As a scientifically impossible conspiracy theory linking the deployment of 5G radio antennas to the coronavirus pandemic refuses to go away, Sky News explains why it is nonsense.
According to the conspiracy theories the symptoms of COVID-19 are caused by electromagnetic radiation and not by a virus.
These claims have now been tied to dozens of attacks on telecommunications engineers and masts in the UK, even as information debunking such claims is widespread.
The conspiracy theorists say the coronavirus pandemic is an illness caused by exposure to radio emissions from the new 5G antennas – despite these antennas not being present in countries such as Iran, which has seen a deadly outbreak.
To support their claim, the theorists have pointed out that these antennas have continued to be deployed during the lockdown in the UK. They ask why network engineers aren’t staying at home like everyone else.
This is because mobile network engineers are considered key workers maintaining critical national infrastructure. With so many of us working from home, it is crucial that telecommunications networks are functioning.
Sky News found groups on Facebook calling for the harassment of these engineers and celebrating criminal damage to the masts, with one post claiming “we are being murdered by the world government” – a common trope in conspiracy theories – and stating it is “time to fight or die”.
In reality, the risks of electromagnetic radiation are known and understood by scientists, and so the power that telecommunications masts are able to broadcast at is tightly regulated.
Even though these protections are in place, some individuals have reported health problems which they claim are a result of being exposed to levels of radiation beneath these guideline figures.
As the World Health Organisation notes, studies on these individuals have consistently found they can’t actually detect electromagnetic radiation any more accurately than individuals who don’t claim to have a special sensitivity to it.
The WHO reports there are some indications these symptoms may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions, as well as stress reactions as a result of worrying about the health effects of exposure, rather than being exposed.
Even then, the way that 5G could harm the body (which it can’t) simply doesn’t match the symptoms which COVID-19 patients are experiencing.
How can electromagnetic radiation cause harm?
5G is using a new part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the portion from 22GHz to 86GHz – although much less than this is being used in the UK.
This radiation is incapable of breaking molecular bonds, knocking off electrons from atoms and causing the molecule to have an electric charge – which provoke the main health dangers associated with electromagnetic radiation.
The conspiracy theorists claim that 5G exposure leads to symptoms including nausea, hair loss, and bone marrow damage – as covered by Full Fact, the UK’s independent fact-checking charity – which doesn’t match-up with the symptoms of COVID-19.
These are, however, symptoms of radiation sickness, or acute radiation syndrome – almost exactly as would be described if someone performed a web search for “radiation sickness” rather than actually suffered from it.
Even so, radiation sickness cases are almost always tied to huge nuclear incidents, such as the atomic bombings in Japan or the Chernobyl disaster – with rare exceptions, such as the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The strain of the novel coronavirus, officially known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is believed to have emerged from a coronavirus in bats and crossed over to humans, potentially through an intermediate species, in late 2019.
Coronaviruses were named for the Latin word “corona”, the origin of the English word “crown” – this refers to the appearance of the infectious virus under an electron microscope, shows spike proteins emerging from the cell envelope and looks a bit like a crown.
These spike proteins are molecules on the outside of the virus which it uses to grab hold of and penetrate the outer walls of human cells. Scientists have described these proteins as strong evidence the virus evolved organically and was not created in a laboratory.
Two key features of the spike proteins have allowed the virus to be so deadly – and also explain why the virus, and not radiation sickness, is responsible for the harm it causes.
The first is what’s called the receptor-binding domain (RBD) which scientists describe as “a kind of grappling hook that grips on to host cells”, while the second is known as the cleavage site, “a molecular can opener that allows the virus to crack open and enter host cells”.
Once the virus is inside the host cell it can begin to replicate.
The viruses typically first enter the body through either the nose or throat – which is where symptoms such as a loss of smell and taste come from. If the immune system is unable to beat the virus back at this stage, it can then travel down the trachea and attack the lungs.
Because the lung’s alveoli are lined with receptors that these spike proteins are designed to latch on to, they are particularly susceptible to the virus.
But here the fight between the virus particles and the immune system becomes dangerous. White blood cells fight the infection by dumping molecules called chemokines, magnets for other immune system cells which kill anything infected by the virus.
So many dead cells are left behind that the alveoli quickly fill up with pus and fluid, causing pneumonia in patients.Sky News Tech✔@SkyNewsTech
X-ray images and CT scans of coronavirus patients reveal how their lungs are being ravaged by the virus and filled with this sticky mucus that prevents them from inhaling because there is no space for air.
This is how we know that the virus itself and not 5G radiation has led to 165,000 deaths worldwide.
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