G in Italy to the country’s high infection rate. She said in a tweet, “If you try to connect the dots from Covid-19 (which I am implying is a made-up illness to explain the side effects of the 5G rollout) to 5G, the media will tell you it is a conspiracy theory.”

Conspiracy theorists have also connected the 5G narrative with the claim that Bill Gates might be behind the virus, which is currently the most popular Covid-19 conspiracy theory online, according to Zignal Labs. The theory posits that Bill Gates not only caused the outbreak but also, somehow, used 5G to do it. One tweet identified by Recode, which has garnered thousands of likes and retweets, falsely posits the alleged Bill Gates connection and finds it suspicious that Facebook is blocking accounts that share information about the 5G coronavirus conspiracy.

This or other theories about 5G and coronavirus seem ridiculous, but that’s not the point. In a pandemic, one person’s understanding of reality and especially how that causes them to behave has a direct impact on the health of those around them. In the UK arson attacks, for example, vandals tried to burn down a cell tower being used by a nearby hospital and, likely, by very sick patients trying to communicate with loved ones. In any given community, those who doubt the reality of the coronavirus pandemic might also be resistant to taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“If you think that 5G is causing coronavirus, then why would you wear a mask? Why would you social distance?” warns Alan Duke of Lead Stories, another fact-checking organization that partners with Facebook.

Things could get worse as time goes on. Research from Zignal Labs shows overlaps between anti-vaccination conspiracy theories and the 5G theory. This could be cause for concern, as certain conspiracy theorists might refuse a Covid-19 vaccine when one is eventually produced. That could put more vulnerable people at risk.

Tech companies are struggling to keep up

An especially frustrating element of all this is how much tech companies have struggled to combat coronavirus misinformation. As long as the pandemic has been in the news, there has been a seemingly endless torrent of false information about it.

The federal government, for one, has taken a stand against this particular conspiracy. In a statement to Recode, a spokesperson for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) insisted that “5G technology has nothing whatsoever to do with the spread of the coronavirus.” The agency has directed people to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s rumor control page for more information on this and other conspiracy theories.

As coronavirus conspiracy theories have grown more prominent, tech platforms have become more aggressive. But none of them has completely conquered the problem of suppressing false information about the coronavirus pandemic, especially as it relates to 5G technology.

Facebook says it’s significantly expanded its willingness to take down fake news and conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus. The company once simply flagged these posts as having been fact-checked, using third-party partners like Lead Stories and Full Fact. Now posts that include false claims about 5G and Covid-19 are being taken down, along with other false coronavirus-related content. Facebook has also started retroactively notifying people that they have read false content and is limiting the distribution of groups that continue to share fake news.

Last week, Facebook removed two large anti-5G groups. The takedown followed a report from the anti-hate nonprofit Hope Not Hate that people were using those communities to actively push for the destruction of phone masts. Still, some anti-5G Facebook groups remain active and host discussions of conspiracy theories about Bill Gates.

YouTube has also tried to be more assertive about this content. The video platform took down an interview with British conspiracy theorist David Icke after he floated the 5G theory in a livestreamed interview. According to the company, content that pushes the idea that the virus doesn’t exist or is caused by 5G now violates its policies and is supposed to be removed. Still, at the time of publication, searching the platform could easily surface those types of videos.

Twitter is only taking down certain posts. A spokesperson told Recode that the platform is prioritizing taking down posts that include “a call to action that could potentially cause harm.” The company says that since March 18, it’s taken down more than 2,200 tweets violating its rules around Covid-19 content.

There’s a chance this struggle to contain a dangerous conspiracy theory will endure. Part of what drove the 5G coronavirus conspiracy to the mainstream was a lack of good information about how the virus spreads and how it works, questions that scientists are still working to answer. But the theory about 5G and Covid-19 existed in relative online obscurity until it was amplified by people with influence. Around the same time, others took to the streets, lighting fires and forcing the media, politicians, and corporate leaders to respond.

One possible upside to the theory seeing the spotlight is that it’s also attracting scrutiny. Believers can’t stay inside their filter bubbles as easily when the conspiracy is being debunked. So there’s a chance the prominence of the 5G coronavirus conspiracy will abate in the coming months. The moderators at technology platforms like Facebook and Twitter know what to look for, and that might help.

Conspiracy theories like this rarely go away completely, though. It will likely join the ranks of its predecessors: the ones about 5G killing birds or older cellular technologies causing brain cancer or wifi leading to mind control. It’s part of the canon now. We can only hope the fact that more people know about the 5G coronavirus conspiracy also means that more people know it’s not true.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.

Sours: https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/24/21231085/coronavirus-5g-conspiracy-theory-covid-facebook-youtube
Proof That 5G Is Going To Make Us All Sick?

Something in the Air


The coronavirus pandemic is sparking baseless theories about the dangers of 5G. But the fear that wireless technology is slowly killing us isn’t new—and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

By Kaitlyn Tiffany

Photographs by Sarah Illenberger


n the 1970s, the bogeyman was power lines. Low-frequency electromagnetic fields were emanating from them all the time, and a shocking 1979 study suggested that children who developed cancer lived near power lines “unduly often.” Around the same time, because of Cold War panic about radiation in general, televisions and microwave ovens also became a possible human health catastrophe. Later, concern bubbled up around a slew of other household appliances, including hair dryers and electric blankets.

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Now the advance of cellphones and, more recently, the new high-speed networks built to serve them have given rise to a paranoid coalition who believe to varying degrees in a massive cover-up of deleterious harm. The devices are different, but the fears are the same: The radiation from the things we use every single day is destroying us; our modern world is a colossal mistake. The stakes are about as high as they could possibly be: If it were true that our cellphones were causing brain tumors, that our wireless devices were damaging our DNA, and that radiation emanating from cell towers was sickening us in any untold number of ways, this would be the greatest human health disaster the world has ever known. As well as, perhaps, its greatest capitalist conspiracy.

It’s too big to be true. The science is confusing, but the World Health Organization, noting decades of research, has found no significant health risks from low-level electromagnetic fields. Yet amid a broader tech backlash—against screens, against social media, against power consolidating in a handful of companies, against a technology industry that rolls out new products and protocols faster than we can keep up or argue with, against the general fatigue and malaise associated with a life spent typing and scrolling—it’s just big enough to seem, to many, like the obvious explanation for so much being wrong.

A wildly disorienting pandemic coming at the same time as the global rollout of 5G—the newest technology standard for wireless networks—has only made matters worse. “5G launched in CHINA. Nov 1, 2019. People dropped dead,” the singer Keri Hilson wrote in a now-deleted tweet to her 4.2 million followers in March. As the coronavirus spread throughout Europe, fears about 5G appear to have animated a rash of vandalism and arson of mobile infrastructure, including more than 30 incidents in the U.K. in just the first 10 days of April. In the case of one arson attack in the Netherlands, the words “Fuck 5G” were reportedly found scrawled at the scene. Mobile- and broadband-infrastructure workers have also reported harassment and threats from deluded citizens: A recent WiredUK report detailed an instance in which a London network engineer was spit on; he later contracted an illness that was suspected to be the coronavirus.

Read: The coronavirus conspiracy boom

While those theories are flat-Earth-level absurd, legitimate scientists have long been interested in a relationship between wireless technology and cancer, and tens of millions of dollars have been spent investigating it. Activists have lobbied politicians and government agencies, who have been thus compelled to address it. Mothers have always told their children not to stand in front of the microwave. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciencespublished an overview of electromagnetic-radiation research in 1975, acknowledging the public’s concern about how quickly “technologic advances” were moving along, resulting in the use of “electromagnetic emitting equipment … in medicine, industry, research, military systems, and the home.”

