Thank You for Cell Phoning: 5G is Safe … or Not?

Larry Burk, MD, CEHP
7 min readApr 5, 2020
5G antenna transmitters will soon cover the entire earth!

The 2005 movie Thank You for Smoking features Aaron Eckhart as a sleazy lobbyist whose expertise is in spinning the science on the health hazards of tobacco. When his efforts fail to convince the courts and millions of dollars in settlements follow, he is out of job. The closing scene has him in a conference room strategizing with telecom executives and reminding them to just keep repeating “there is no direct evidence that links cell phone use to brain cancer.” Unfortunately, this dark concluding plot twist is an accurate representation of the wireless industry’s behavior since 1996.

In the past 20 years I’ve had four friends who were heavy cell phone users die prematurely from malignant brain tumors. My friend Bret Bocook was a real estate lawyer whose anaplastic astrocytoma was diagnosed in his right temporal lobe near the ear where he logged a million minutes of cell phone calls in the prior two decades. Before he died he participated in a Silicon Valley debate at the Commonwealth Club about the hazards of cell phones. Another close friend had sudden onset of seizures which led to the diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme, the most malignant of the gliomas. I suffered with him through his chemotherapy sessions over the next year as I watched him waste away and die.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) as Class 2B possibly carcinogenic in 2011 based on an increased risk for gliomas. The argument that there is no direct evidence was definitively undermined in 2016 by research from the National Toxicology Program showing brain tumors in rats due to exposure to cell phone RF, a finding which was replicated by the Ramazzini Institute in 2018. A scientific review paper in 2006 revealed bias in the research papers on cell phones, as those funded by industry showed no hazard while studies funded independently show a significant impact on brain activity and cognitive function.

Modern EMF health research dates back to 1969 when my old friend Allan Frey did studies for the Office of Naval Research showing that radar frequencies similar to cell phone 5G disrupted the blood-brain barrier, an important finding suppressed by his military sponsors. 4G cell phones operate near 1 GHz with centimeter waves, but the 5G range extends up to 96 GHz with millimeter waves. The higher frequencies have decreased ability to penetrate impeding objects such as trees, so rather than having cell phone towers every half mile we will soon have them on every other telephone pole in front of our houses.

However, the FCC standards established in 1996 assure us that these frequencies are harmless as long as they do not exceed the threshold for causing heating in the body. So, if it doesn’t cook you like a microwave, it is safe. Unfortunately, epidemiologist Devra Davis from the Environmental Health Trust points out that these guidelines are woefully obsolete developed by engineers with no knowledge of what might impact human health. Is it a coincidence that also in 1996 the Telecommunications Act was passed allowing telecom companies to place antenna towers in any neighborhood without regard to health concerns raised by municipalities?

As a member of the Society for MRI Safety Committee in 1988, I was involved in investigating whether the RF used in our new scanners was safe. To find out I joined the Bioelectromagnetic Society, the organization where engineers, epidemiologists, physicians and other scientists discuss research on the health effects of EMF. Their president, my friend biophysicist Carl Blackman, was doing ground breaking research for the EPA showing dramatic resonance effects on brain calcium channels triggered by RF at athermal power levels far below the threshold for heating.

No wonder his lab was abruptly shut down in 1995 when the Senate Appropriations Committee cut off funding saying, “The committee believes EPA should not engage in EMF activities.” The horse was let out of the barn by the FCC and the Telecommunications Act the very next year and the telecom companies have been off to the races ever since. Their lobbyists have persuaded every country in the world that they must compete for 5G dominance without any regard for the health consequences.

Ironically, the canary in the coal mine is The Man Who Was Allergic to Radio Waves, Ericsson’s lead cell phone engineer Per Segerback, who developed severe symptoms of dizziness, nausea, headaches, burning sensations and red blotches on his skin with a large transmitter antenna outside his office window. Despite the company shielding his office, clothes and Volvo he was forced to retire and move to a remote wireless-free location. In 1993 Ericsson published a report “Hypersensitivity in the Workplace” about what happened to him and 18 others in his lab.

These kinds of neuropsychiatric symptoms are well documented by biochemist Martin Pall to be related to microwave EMF effects on voltage-gated calcium channels translating the pioneering work of Blackman and others into the clinical realm. Such symptoms of electrohypersensitivity (EHS) have been reported since the earliest days of the electrification of the Earth beginning with the first telegraph lines in 1839 as described in Arthur Firstenberg’s remarkable book The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life which is summarized in this 17-page free pdf.

