Is Helium 5G Safe To Deploy?


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As we all begin the next mad rush to deploy Heli­um 5G min­ers, one of the ques­tions I hear asked is, “Is 5G safe?” 

Let’s start with defin­ing what 5G means; it’s NOT 5 giga­hertz. In this case, 5G refers to the Fifth Gen­er­a­tion of mobile net­works. 5G is a set of rules deter­min­ing who can trans­mit how much on what fre­quen­cy. We (includ­ing me) com­mon­ly use it rather loose­ly, say­ing “I’m going to deploy a Heli­um 5G miner”.

What that actu­al­ly means is that we’re going to deploy a Heli­um min­er that will trans­mit and receive on a spe­cif­ic fre­quen­cy band with­in the 5G set of rules. That band is from 3.55 giga­hertz to 3.7 giga­hertz, short­ened to 3.55 GHz — 3.7 GHz. As I’ve dis­cussed in oth­er arti­cles, that band is the CBRS, or Cit­i­zens Broad­band Radio Service.

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s move on to poten­tial health issues of Heli­um 5G radio fre­quen­cy radi­a­tion, or RFR.

I’ll give you the non-sci­en­tif­ic ver­sion first: The parts of the 5G band we’re using for Heli­um com­bined with the pow­er out­put we’re lim­it­ed to prob­a­bly aren’t a big deal as long as you’re NOT stand­ing with your head next to the radio. Pret­ty straight­for­ward. Why do I think this?

Look, you prob­a­bly already have WiFi in your house. Your WiFi router push­es out about the same amount of pow­er that your CBRS radio will, and at fre­quen­cies that are slight­ly low­er (2.4 GHz) and slight­ly high­er (5 GHz). If you’re OK with WiFi, you should be OK with CBRS. That’s the com­mon sense rea­son­ing, but let’s get deeper.

We’ll start with a study done on zebrafish in 2020. Zebrafish are a fan­tas­tic option for these kinds of stud­ies because they reflect the intel­li­gence lev­el of the per­son who screams “5G WILL FRY YOUR BRAIN!” with­out doing any research beyond a few sen­sa­tion­al YouTube videos. Noth­ing against YouTube, it’s part of my core edu­ca­tion­al strat­e­gy, but it’s def­i­nite­ly not a gold stan­dard for sci­en­tif­ic inquiry.

On a more seri­ous note, this study on the Impacts of high does 3.5 GHz cell­phone radio fre­quen­cy on zebrafish embry­on­ic devel­op­ment found: 

Our results revealed no sig­nif­i­cant impacts on mor­tal­i­ty, mor­phol­o­gy or pho­to­mo­tor response and a mod­est inhi­bi­tion of star­tle response sug­gest­ing some lev­els of sen­so­ri­mo­tor dis­rup­tions.”

Now, that study was con­duct­ed on zebra fish. Zebra fish are not humans. They share about 75% of their DNA with us. In the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty, they are an accept­ed norm to use when assess­ing envi­ron­men­tal impacts on biology. 

My take­away after read­ing the study and talk­ing to Dr. Das­gup­ta, one of the authors of that study is this: With high dose expo­sure dur­ing your devel­op­men­tal years, you may lose some of your reflex speed. That is a lay­man’s take­away. By the way, we invit­ed Dr. Das­gup­ta to speak to the Gris­tle Crüe recent­ly and he came on and gave us a pre­sen­ta­tion on that spe­cif­ic study. Want to dive deep? Join the Gris­tle Crüe and hang on!

Next, let’s take a look at a study done on “mobile phone base sta­tions dur­ing tem­po­rary events”. What’s that cov­er? Let’s say you go to a state fair, or a con­cert in the desert. In order to pro­vide cov­er­age, cer­tain oper­a­tors (includ­ing those of us deploy­ing Heli­um 5G units) will install tem­po­rary radios to han­dle all the extra cell phone traffic. 

These tem­po­rary instal­la­tions (loose­ly) dou­ble the amount of RFR you get, from 391 µW/m2 at nor­mal lev­els up to 792 µW/m2 dur­ing the fair. BOTH of those val­ues are under legal (Euro­pean) limits. 

A µW/m2 is “one mil­lionth of a watt per square meter”. The µ means “micro”.

The legal lim­it in the US for fre­quen­cies between 2 and 5 GHz is 10 mil­lion µW/m2 for up to 30 minutes. 

In this study, mea­sure­ments were tak­en through­out an apart­ment com­plex that had a “mobile base sta­tion” on its roof. A Mobile Base Sta­tion is what a nor­mal per­son might call a “cell tow­er” if it’s free stand­ing or “cell clus­ter” on a roof; those are the big honkin’ radios the tel­cos use. Those are gen­er­al­ly NOT safe to be near, and the mean mea­sure­ment (remem­ber, “mean” is the aver­age) reflects that. Through­out the build­ing, the mean radi­a­tion lev­el was 3,811 µW/m2. I’d con­sid­er that (as a lay­man) gen­er­al­ly not cool to be around.

How­ev­er, that’s a com­mer­cial mobile base sta­tion, and not what most of us in Heli­um will be deploy­ing. Now, we’re going to head off into “maybe-land” here, and things are uncer­tain. While there’s a brisk trade being con­duct­ed in pro­tect­ing you from EMF radi­a­tion, there isn’t a ton of hard data on the effects of RF radi­a­tion on humans from cell tow­ers in the ranges that we’re deploy­ing. That does­n’t mean it’s bad or not bad; it just means we don’t know.

