5G technology, cell phones, cell phone towers and antennas
Cell phones, cell phone towers and antenna installations are used to enable the wireless communication needs of Canadians. Learn about the safety of cell phones, cell phone towers, antennas and 5G technology.
On this page
- About cell phones, cell phone towers and antennas
- About 5G technology
- Health effects of cell phones, cell phone towers, antennas and 5G devices
- Assessing the science
About cell phones, cell phone towers and antennas
Cell phones, cell phone towers and antennas:
- use radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) to send and receive information
- must meet Canadian radiofrequency safety requirements
The radiofrequency EMF given off by cell phones and cell phone towers are a type of non-ionizing radiation. It is similar to the type of energy used in AM/FM radio and TV broadcast signals.
Cell phones send and receive radio signals from a network of fixed, low-power cell phone towers (or base stations). Cell phones are designed to operate at the minimum power necessary to connect and maintain a quality call.
The amount of radiofrequency EMF you are exposed to while using a cell phone depends on many factors, including:
- the strength of the signal
- how close you hold the cell phone to your body
- how long you use your cell phone
The transmitting power of a cell phone varies, depending on:
- the type of network
- the distance from the nearest cell phone tower
In order to maintain communication between your cell phone and a tower, the transmitting power will increase the further you move away from the nearest cell phone tower.
Cell phone towers and other antenna installations
Cell phone towers and other antenna installations are usually located on rooftops, towers and utility poles. Cell phone towers operate at a higher power than cell phones but the radiofrequency EMF they emit is much further away from your body. This means your exposure level from such antennas is usually much lower than your exposure level from using a cell phone.
About 5G technology
5G is the term used to describe the 5th generation of wireless communication technology that will be used by newer mobile devices and antenna installations. 5G can use:
- frequencies used by current mobile devices, for example 3G and 4G
- frequencies above 6 GHz, also known as millimetre waves
Millimetre waves have already been used for a number of years in many applications, such as:
- police radar
- remote sensors
- technology in medicine
- security-screening units at airports
Very few wireless communication devices are currently 5G enabled, but these types of devices will increase as 5G networks are introduced in Canada.
5G devices will need to meet the Canadian radiofrequency exposure requirements before they can be sold in Canada.
Antenna installation operators using 5G technology will have the same on-going compliance obligations for radiofrequency exposures to wireless devices and installations.
Health effects of cell phones, cell phone towers, antennas and 5G devices
Based on the available scientific evidence, there are no health risks from exposure to the low levels of radiofrequency EMF which people are exposed to from cell phones, cell phone towers, antennas and 5G devices.
Thousands of scientific studies have evaluated the safety of radiofrequency EMF. Evidence from these studies establishes only 2 adverse health effects that can occur at levels above the Canadian limits:
- tissue heating, such as the warming of your skin
- nerve stimulation, which can cause a tingling sensation in your skin
The occurrence of these health effects depends on a combination of:
- the intensity of radiofrequency EMF exposure
- how long you are exposed to radiofrequency EMF
- the distance of your body from the source of radiofrequency EMF
The Canadian radiofrequency safety requirement provides protection against all established health effects.
Misinformation and health concerns
Misinformation and opinions on the health risks from exposure to radiofrequency EMF are increasing on the internet and social media.
Most recently, there have been claims linking 5G networks to COVID-19. There is no scientific basis for these claims. This is supported by the:
Another frequent concern is the potential for radiofrequency EMF to increase the risk of cancer. The scientific evidence does not support a link between cancer and exposure to radiofrequency EMF at the levels permitted by Canadian exposure guidelines. There have been some studies reporting an increase in incidence of brain cancer among long-term, heavy cell phone users. However, other studies conducted around the world, including studies assessing brain cancer trends among large populations, do not find changes in brain cancer incidence. This is despite widespread use of cell phones over the past 25 years.
There is no established scientific evidence that those who use cell phones are at increased risk of experiencing adverse health effects with the Canadian limits in place. This includes children and teenagers. However, if you wish to further reduce your exposure to radiofrequency EMF from cell phones you can do so by:
- texting instead of calling
- using hands-free devices
- limiting the length of cell phone calls
- making phone calls from locations with good reception
Assessing the science
While some internet or social media sources refer to specific scientific publications, no single scientific study, considered in isolation, can prove or disprove the existence of an adverse health effect.
There are criteria that scientists use to establish scientific evidence for the existence of an adverse health effect.
The evidence needs to be:
- generally accepted by the broader scientific community
- reproducible, to ensure the results were not random or due to other factors
- evaluated in its totality, meaning that both positive and negative results are evaluated on their own merit and then evaluated as a whole
- consistent across studies, that is, the evidence is stronger if different types of studies (epidemiology and laboratory) point to the same conclusion
There are thousands of studies on the health effects of radiofrequency EMF. You can access many of them through the following links:
- EMF Portal
- Electromagnetic field literature search engine
- International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection - publications
Health Canada continues to monitor all domestic and international scientific evidence on radiofrequency EMF and health. If new scientific evidence were to show that exposure to radiofrequency EMF at levels below the Canadian limits is a health concern, we would take action to protect your health and safety.
- What is 5G?
- International EMF Project
- Health effects of radiation
- Radiofrequency energy and safety
- International Agency for Research on Cancer
- International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
- Power lines and electrical products: Extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields
- Contact us - Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau
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