A fiber internet company recently came through my neighborhood promising “blazing fast internet.” Before long, on the neighborhood Wifi you could see several network names with “5G” next to a second option of the same network name.
The “blazing fast internet” was covering our neighborhood Wifi with 5GHz.
So of course, I started to ask myself, is 5 GHz Wifi dangerous? 5 GHz Wifi poses health risks but not any more than (likely even less) the standard 2.4 GHz Wifi. Wifi is a significant source of radio frequency (RF) radiation, regardless of 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz. There’s nuance to the 5 GHz vs. 2.4 GHz radiation question, which we’ll dig in to in more detail.
We’ll review all that research in this article and explain the dangers of Wifi, why 5 GHz isn’t more dangerous than 2.4 GHz and how to protect yourself from Wifi generally.
But before we move on to those topics, let’s be clear about the difference between 5G and 5 GHz because they aren’t the same thing.
Even though your wifi options may say 5G, that’s not the same as 5G cellular.
Let’s get into the details now.
Is 5 GHz Wifi The Same as 5G Cellular?
No, 5 GHz Wifi and 5G cellular are not the same thing.
Although they both provide internet, they are separate topics and different technologies.
I’ve written an article on how to protect yourself from 5G cellular technology that you can read for more details.
So we’ll quickly review the differences here.
What is 5G?
5G is a cellular network.
The “G” in 5G stands for generation. So 5G is the 5th generation of wireless cellular network technology – coming after 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, etc.
Interestingly, 5G isn’t a complete break from 4G because 5G needs 4G to establish the initial connection, though less so these days.
At the end of the day 5G promises faster wireless speeds and is quickly becoming the standard cellular internet connection.
This article from PC Mag (6) does a nice job of explaining this cellular network technology if you’re interested in learning more.
5G is the next generation of cellular networks, but it has nothing to do with 5 GHz Wifi.
What is 5 GHz Wifi?
Wifi can run on two different bands of radiofrequency: 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz.
5 GHz Wifi went mainstream with 802.11n—now known as Wi-Fi 4—which was introduced back in 2009. Before that, Wifi was largely 2.4 GHz. (7)
2.4 GHz uses longer radio waves that travel further but provide slower connection speeds.
5 GHz uses shorter radio waves that travel shorter distances but faster connection speeds. It’s also pretty bad a penetrating walls, which is a key characteristic that we will return to later.
This quote from How To Geek provides good clarity on the differences:
There’s also much less congestion with 5 GHz. That means a more solid, reliable wireless connection, especially in dense areas with a lot of networks and devices. Traditional cordless telephones and wireless baby monitors also operate on 2.4 GHz. That means they only interfere with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi—not 5 GHz Wi-Fi.
In summary, 5 GHz is faster and provides a more reliable connection. It’s the newer technology, and it’s tempting to use 5 GHz all the time and write off 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi. But 5 GHz Wi-Fi’s shorter radio waves mean it can cover less distance and isn’t at good as penetrating through solid objects as 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi is. In other words, 2.4 GHz can cover a larger area and is better at getting through walls.
So even though your Wifi options (or your neighbors) may say “5G” that’s a misnomer. 5G is a cellular technology and 5 GHz is a radiofrequency for Wifi connection.
Now that we know the difference between 5G and 5 GHz, let’s get into the dangers of 5 GHz RF radiation.
Is 5 GHz Wifi Dangerous?
First, Is Wifi Dangerous?
The short answer is, yes it can be, particularly at close distances. Here are some articles I’ve written on Wifi safety:
- Safe Distance from a Wifi Router
- Safety of sleeping near a Wifi router
- Safety of a Wifi router near a baby crib
- How to Turn off Wifi
The theme you’ll quickly notice in all these articles (including this one) is distance matters. At close ranges and over a period of time, Wifi is dangerous, including 5 GHZ.
What makes it dangerous?
Wifi uses radio waves to transmit information, and these radio waves fall under a category of electromagnetic radiation called radio frequency (RF) radiation.