The wildest thing about baseless coronavirus and 5G theories is that they’re barely part of the story—they’re just the latest headline.

The ranks of the 5G-skeptical include environmental activists, politicians, celebrities, and fringe scientists. In 2015, 190 scientists, doctors, and engineers from about 40 countries sent an appeal to the United Nations, urging the World Health Organization to reconsider the international guidelines for human exposure to the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies. In 2017, some of the same group co-signed a letter to the European Union asking that 5G rollout be put on hold pending further investigation. Though this community is far from mainstream, it is large. And it is powerful: In April 2019, Brussels stopped work on its 5G network, with the environmental minister of the region saying that citizens wouldn’t be treated as “guinea pigs.” A few cities and towns in Northern California have passed ordinances to curb 5G deployment, explicitly because of health concerns, and three members of Congress have written to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai about their constituents’ worries over 5G safety.

Last fall, the activist group NYC 5G Wake-Up Call hosts Patti Wood, the executive director of the national nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education—founded by Wood and her husband in 2000 to address issues including pesticides, GMOs, fluoridated water, fracking, and synthetic turf—for an event about the ills of wireless technology. The venue is a church in Midtown Manhattan, and the audience is rowdy and simmering with anger—at the telecom companies, at the government agencies that are supposed to protect us, at the scientists who ignore the work of other scientists.

With white hair and a severe laugh, Wood is a woman you’d gravitate toward in the midst of disaster. “You have no rights. These are involuntary exposures,” she tells the 30 or so attendees. “But we need it in order to use our fun little toys,” she shoots at the crowd, many of whom have been on their phone the whole time she’s been talking.

The FCC, the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency are supposed to protect our health, Wood says, but they’re failing. People are suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity—a condition also known as “microwave sickness,” with symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, and nausea—but they’re afraid to talk about it. “These are not ‘wacko’ people. These are principals of schools, and doctors who work in emergency rooms—I’m just giving you examples of people—people who work in the IT business,” she says. “You see a lot of health-care professionals who are dealing with this. And yet, nobody’s really talking about it. Nobody’s talking about it. It’s like nobody talks about vaccinations, you know, because nobody wants them to think that ‘I’m a crazy, I’m an anti-vaxxer.’” (Wood later says she’s not an anti-vaxxer. Grassroots Environmental Education says it has never taken a public stance on vaccines.) “It’s all about power,” she says, encouraging activists in the room to band together to exert political influence.

As with any argument about injustice and capitalist conspiracy, it is easy to flirt with believing for moments or hours at a time. Wireless technology could be slowly killing us all, or at least it could be slowly killing some of us (as other profitable things have done from time to time), or at least it could be true that we aren’t sure, and are moving ahead recklessly. In the 50 or so years since Americans started eyeing our microwaves with suspicion, we’ve been introduced to a parade of new products so quickly it’s hard to feel as if we ever had a choice. In 2020, the average person doesn’t get to decide whether she wants a smartphone or an email account or a home computer: They’re the default, the instruments we all need to live a functional life. In the case of 5G, the lack of agency is even more obvious. The infrastructure is being built whether we want it or not. So at some level, the conversation becomes not about the technology itself, but about the fact that ordinary people don’t feel as though they had any personal say. And sometimes, in fumbling for lost agency, people grab on to conspiracy theories.

Read: If someone shares the “Plandemic” video, how should you respond?

“The fact that the fields produced by electric current … were both invisible and ubiquitous, that exposure was largely beyond one’s control, and that the alleged health consequences were depicted as catastrophic helps to account for the intense fear that came to be associated with [the] question in the public mind,” the cancer epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat writes in his 2008 book, Hyping Health Risks. He compares looking for evidence of a relationship between various forms of electromagnetic radiation and brain cancer to looking for shapes in the clouds: It’s easy to see something, if that’s what you really want to do.