Firstenberg notes that the first to feel the effects were Civil War soldiers on the Union side suffering “irritable heart” symptoms of chest pain and palpitations associated with the deployment of the first military telegraph system which helped win the war. “Telegraphic sickness” was described in the 1870s and was reported to affect half of all telegraph operators. They suffered from many symptoms typical of EHS including irritability, insomnia, exhaustion, depression, anxiety and memory loss. The related clinical term “neurasthenia” was coined in 1869 and later redefined as “anxiety neurosis” by Sigmund Freud in 1894.

It was renamed again during WWI as “effort syndrome” with fatigue, chest pain and shortness of breath affecting thousands of soldiers who were exposed at close range to ubiquitous radio communications for the first time in history. WWII featured another wireless advance with military radar deployed all over the world, and the syndrome was relabeled “neurocirculatory asthenia” which cardiologists of the era considered a real disease rather than a psychiatric condition. The impact may go beyond just chest pain as sudden cardiac death in American athletes doubled in 1996, the first year that cell phone towers began to appear everywhere.

In 2002, environmental medicine doctors in Germany reported extreme fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders in the Freiburger Appeal. Another modern version of “radio wave sickness” may be chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction with fatigue, muscle pain and neurological symptoms. The metabolic effects are due to reduced activity of cytochrome oxidase causing inefficient cellular respiration and oxygen deprivation. The immune system can also be affected with scientific evidence showing stimulation of inflammatory responses by EMF.

With all this alarming information about harmful effects on our physiology why is nobody in industry or government paying any attention? It seems that everyone is enamored by the economic possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) where every device you own from your car to your appliances is in constant communication with the rest of the neighborhood network. Unfortunately, that is exactly the problem as even when you are not calling on your phone or when your smart meter is not being read, they are still sending out frequent damaging RF in intermittent bursts to check in with the nearest transmitter towers.

If you keep your cell phone in your pocket or worse yet, in your bra, you are being continually radiated in radiation sensitive areas all day long. If you live in an apartment complex where dozens of smart meters are stacked on one wall and you happen to have your bedroom on the other side of it that could explain why you are irritable and not sleeping well. You may have no choice but to move to another apartment, but you still may not be able to escape the reach of the IoT which is the driving force of the 5G agenda.

For people suffering from EHS the last resort is to move to an EMF quiet zone, the most famous being Green Bank, WV, where cell phone towers are banned to protect the nearby radio telescopes. These havens may also be in danger due to impending activation of 5G in space which began with the May 2019 launch of the first wave of 60 Starlink satellites by Space X and includes eventual plans for a total of 42,000 linked to 1 million antennae on the ground. The intention is to have cell reception even in the most remote jungles and mountain ranges.

So, since it seems that the proliferation of 5G is relentless, what can you do personally to protect yourself? Removing all wireless connections from your home, or at least turning them off when you go to sleep to allow your immune system time to recover, is a good place to start. Opting out of your wireless smart meter is also a good idea along with keeping your cell phone in airplane mode or at least off your body whenever possible. Finally, take action to prevent your local governments from installing 5G networks in the public schools by sending this automated letter to your mayor from RFK, Jr.’s Children’s Defense Fund. Children’s developing brains are at higher risk for wireless injury including chromosomal DNA damage.

Beyond that, there are EMF shielding materials and wiring strategies you can explore to create a sleep sanctuary in your house which we will be discussing in our February 2021 online course Staying Healthy in a 5G World: Heal Your Home, Heal Your Body. Sign up for 4 free 5G video classes and a link to the course.The four classes will address basic and clinical bioelectromagnetic science, EMF safety and mitigation, and functional medicine, and community activism. The faculty include Larry Burk, MD, CEHP, holistic radiologist, Andrew McAfee, MM, EMF safety consultant, Dagmar Ehling, LAc, MAc, DOM (NM), acupuncturist, and Debra Greene, PhD, energy health specialist. Now is the time to act before the 5G transmitters show up on your street!



Larry Burk, MD, CEHP

Holistic radiologist, Certified Energy Health Practitioner, author of Dreams that Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases