5G at 60 GHz “stops the uptake of oxygen by the human body and blood”; this is what doctors describe in COVID-19 cases
Incorrect: The electromagnetic frequencies used in 5G do not deprive the body of oxygen. On the contrary, it is oxygen that absorbs the energy of electromagnetic waves, causing these waves to progressively lose energy with distance.
Factually inaccurate: COVID-19 is a respiratory infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, not 5G technology.
Inadequate support: There is no evidence that current exposure to electromagnetic fields from wireless technology is harmful to humans.
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Wireless communication transfers data from one point to another using electromagnetic waves. As these waves travel through the air, they interact with particles and substances such as oxygen, which can absorb some of their energy. This phenomenon causes the electromagnetic signal to lose strength with distance, but it does not change the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, nor does it make it unavailable to the body. Electromagnetic waves can also interact with biological tissues, but current exposure has not been linked to health problems in humans.
FULL CLAIM: 5G at 60 GHz “stops the human body and blood from taking in oxygen. They’ll just collapse on the street”; “These symptoms, this result, is so exactly what this doctor in New York is describing in COVID-19 cases.”
In March 2022, a TikTok-derived Facebook role featuring conspiracy theorist and former soccer player David Icke went viral. In it, Icke falsely claimed that 5G’s 60 GHz frequency “prevents the human body and blood from taking up oxygen,” a finding consistent with COVID-19 symptoms. The video received more than 455,000 views on Facebook and 345,000 on TikTok. Other iterations of the same claim also appeared on TikTok.
The Tiktok video clip is part of an interview with Icke on British online channel London Real on April 6, 2020, in which Icke made several false claims linking 5G technology and the COVID-19 pandemic. The interview was streamed live on YouTube and received millions of views at the time.
Since the 1990s, Icke has been known for spreading conspiracy theories, of which the interview with London Real is another example. Following Icke’s interview, YouTube tightened its policies on COVID-19 misinformation to “accommodate conspiracy theories claiming the symptoms are caused by 5G.” In May 2020, Facebook and YouTube removed Icke’s accounts for violating their policies on harmful misinformation, with Twitter following suit in November 2020.
The specific claim that 5G radiation blocks oxygen uptake by the blood and lungs has no scientific basis and is false, as this review will explain. In fact, the claim has been previously debunked by fact-checking organizations.
5G does not take oxygen from the environment and makes it unavailable to the human body
Cellular wireless technologies transmit data from one point to another using radio waves, which are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The term 5G refers to the fifth generation of cellular networks, a technology that uses higher-frequency waves than previous networks to enable faster, higher-quality communications. However, 5G will use other frequency bands, starting with low frequencies similar to those already in use (hundreds of MHz up to a few GHz) to later expand to higher frequencies known as millimeter waves.
Although Icke didn’t clearly explain how 5G is supposed to block oxygen uptake, a graphic that appeared in the video at this point in the interview (Figure 1) gives us a clue. This graph shows the percentage of energy that oxygen molecules absorb from electromagnetic waves as a function of their frequency.
For 60 GHz waves, this percentage is 98%. One possible interpretation of Icke’s claim, based on this graph, is that electromagnetic waves absorb 98% of the oxygen in the environment, making it unavailable to humans. However, this interpretation is wrong.
Figure 1. Absorption of millimeter-level electromagnetic wave energy by dry atmospheric oxygen, plotted as a percentage of absorption per kilometer. At the wave frequency of 60 GHz, atmospheric oxygen absorbs 98% of the transmitted energy. Source: RF Globalnet.
The graph appears to be from the website of the RF Globalnet technology information platform, which clearly explains that the graph represents a physical phenomenon called attenuation. The term attenuation describes the decrease in signal strength that occurs during transmission from one point to another as the signal interacts with particles and objects along the way. In the case of electromagnetic waves, the attenuation results from the interaction with particles in the atmosphere, e.g. B. oxygen, which absorb part of their energy or can change their direction.