One of the most careful voices of reason in the debate about electromagnetic fields is the epidemiologist David Savitz. He stresses that “there’s not really been a clear indication that there is a problem” with Wi-Fi, but acknowledges the validity of the concern. As far as any individual fear is understandable, fear of cellphones makes sense: They went from basic nonexistence to ubiquity in about a decade. Now nearly every public urban place has Wi-Fi, and we will soon have small cell towers every few blocks. Whether or not you believe this will give you brain cancer, you didn’t have a chance to opt out. And if there is anything—even anecdotal evidence—to suggest that it might cause cancer, that can be uniquely terrifying.

“To be honest, I don’t think research can ever put [the concern] to rest,” Savitz tells me. “It can bound it. It can raise or lower the level of concern. But … when we do nothing, there are legitimate questions in the order of Who knows what it does?

Activists tend to cite the existence of “hundreds” or even “thousands” of studies that prove a connection between low-level radiation and various adverse health effects. They aren’t wrong about the volume of research. They aren’t even wrong that some of the studies find what they’re looking for. What is impossible to say in a sentence is that they find any one thing in particular, and no evidence supports the idea that global industry and governments have made a concerted effort to keep shocking findings from the public.

Work that points to dangerous connections between electromagnetic radiation and negative human health outcomes tends to ignore much of what we know about electromagnetic waves and the way they interact with the body. Though the word radiation always conjures up a little something frantic in the gut, there is a diverse spectrum of electromagnetic waves, with big differences among them. Gamma rays and X-rays—waves with very short wavelengths and very high photon energies—can cause cellular damage because they can knock electrons out of atoms. It is very bad to be exposed to them for extended periods.

But current wireless technology uses fields in the microwave range, and the FCC sets limits for radiofrequency exposure from cellphones well below the line at which we would expect heating to happen in human tissue. In 1991, the Yale physicist Robert K. Adair wrote in Physical Review that “there are good reasons to believe” that weak fields “can have no significant biological effect at the cell level—and no strong reason to believe otherwise.”

The best evidence that electromagnetic radiation does not cause brain cancer is simple: We have been placing antennae on our bodies and next to our heads almost 24 hours a day for two decades, and the world has not seen an epidemic of brain cancer. In fact, in the U.S., the rate of new brain-cancer cases was lower in 2017 than in 1992.

For years, scientific attempts to find a meaningful relationship between brain cancer and cellular radiation have failed. For 13 years starting in 1982, scientists followed every adult in Denmark who had a cellphone plan—420,000 people. In the end, they found no evidence at all of an association between brain tumors and cellphone use.

In 2010, the World Health Organization released the results of a decade-long international case-control study. The study’s 48 authors took more than four years to decide how to interpret the data, and it’s easy to see why: The findings were simultaneously explosive and meaningless. The participants who held their phone to their head most often had a 40 percent increase in risk for developing a glioma—absolutely shocking, and significant. But the group with the second-highest use showed, bafflingly, one of the lowest risks for glioma.

The science remained muddy.

In 2018, the largest-ever study of cellphones and brain cancer, conducted by the U.S.’s National Toxicology Program, tested rats at high-level, full-body exposures—far higher than the average cellphone user would experience. It found “clear evidence” that cellphone exposure was correlated with malignant heart tumors in male rats (but not females), and “some evidence” that exposure was correlated with gliomas and adrenal-gland tumors in male rats (but not females).

Read: Why conspiracy videos work so well on YouTube

One of the biggest challenges of studying brain cancer is that it is very rare. An association between a brain tumor and anything at all would be incredibly difficult to prove, even if the association existed. But there is a reason that the question keeps getting asked and the studies keep getting funded: In addition to being rare, brain cancers are exceptionally deadly. Only one in three people who are diagnosed with brain cancer will be alive five years later.

One afternoon, I attend a NYC 5G Wake-Up Call meeting in a prewar co-op on Manhattan’s Museum Mile, overlooking Central Park. When I arrive, five women are sitting in a ring around the edge of a sun-dappled sitting room. They’ve all brought stacks of paper—printouts of studies and reports and pamphlets, along with a couple of sheets that are just lists of video links.