All types of EMFs, including radio frequency (RF) radiation, have been shown to have harmful health effects, especially in large doses for long periods of time.
I’ve added an EMF Research category on then top banner of this site that lists a lot of the research I reference when I write these articles.
One of the most famous (or infamous) is the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer study that said (1):
This volume evaluates possible carcinogenic hazards from exposures to static and extremely low frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic fields. It is the first of two IARC Monographs volumes on various kinds of non-ionizing radiation. Extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field exposures result from proximity to electric power transmission lines, household wiring, and electric appliances and are in addition to the exposure that results from the earth’s magnetic field. Overall, extremely low frequency magnetic fields were evaluated as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).
(emphasis is mine)
The organization Physicians for Safe Technology (2) is a treasure trove of scientific research on EMF research.
They have a category on their page “Wi-Fi Radiation Effects” that reviews the latest studies on the harmful effects of Wifi.
I highly recommend their site (linked below in the references) for beginners on these topics or if you want to learn more.
Studies have shown connection between exposure to EMF radiation like Wifi and health issues such as:
- Increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier (3)
- Interruption of hormonal and metabolic regulation
- DNA damage
- Increased brain glucose metabolism
Long-term exposure to Wifi has also been shown to cause issues like: (4)
- Brain Fog
- Chest Pain
Is 5 GHz Wifi More Dangerous Than 2.4 GHz?
The answer is, it depends.
It depends on distance.
In my article on the safe distance from a Wifi router I talked about the inverse square law. Which, to be honest, is somewhat complicated. Here’s the math formula:
The approximate power density function is given by the equation P*G/4Πr2, where P is the transmission power, G is the antenna gain, and 4Πr2denotes the surface area of a sphere.
In basic english this means as we double our distance from a source of radiation, we quarter our exposure to it.
Simply, moving away from the source of the RF producing object, like a router, significantly reduces the level of EMF we’re exposed to.
Further, 5 GHz does transmit data at faster speeds, however, it provides less coverage. It’s much worse at penetrating solid objects.
A 2.4 GHz connection travels farther at lower speeds, while 5 GHz frequencies provide faster speeds at shorter range.
The best thing you can do it test out the RF levels yourself.
If you have an EMF Meter like the TriField EMF meter, now’s the time to fire it up and test out your RF levels.
You want to isolate the effects of the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz RF radiation so start by disabling the 5G network. Then test out the RF levels around your router and maybe other areas where you spend a lot of time in your home.
Next, disable the 5G and enable only the 2.4 GHz network and run the same test.
What you’re likely to find is when you’re close to your router, the RF levels are high regardless.
However, 2.4 GHz, though lower internet speeds, will end up exposing you to more radiation because it’s capable of traveling further distances and penetrating walls. This exposes you to RF radiation for longer periods of time.
In other words, if your bedroom is upstairs where you sleep 8 hours a day, the 2.4 GHz is more likely to reach your body consistently (and that’s the key – amount of exposure) than 5 GHZ is.
So what are we to do about this?
How To Protect Yourself From Wifi Radiation (5 GHz and 2.4 GHz)
Whether 5G (GHz) or 2.4 GHz, the following options can help to protect you and your family from Wifi radiation.
1. Maintain Distance
We already discussed the inverse square law so I won’t go into detail but the easiest thing you can do is keep distance between your body and the RF radiation source.
It makes sense to use 5 GHz wifi when you are further from the router since the higher frequency doesn’t travel well through walls.
Hopefully obvious at this point but you shouldn’t have your router in your bedroom or near your children or a baby’s crib.
The further you are, the better.
2. Hardwire Internet When Possible
Another solution is to remove the router emitting the wifi all together.
Perhaps you have a two story house? No problem – check out my article on how to get wired internet upstairs.
Basically, you have three options: ethernet cables, a power line adapter or multimedia over coax (MoCA). But read the article – it walks you through step by step.
If your computer is downstairs, simply plug into your modem and run ethernet cables to your devices.
3. Get A Wifi Router Guard
A Wifi router guard is basically a faraday cage over your router. The cage is made of metal mesh and has the effect of reducing the amount of radiation coming from the router.
The router guard attenuates the RF radiation by about 90% but beware that it may slow your internet speeds down a bit.
You can pick one up from Amazon and check it out yourself with an EMF meter.
I have a full article reviewing these router guards for full details.
4. Turn Off Wifi
Simple solution to decrease your exposure to Wifi radiation: turn it off when you’re not using it!
Here’s another article on how to turn off your Wifi router but you can use a simple mechanical outlet timer from Amazon. Plug your router into this timer, plug the timer in the wall and program the time you normal hit the sack.
If you’re in bed by 10pm, turn it off then and set it to turn back on when you normally wake up and need the wifi again.
Added bonus – if you have teens in your house (as I’m about to), you can flip the wifi off on them to ensure they aren’t awake all night on the internet!
5. Get An EMF Meter
I demonstrated the importance of having an EMF meter on hand in this article. Generally, 5 GHz makes sense if you’re further away from your router on a normal basis but what if you’re close to it?
The only way to truly know whether 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz is more dangerous is to test it out for your specific setup and situation.
Maybe you’re more concerned about the nursery where your baby sleeps – test it out!
My top recommended EMF meter is the TriField TF2 that you can pick up from Amazon. It’s easy to use and measures RF radiation.
Conclusion – Is 5 GHz Safer Than 2.4 GHz Wifi?
As we’ve discussed, 5 GHz can be safer for most houses due to the fact that it is less capable of reaching far distances or penetrating walls.
However, it depends on your specific house, router placement, and what you’re optimizing for (again – do you have a nursery you’re trying to keep EMF free?).
Sitting right next to your router in an office? 2.4 GHz probably makes more sense since it’s a lower frequency RF radiation.
Since we’re all about educating you, just remember that 5G cell technology is not the same as 5 GHz wifi. These are separate topics with different technologies. This article speaks exclusively to 5 GHz wifi.
(1) World Health Organization – IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Non-ionizing Radiation, Part 1: Static and Extremely Low-frequency (ELF) Electric and Magnetic Fields. You can download the PDF for free
(2) Physicians for Safe Technology. Their advisory board is made up of M.D.s and Ph.D.s and they state their mission as “We are a group of physicians and health professionals whose mission is to provide trusted leadership in promoting, healthy and safe environments through the safer use of technology at home, in schools, in the workplace, in healthcare settings and in communities.”
(3) Nittby H, Brun A, Eberhardt J, Malmgren L, Persson BR, Salford LG. Increased blood-brain barrier permeability in mammalian brain 7 days after exposure to the radiation from a GSM-900 mobile phone. Pathophysiology. 2009 Aug;16(2-3):103-12
(4) Cell Phones, Cell Towers, and Wireless Safety – Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director Center for Family and Community Health School of Public Health, UC Berkeley
(5) Century Link – The difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi
(6) What is 5G? – PC Mag. Updated January 2022
(7) 5 GHz Wi-Fi Isn’t Always Better Than 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi – How to Geek
Bioinitiative 2012 – written and edited by a group of M.D.s, Ph.D.s, and other scientists, this report is a great downloadable resource. Here’s the table of contents. It covers topics like the inadequacy of the existing ICNIRP and IEEE C95.1 radiofrequency radiation standards to the effects of electromagnetic fields from wireless communication on the blood-brain barrier, a report from several doctors. This report is worth a bookmark to reference as needed since each section is a full report.
Kim JH, Lee JK, Kim HG, Kim KB, Kim HR. Possible Effects of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Field Exposure on Central Nerve System. Biomol Ther (Seoul). This is a 2019 academic article on many aspects of the effects of EMFs on our brains.
Pall ML. Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health. Environ Res. 2018. This is a 2018 academic article on the effects of the increased levels of Wifi all around us. This one is great because it references 23 controlled, scientific studies on the effect of Wifi.