The Sun recently reported that YouTube videos are circulating which claim that the new 5G WiFi networks are causing the coronavirus outbreak. They claim that 5G destroys the immune system causing flu-like symptoms and that while it looks like people are dying from a viral infection it is actually the result of exposure to 5G networks.

There is currently no evidence to support the theory that 5G causes COVID-19. Our understanding of the biology of this disease, and how it is behaving all support it being caused by the coronavirus.

Coronavirus is a virus that is known to enter the body through the eyes, mouth or nose. When it arrives in these areas, it can get into a cell and start to reproduce like any other virus. That’s why the best way currently to protect yourself against the virus is to practice social distancing, wash hands with soap and avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.

Where did the story come from?

The Sun reported that there are posts on YouTube misinforming people that 5G WiFi is causing the coronavirus outbreak.

What is the basis for the claim?

5G is the newest (“fifth generation”) form of mobile internet connection, which started to be used in 2019. As the name implies, it is intended to replace 4G. It should offer faster data downloads and uploads and allow more mobile devices to access the mobile internet at once. It does this by using a wider range of radio waves than 4G did, including “high-band” radio waves in the 20-100GHz range (called millimetre waves).

It is not clear where the myth originated, but seem to be based on the idea that the timing of the current coronavirus outbreak in China coincided with the initial release of 5G there, and suggests that a similar thing happened with the previous coronavirus outbreaks (SARS and MERS) and previous generations of mobile internet.

There are no trustworthy research studies that look at whether 5G causes the coronavirus outbreak. There is no biological basis for considering that 5G could cause this type of disease, which is behaving exactly as one might expect an infectious disease to behave.

A recent review looked at the potential impact of 5G wireless communication and the health effects associated with it. It looked at research studies published up to the end of 2018 which looked at the impact of exposure to frequencies from 6 to 100GHz. These are the frequencies that 5G networks use but other types of networks don’t. It also considered other relevant literature, for example, documents from the World Health Organization.

It analysed 94 relevant studies in human tissue (such as skin), laboratory animals and in cells in the laboratory. None of these studies looked at the impact of these frequencies on human symptoms or health. They found that most studies showed some sort of biological responses but that the methods of the few studies available were very varied. Moreover, there was no consistent relationship between the impacts seen and the nature of the exposure (power density, exposure time or frequency).

Therefore, these researchers stated that no conclusions could be drawn with respect to the effects on health of exposure at the frequencies studied.  The review was funded by a German telecom company who were reported to have had no role in designing, performing, or publishing the study.

What do trusted sources say?

The WHO state that to date “no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies” although “so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.” They add that no consequences for public health are anticipated from these frequencies.

Public Health England’s advice on 5G technologies states that currently public of exposures to radio waves are well within the recommendations of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), and that UK network providers are committed to staying within these.

Analysis by EIU Healthcare, supported by Reckitt Benckiser

 

Citation

1.     The Sun. Fake Views. Sick YouTube coronavirus videos claiming ‘5G caused COVID-19’ rack up MILLIONS of views. Updated 20 March, 2020. Available at: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/11217342/sick-youtube-coronavirus-video-5g-claim/ (Accessed 2 April 2020)

Reading list

1.     5G Wireless Communication and Health Effects—A Pragmatic Review Based on Available Studies Regarding 6 to 100 GHz. Simkó M and Mattsson MO. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Sep; 16(18): 3406. Published online 2019 Sep 13. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16183406

2.     International Commission of Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. ICNIRP radiofrequency electromagnetic field guidelines 2020. March 2020. Available at: https://www.icnirp.org/en/activities/news/news-article/rf-guidelines-2020-published.html (Accessed 3 April 2020)

3.     Public Health England. Guidance 5G technologies: radio waves and health. Published 3 October 2019. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/5g-technologies-radio-waves-and-health/5g-technologies-radio-waves-and-health (Accessed 3 April 2020)

4.     WHO. 5G networks and health. February 2020. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/5g-mobile-networks-and-health (Accessed 3 April 2020)