The meeting’s host, Stephanie Low, has been an activist for 20 years, working against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, fracking, and, now, wireless technology of all sorts. “I only work on things that are enormous horrors,” she says. She hands me a business card, one of 1,000 she had printed to hand out to parents around the city when she sees them giving their young children a cellphone to play with. The card depicts a cartoon child with a smart meter—which emit electromagnetic radiation—hovering near their throat and a cellphone near their brain, next to a stop sign and a note: “Protect Your Kids! Studies show that the developing brains of children from conception to teenage years can be damaged by cell phone use. To be safe, even casual play should be prevented.”

Last June, Low finished treatment for pancreatic cancer. A few months before, she’d become personally involved in the wireless issue because of a friend who is electro-hypersensitive. This friend had lived a normal life in New York City—until her landlord installed 25 smart meters in the building without warning. She didn’t sleep for five nights, Low says, and had to come stay with her.

Three weeks later, Low’s friend was in excruciating pain again whenever she moved. She started living in Low’s guest bathroom, the only place that felt slightly less like a frying pan. Eventually, she moved upstate. A week after she left, Low found out that her building had installed smart meters in its basement too, a fact she relays with her eyes burning a hole through the floor at her feet.

The WHO has a very long informational page about electromagnetic hypersensitivity. It is clearly written to be careful about stories like Low’s friend’s, describing the suffering as real but the idea that a person with EHS can specifically detect and feel electromagnetic-field exposure as suspect. “EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual. The symptoms certainly are real and can vary widely in their severity,” it reads. Then, “EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure. Further, EHS is not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem.”

The friend, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the telecom industry, calls us from upstate and retells the story, adding, “We’re truth detectives, sorting propaganda from reality.”

Of the thousands of isolated bits of pop-culture ephemera floating around TikTok, one of the stickiest is a clip of Khloé Kardashian berating her sister Kourtney in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians that aired in the summer of 2016.

“What the fuck is up with your Wi-Fi?” she demands, walking around her sister’s basketball court with a phone outstretched. “You have this big-ass house and you can’t afford a Wi-Fi box out here?”

“It’s not about affording …” Kourtney tells her, looking up from her phone, as if exhausted by the never-ending chore of explaining the world to a slightly younger adult sibling. Then, pinching the air under her chin, emphasizing each syllable as if she’s teaching phonetics: “It’s about … radiation.” This does nothing to console Khloé—in fact, it seems to offend her on a moral level—and she screams, “You’re going to die anyway; you understand that, right? Die with a good Snapchat going through!”

Though the young people ripping the audio for a 15-second joke probably consider Kourtney the butt of it, a fair number of rich and famous Californians likely side with her. Fran Drescher is best known for her starring role as the titular nanny in The Nanny, but she has spent the past 15 years talking about all sorts of things that could cause cancer, including EMFs. Drescher calls me from her car one Saturday afternoon, using speakerphone but not Bluetooth—Bluetooth turns your car into a microwave, she says. The American people are enabling the “greedy sociopaths” of the tech and telecom industries, she argues, and we should be expressing our opinions with our dollars. We can’t just sit back and let them use us as guinea pigs. She speaks at the clip of a podcast on 3x playback for most of the conversation, but her voice dips low and a little mournful before we hang up. “We are part of this planet,” she tells me. “And we are harmonic with it. We are in disharmony with electromagnetic fields.”

The model Miranda Kerr, who is married to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, told a beauty-magazine editor that she uses an EMF detector to monitor “the waves in the air,” and that she installed a kill switch to turn off the Wi-Fi and all the electricity at night (save for the refrigerator and security cameras) in her Malibu house. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, said last year that he owns a small sauna with an EMF-shielding tent, to protect him from radiation when he wants to relax. (“It feels a little bit different because you’re not getting hit by all the EMF energy,” he explained on a podcast.)