Let’s start with what we DO know. If you’re in an area with reli­able cell ser­vice, you’re prob­a­bly sur­round­ed by mobile base sta­tions blast­ing out RFR at around 5–10 watts, although they’re prob­a­bly not that close to you. This varies, but is a good place to start. Accord­ing to the FCC:

In the case of cel­lu­lar and PCS cell site trans­mit­ters, the FCC’s RF expo­sure guide­lines rec­om­mend a max­i­mum per­mis­si­ble expo­sure lev­el to the gen­er­al pub­lic of approx­i­mate­ly 580 microwatts per square cen­time­ter. This lim­it is many times greater than RF lev­els typ­i­cal­ly found near the base of cel­lu­lar or PCS cell site tow­ers or in the vicin­i­ty of oth­er, low­er-pow­ered cell site trans­mit­ters. Cal­cu­la­tions cor­re­spond­ing to a “worst-case” sit­u­a­tion (all trans­mit­ters oper­at­ing simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and con­tin­u­ous­ly at the max­i­mum licensed pow­er) show that, in order to be exposed to RF lev­els near the FCC’s guide­lines, an indi­vid­ual would essen­tial­ly have to remain in the main trans­mit­ting beam and with­in a few feet of the anten­na for sev­er­al min­utes or longer. Thus, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that a mem­ber of the gen­er­al pub­lic could be exposed to RF lev­els in excess of the FCC guide­lines is extreme­ly remote.

FCC Web­site, Human Expo­sure to RF Fields: Guide­lines for Cell Sites

How does 580 µW/cm² com­pare to our out­door fair study above, where the aver­age expo­sure was 792 µW/m²? Pay atten­tion, because one of those uses cen­time­ters as the area val­ue, and one uses meters. Big dif­fer­ence. 1 µW/cm² is equal to 10,000 µW/m², so 580 µW/cm² = 5.8 mil­lion µW/m². Moral of the sto­ry? Far bet­ter to go to a Span­ish fes­ti­val than to stand in front of a US cell tower.

Still, that does­n’t leave us with an answer to our ques­tion: Are Heli­um 5G units safe? 

The straight answer is that nobody knows for sure. I’ve seen links to stud­ies claim­ing that EMF will cross the blood brain bar­ri­er and inter­fere with cal­ci­um lev­els, but that ignores the fact that those fre­quen­cies have to get inside you first, and most high fre­quen­cy does­n’t go more than skin deep; they does­n’t have the pen­e­trat­ing pow­er. That’s not to say those stud­ies are quack­ery, but it’s also unlike­ly we’re fac­ing an exis­ten­tial threat from EMF.

Let’s talk about anoth­er aspect of RF: Ion­iz­ing and non-ion­iz­ing radi­a­tion. Ion­iz­ing radi­a­tion is the dan­ger­ous stuff; X‑rays, gam­ma rays, the kind of full pow­er radi­a­tion you need to put a lead apron on to be around. Ion­iz­ing radi­a­tion will go right through you and dis­rupt the atoms in your mol­e­cules (that’s the “ion­iza­tion” part), leav­ing a trail of destruc­tion in its wake. CBRS is NOT ionizing.

Non-ion­iz­ing radi­a­tion is the stuff that does­n’t do that kind of dam­age. Sure, it can shake your mol­e­cules around a bit, but it does­n’t have the pow­er to knock an elec­tron off an atom. Non-ion­iz­ing goes into the “ques­tion­able” buck­et of unhealthy radiation. 

Is it good for you? Prob­a­bly not. Is it bad for you? No seri­ous stud­ies prov­ing that it is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly bad have been done. The clos­est thing is the zebrafish study above, and while it shows that direct radi­a­tion on an embry­on­ic zebrafish has neg­a­tive effects on their star­tle response, it’s not like you’re going to be bathing in 3.55 GHz for hours every day.

Now, before you go all scream­er on me, I know that some peo­ple are more sen­si­tive to EMF than oth­ers. If that’s you, I have a hard time believ­ing you’re con­sid­er­ing putting up a CBRS radio, but just in case…don’t do it!

If you’re a part of the non-EMF-sen­si­tive part of the pop­u­la­tion like most of us, and you wade through the radio fre­quen­cy cock­tail of cur­rent mod­ern liv­ing (WiFi, cell sig­nals, AM/FM radio, TV, and the rest of it), you’re prob­a­bly not going to notice or be effect­ed by the RF pushed out by CBRS.

Now, to be clear, that is NOT MEDICAL ADVICE! For me, I think of my gen­er­al “EMF hygiene” guide­lines being appropriate:

  • Don’t sleep in front of a CBRS radio.
  • Don’t spend sig­nif­i­cant amounts of time close to the focused area of emit­ted RF (look at the radi­a­tion pat­tern sup­plied with your antenna).
  • Spend time out­doors in the sun­light exer­cis­ing, eat healthy foods, get plen­ty of sleep, laugh with your friends, and keep over­all stress low.

That’s it. That’s pret­ty much all I can rea­son­ably do. At the end of the day you are already in an RF soup of con­ve­nience; it’s why your cell phone works pret­ty much every­where, why you can still hear WAAF any­where in the greater Boston area, and why you can track a paraglid­er through­out South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. You’re already in the mix, my friend.

Hey, if you want to stay in the know and go deep­er into these top­ics, and you’d like to be part of a group help­ing each oth­er learn and suc­ceed in the whole blockchain + meat­space are­na that Heli­um start­ed, I’d love to have you join the Gris­tle Crüe. As I fin­ish writ­ing this, I’m reflect­ing on the con­ver­sa­tion the Gris­tle had today with Dr. Das­gup­ta and how use­ful it is to be learn­ing from world class experts in the com­pa­ny of folks just like you. If that sounds excit­ing, well, join the Gris­tle Crüe!

Rock on!


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