Get Gephardt: 5G is coming, and so is its RF radiation

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Sacramento has turned on the world’s first commercial 5G network. Some are scared. (Photo: KUTV)

Sacramento has turned on the world’s first commercial 5G network. Some are scared.

Aaron and Hannah McMahon have a 5G cell site on a pole right outside their Sacramento home. They're worried about potential health effects, living so close to a transmitter beaming a radio signal 24 hours a day.

“They can't tell me that something that's new, and relatively untested, is going to be not harmful in 10 to 15 years,” Hannah said.

A study from UC Davis found the RF radiation from the new towers is well within FCC guidelines for what is safe. Still, some parents are not appeased.

It's not just RF radiation coming off the towers. That phone in your pocket, in your hand or against your head will be transmitting back in 5G.

Get Gephardt went to the University of Utah, which employs some of the leading experts on cell phone radiation, including Dr. Cynthia Furse.

When asked if 5G would mean consumers are exposed to more RF radiation, Dr, Furse said, “No. Standards are going to be the same for the amount of power that is allowed to go into your head."

Unlike other types of radiation, like X-rays, Dr. Furse says there is no evidence that radio frequency waves are problematic.

"As far as we know, they do not cause DNA damage," she said.

For people who are concerned, there are products on the market that limit a person's exposure.

One example is an antennae which claims to shoot the signal out the back of the phone, away from the user's head. Gentry Jensen is the CEO of Penumbra Brands, a Utah company which developed the product under the name, "Alara."

Jensen says he thinks the federal safety standards are out of date.

“In my opinion, there is legitimate cause for concern," he says. "The FCC standards for exposure were set in 1996 and the phones we are using today are just in no way like the phones we were using in 1996."

With how ubiquitous cell phone use has become, Jensen says only time will tell if being constantly bombarded with RF radiation is truly harmless.

"The fact is we are all a living laboratory,” he said.

Dr. Furse says she is “not particularly alarmed” about using her cell phone. Her advice for people who are concerned hold the phone a few millimeters away from their head.

"The further away you move the antennae, the much less field you get in the head, or anywhere around it," she said.

Because of the way 5G technology works, it will likely expose most users to less RF radiation, Dr. Furse said. A 5G cell phone will transmit with less power than 4G or 3G do.