Indeed, as with all fears, you can buy things to ease your mind: Belly Armor, recently featured in People magazine, sells blankets lined with RadiaShield Fabric “to protect your reproductive organs from exposure to cell phones, laptops and other smart devices while at home or at the office,” as well as radiation-deflecting mouse-shaped baby hats to protect babies’ brains once they’re outside the womb. Companies like Less EMF sell silver-threaded fabric, polyester window film, and carbon paint, which are often used by people who want to block electromagnetic radiation from their homes.

Heather Askinosie, a co-founder of the California jewelry company Energy Muse, approaches the same problem by selling, among other things, well-designed products made with a mostly carbon mineraloid called shungite. “Two years ago we really started selling a lot of shungite to people who were more in tune with EMFs and looking for other modalities of how to harmonize,” she tells me in a phone call. “More and more people are becoming EMF sensitive. Will shungite protect you from an EMF? I don’t have the research to say that it will. But I do think that will harmonize those waves so that you have more of a harmonious energy coming at you.”

The supremacy of wireless technology in American daily life is, really, a capitalist plot—at least insofar as the best way to protect yourself from anything is with money. The No. 1 seller in Askinosie’s shop is a rectangular shungite sticker ($9.95) that goes on the back of a cellphone case and protects “your energy against EMFs.” Second is a shungite phone stand ($34.95), and third is a shungite plate ($14.95), to set any kind of electronic device on. (“By placing your devices on a Shungite Plate, the Shungite stone properties minimize the EMFs emitted by technology.”)

The California-based lifestyle brand GIA Wellness offers the typical roster of skin-care products and meal-replacement protein powders alongside a range of Lifestyle Energy Products, including a $64.95 cellphone case that was designed in part “to help support your body’s natural resistance to the stress-related effects of electropollution (EMF) exposure,” a pendant that serves a similar purpose for $312.50 (both use “Energy Resonance Technology,” a “proprietary process, custom programmed to resonate with, and support your body’s energy field”), and a “Home Harmonizer” that costs $234.50 and has been designed to “support an energetically harmonious environment” with up to a 60-foot radius.

“We have really profound results, which is the most exciting thing,” the company co-founder Lynda Cormier-Hanser says. “When people put a cell guard on their phone and they no longer have migraine headaches. That’s really rewarding when you hear those stories.”

When products alone don’t seem to have addressed the problem, there are also services on offer. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Building Biology Institute offers several types of home-inspector certifications, including one for electromagnetic-radiation specialists (a trademark-pending term). The coursework for that program costs $5,355, and requires a series of online classes, a correspondence course, three one-week sessions in person, plus a final project mentored by a current building biologist.

Inspecting an average 1,800-square-foot home with three to four bedrooms is usually a full day of work, the BBI-certified specialist Stephanie Kerst tells me, including four to six hours on-site and an hour or two of reporting and preparing recommendations for the client. Kerst charges $125 an hour for phone or Zoom consultations, and $150 an hour for in-person inspections.

“I’ve been doing this about two years now. And I would say, what I have noticed is just a steady increase in the number of clients,” she says in a phone call. “There’s so much work to go around.”

To believe that wireless technology is deadly, you can start by believing in a few simple, true things, and then go from there.

“There is so much dishonesty in this field, and people paid by the industry,” one activist tells me coolly, a few moments after we first shake hands. Then she looks at me as if she’s about to take notes on the muscles in my face. “You have to dig for the truth. But are you interested in the truth?”

