Environment, 5G Technology and LED lighting – unintended consequences

| April 14, 2020 | Leave a Comment

Date of Publication: April 14

Year of Publication: 2020

Author(s): Brian McGavin

The decision by the UK Government to invite Chinese tech company Huawei to develop a significant sector of the UK’s telecoms network has raised national security concerns in the UK and the United States. This is just one of many concerns surrounding the technology we are failing to discuss adequately.

The obsessive drive by tech giants to develop artificial intelligence envisages every facet of our lives dominated by 5G networks. The media is pumping up this technology love-in with an IT sector that paints visions of driverless vehicles they claim are safer and more efficient than human-controlled transport, offers ultra-fast streaming to mobile cell phones, tech fantasies, with central management of domestic devices and even drone delivery of online orders to homes, to shatter what peace we have left in an overcrowded world.

Advocates point to areas where the technology might assist, perhaps in surgical procedures, but there is no sound evidence that autonomous vehicles are reducing collisions or injuries. An article in The Guardian on October 3, 2019, quotes a 2018 US study that says driverless systems would have to improve ten-fold in detecting pedestrians, compared with humans.

As data from billions of internet-connected ‘smart’ devices grows exponentially, it is estimated that the IT industry could consume 20% of all the world’s electricity by 2025, straining power grids to feed an incessant demand from people hooked on message sharing and phone screen entertainment.

We are rapidly moving into a 5G communications world, where bandwidths used currently by cell phones are becoming saturated by a growing social phenomenon of phone screen addiction. The Internet of Things promises to give us more. But more of what?

According to Fortune.com 5G will support at least 100 billion devices and will be 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G technology. (4G was already about 10 times faster than 3G). It offers near infinite data broadcast by using largely untapped bandwidth of the millimeter (MMW) wave.

Wireless cell antennas galore

Millimeter waves do not travel well through buildings and they tend to be absorbed by rain and plants, interfering with the signal. They also have much shorter wavelengths that can’t travel far. To counter this problem 5G will utilize smaller cell stations. This could mean wireless antennas on lamp posts, utility poles and buildings throughout entire neighborhoods, towns, and cities. These towers will probably be about 40 feet tall as opposed to the usual 90 feet towers currently erected around us. Cells will be available within a 100-meter range.

5G also risks causing more tree culling. The 5G Innovation Centre in Surrey says that “where trees are comparable heights to masts, coverage can be reduced by as much as 70%.”

Extreme solar flares could crash global systems connected with electricity and electronics. Astronomical observations, including asteroid collision monitoring, will be greatly harmed by plans to deploy up to 50,000 small satellites in preparation for 5G telecoms, alongside replacing thousands of satellites every year, disintegrating them in the lower atmosphere.

Impact on human health and our environment

Testing is rampant by companies who are interested to tap into the lucrative possibilities of 5G. But few are willing to research its effects on health. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection guidelines remain essentially unchanged since 1998, not recognizing radiofrequency microwave radiation as harmful unless there is a heating effect.

In 2016 The Global Union Against Radiation Deployment from Space (GUARD) wrote to US officials about the potential harm 5G will inflict.

Trevor Marshall, Director of the Autoimmunity Research Foundation California, says: “5G wireless technology involves extremely high frequencies producing photons of much greater energy than 4G and WiFi. Allowing this technology to be used without proving its safety is reckless in the extreme, as the waves are known to have a profound effect on the human body.” Olga Sheean, author of “No Safe Place” warns that: “The plans to beam highly penetrative 5G milliwave radiation at us from space must surely be one of the greatest follies ever conceived by mankind. There will be nowhere safe to live.”

Reasons for concern

Many studies link wireless radiofrequency radiation exposure to adverse biological effects:

  1. Effects on the skin – Dr. Ben-Ishai of Hebrew University, Israel said: “our sweat ducts act like “an array of helical antennas when exposed to these wavelengths,” meaning that we become more conductive.” Another study found that 90% of the transmitted power is absorbed in the skin.
  2. Effects on cell growth and bacteria resistanceA 2016 Armenian study suggests that microwave effects impact water, cell plasma membrane and genome activity, altering sensitivity to “different biologically active chemicals, including antibiotics.”
  3. Effects on plant health – MMW is particularly susceptible to being absorbed by plants and rain. Humans and animals consume plants as a food source. The rain that falls on these plants will also be irradiated.
  4. Atmospheric effects and increased use of fossil fuels – Implementation of the 5G network requires launching rockets to deploy satellites for 5G. These satellites have a short lifespan requiring a lot more deployment. A new type of hydrocarbon rocket engine expected to power a fleet of suborbital rockets would emit black carbon which “could cause potentially significant changes in the global atmospheric circulation” according to a 2010 Californian study.
  5. Disruption of natural ecosystems – Since the year 2000, there are reports of birds abandoning nests, locomotion problems, and reduced survival, says biologist Alfonso Balmori. Declining bee populations are also believed to be linked to EMF radiation.

Energy-saving LED lighting

Alongside this, more efficient LED street lighting is being rolled out by governments, as LEDs are far more energy-efficient. Surely this is all good news?

The U.S. Department of Energy says LED lights use at least 75 percent less energy while lasting 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. It estimates that widespread LED use in the U.S. by 2027 could save the equivalent electrical output of 44 large electric power plants each year, amounting to at least $30 billion in savings. Unfortunately, most authorities are opting for LEDs that typically have excessive blue frequencies rather than the less intense ‘warm’ LED lights – without consulting local people on the options and consequences.

American Medical Association: LED light pollution poses environmental risks

In 2016 the American Medical Association (AMA) issued new guidance on how to reduce the harmful effects of high-intensity LEDs, recognizing the importance of using the lower emission light with shielding to minimize glare. Are any local authorities listening? Some communities, like Davis, California, have successfully challenged councils to replace bulb units with ‘warm’ LEDs.  The Smart Outdoor Lighting Alliance (SOLA) promotes ecologically responsible lighting.


For more information on 5G issues visit:






National Academies report 2008

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