In other words, 60 GHz waves interact with oxygen in the atmosphere – not in the body, as Icke claimed – but do not absorb oxygen. On the contrary, the oxygen molecules in the atmosphere absorb the energy of electromagnetic waves, reducing the distance the waves can travel. The attenuation phenomenon makes 60 GHz frequencies unable to span long distances, which is one of the reasons why 5G uses different frequency ranges. Countries have started to deploy multiple low- and mid-frequency 5G bands, but no high-frequency bands in the 60 GHz range. Since this frequency is not yet used, it cannot be held responsible for any impact on human health.
Other related claims shared online are that 5G electromagnetic waves alter oxygen molecules, or hemoglobin, in red blood cells, thus affecting the body’s ability to absorb oxygen. But none of these claims are correct.
Electromagnetic waves from 5G are a type of non-ionizing radiation. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that this type of radiation “deposits energy in the materials it penetrates, but does not have enough energy to break molecular bonds or remove electrons from atoms.”
If the claim were true, we would expect even higher frequency waves, such as visible light or ultraviolet light, to cause similar or more pronounced changes in oxygen molecules. That’s clearly not happening. Neither visible light nor UV light cause people to stop breathing and collapse.
Additionally, Mats-Olof Mattson, a professor of cell biology at Strömstad Academy in Sweden, told Health Feedback that the type of electromagnetic waves that 5G uses does not penetrate the skin:
“With so-called millimeter waves from 30 GHz, this depth is less than 1 mm and thus practically does not even go beyond the epidermis of the skin. Penetration into the blood and thus a direct interaction with the hemoglobin within the red blood cells is unrealistic.”
This is because 5G electromagnetic waves are in the low range of electromagnetic frequencies, lower than visible light, and are not powerful enough to penetrate body tissues (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Ionizing and non-ionizing radiation frequencies, including 5G, within the electromagnetic spectrum. Source: SCAMP/Imperial College London/EBU.
COVID-19 symptoms are caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection and are unrelated to 5G
Although the specific excerpt in the TikTok video didn’t mention COVID-19, we know from the rest of the interview that the symptoms Icke discussed are those of COVID-19. Given that 5G does not consume oxygen and cannot disrupt the transport of oxygen in the blood, Icke’s attempt to explain the symptoms of COVID-19 based on this mechanism is unfounded.
COVID-19 is a respiratory infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As Health Feedback and several media and fact-checking organizations have explained, SARS-CoV-2 did not originate from 5G and cannot spread via 5G. This is supported by the fact that COVID-19 has spread widely in regions and even countries where 5G has not been available, like Brazil, as Health Feedback found in a previous review.
Current evidence does not show that 5G causes any health problems
This Full Fact article explains how these conspiracy theories linking 5G technology and COVID-19 are rooted in myths and fears that were already widespread before the pandemic. In fact, the notion that wireless cellular networks in general and 5G in particular are harmful existed long before COVID-19.
Experts have also stressed that evidence from studies on wireless technologies is nothing to worry about. In a previous review, Isabelle Lagroye, a bioelectromagnetism researcher at the Center National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France and a member of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), told Health Feedback that there was “no scientific basis for the finding that 5G poses a health hazard as long as exposure is kept well below existing exposure limits”.
In 2020, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) published its new guidelines to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields in the range 100 kHz to 300 GHz. After reviewing all available scientific evidence, ICNIRP found no adverse effects on cognition, physiological and hormonal functions, cardiac, nervous system, immunity, blood, fertility, reproduction and development, nor on the development of neurodegenerative diseases or cancer. The organization also found no evidence of a mechanism that could lead to adverse health effects in humans.
Few studies have looked at the specific effects of 5G on human health. But as the World Health Organization explains, the higher frequencies used in 5G are less capable of penetrating the body than frequencies used in previous generations of cellular networks, making the likelihood of 5G frequencies having negative effects in humans even lower becomes.