I am, which is how I end up reading a booklet by Norm Alster titled “Captured Agency,” subtitled “How the Federal Communications Commission Is Dominated by the Industries It Presumably Regulates.” It was published in 2015 and is a common reference point for activists. The accusations of corruption it contains are extreme, to say the least. Invoking “the hardball tactics of the tobacco industry,” Alster accuses the wireless industry of “bullying potential threats into submission,” and the FCC of allowing it to happen. The flamboyant prose, and the overreactions throughout the paper over minor connections and shared dinners, makes it rhetorically unpersuasive. But Alster is not wrong that the FCC has been accused, credibly, of blurring the lines between regulation and participation. “The path from a Commission seat to an aisle seat inside Comcast’s private jet and vice versa has been wide open for years,” the Verge editor in chief Nilay Patel wrote in his 2016 interview of the former FCC head Tom Wheeler.

There is an argument to be made that the FCC overreaches, removing community agency and consolidating power. In October, a federal court of appeals upheld the commission’s wildly unpopular repeal of net neutrality, but shot down its claim that states were not allowed to pass net-neutrality laws of their own. The court also criticized the FCC for a “disregard of its duty,” in failing to assess the ways in which eroding an open internet might affect public safety and emergency services. There are also valid criticisms surrounding 5G technology, many of which have been made repeatedly by prominent politicians and mainstream journalists. Even Wheeler, one of 5G’s most prominent hype men only a few years ago, has come out against the current FCC administration’s handling of 5G cybersecurity.

There are scientists involved in this discussion who are genuinely scary, Geoffrey Kabat says. The ones who want to imagine they’re saving the world, and call anyone who disagrees with them an industry shill. “The answers aren’t simple, and the science certainly isn’t simple, but they want to know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are,” he says. They want to be heroes, and they convince people that they are.

Our 5G lifestyle will be expensive and it will be vulnerable. It will probably enable unprecedented surveillance of public and private space, and it may grossly exacerbate the digital divide, as rural areas get left even further behind. You don’t have to think that small cell towers will kill you to think that they will look terrible when dispersed every few blocks; you don’t have to believe in any fringe science to be annoyed that 5G may interfere with weather satellites. 5G will definitely generate a lot of economic activity, but it won’t change the average person’s life. The Internet of Things is an ungraspable future, particularly when the fact of a future for Earth at all sometimes sounds implausible. There is no explanation for disease in the way that a person might want one, especially in the moment that she needs one.

The fear of some generalized capitalist conspiracy comes up, too, in Eula Biss’s 2014 book, On Immunity, which discusses the anti-vaccine movement. Biss spent years talking to fellow parents about their suspicions and fears, concluding that while these feelings can be easily justified, what they are most of all is sad: “That so many of us find it entirely plausible that a vast network of researchers and health officials and doctors worldwide would willfully harm children for money is evidence of what capitalism is really taking from us,” she writes.

In the case of anti-wireless activism, the scope of the conspiracy widens to the point where it becomes a worldview: Connectivity for connectivity’s sake was a mistake. Why are we carrying it around on our bodies? We could dial back, or we could stop moving so fast—we could stop ruining the night sky with satellites that will do nothing but bring super-fast internet to more people who will soon regret what it does to them.

On an afternoon in December, I have lunch with Ellen Osuna, who attended the NYC 5G Wake-Up Call meeting in Low’s apartment, and who I also saw hovering at the back of Patti Wood’s speech. She uses a landline phone, has an EMF-shielding headset for her cellphone, and owns a Chromebook that connects to the internet only through an ethernet cable, but we meet at a coffee shop in Manhattan.

“I think there should be hardly any places with Wi-Fi,” she says, when I ask how she feels about the café we’re sitting in, the city we live in. “There should be public access to ethernet.” I meant less specifically. How does she feel about the fact that nobody in here seems to be the slightest bit concerned? “It’s a really heavy thing to carry,” she says. “It’s surreal.”

She bristles when I suggest that some of the evidence is compelling for brain cancer, but none of it is for things like autism and Alzheimer’s. But she nods emphatically when I ask if the words some activists use—apocalypse, Holocaust, death ray—are frustrating for her to hear. These words don’t help; she cringes when they come up.

“Wireless is not like the fossil-fuel industries,” she says. “There is so much more brilliance. Amazing things are being done with technology.” But it is like the fossil-fuel industry in that “we’re completely entrenched. We’re addicted to it because of what these companies hid.”

Osuna sees herself as just one person doing one person’s part, which is talking to as many other people who will listen, doing her best to live a moral life, one that is tinged by grief. In the 1980s, when she was in middle school, a surfeit of scientific evidence proved the reality of climate change, she says, and she remembers her teacher telling her so. “We could have pulled back then, but we didn’t.” The fight against wireless technology is at that point now, she thinks. “This is the beginning.”

She is optimistic, she says. Or, more so than she was a few years ago, when it was much harder to find information about the dangers of wireless technology. “We can’t see this with the eye, but we are literally covered in this,” she says. “We’re trying to make the invisible visible.”

She’s not exaggerating the challenge of her task. When the WHO declared electromagnetic fields a class 2B carcinogen in 2011, with one doctor stating in a press release that there “could be some risk” of cancer from EMF exposure, it was effectively publishing a Rorschach test. Anti-wireless activists are quick to point out that group 2B also includes such poisonous-sounding substances as chloroform and lead. You could just as easily point out that the list also includes aloe vera, pickled vegetables, talc-based body powders, and dry cleaning, things that sound innocuous—but then again, Wi-Fi sounds innocuous too.

The second time I see Stephanie Low, she greets me warmly and presses me to take a photo of her optometrist’s business card on my phone—I mention that I’m trying to get glasses; I’m going blind from looking at my computer all day. And this reminds her of a theory she read that our vision is a hologram, as is the entire universe. She recommends a book that changed the way she thinks about everything—Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe—and adds that my local library likely has a copy.

So I read it one morning, wondering what comfort there might possibly be in conceiving of the world in a completely different way than I have all my life. The book is confusing, and it is beautiful. “There is evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it—from snowflakes to maple trees to falling stars and spinning electrons—are also only ghostly images,” Talbot writes, “projections from a level of reality so beyond our own it is literally beyond both space and time.”

The theory that our memories are holographic, and that the world itself is holographic, is, he says, the one that explains such phenomena as near-death experiences, precognition, lucid dreams, the placebo effect, stigmata, miracles, psychics, psychokinetic powers, X-ray vision, and the paranormal. Every unanswered question. It explains the remarkable recovery of a 61-year-old throat-cancer patient, who “visualized his cancer cells as weaker and more confused than his normal cells,” and “his body’s white blood cells, the soldiers of the immune system, coming in, swarming over the dead and dying cancer cells.”

Talbot’s book is not a work of fiction, but extrapolates—wildly—from the real work of credible scientists. He died of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1992.

“In a holographic universe,” Talbot writes, “a universe in which separateness ceases to exist and the innermost processes of the psyche can spill over and become as much a part of the objective landscape as the flowers and the trees, reality itself becomes little more than a mass shared dream.”

The wholeness gets to me, as does the lowering of stakes. I see the appeal of a world that exists only as an illusion, yet knits our lives together into one shimmering image of continuity. We could be accountable to one another. We could have unlimited chances to erase pain. The theory comes from science—kind of, if you squint, and shove the puzzle pieces together slightly against their will. Imagine choosing to believe something impossible, over a reality that is also impossible: not hard.

In October, the WHO put out a call for systematic reviews of the relationship between electromagnetic fields and 10 different topics. This is a question that will be asked again and again and again. “By and large, the research is reassuring about there not being—certainly not a major problem, perhaps no problem at all in terms of adverse health effects,” David Savitz tells me.

But for a great number of the people asking, the concern isn’t about what holds true “by and large”—it’s about the way they’re living, what they’re feeling. They feel tired and sick; they sense that it is the result of modern life. All they’ve been asking for is some solid proof that it isn’t.

Sours: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/05/great-5g-conspiracy/611317/

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