Why it matters: Claims that 5G can cause health ailments have been populating the internet for some time, gaining traction as Covid-19 spread across the world—some say the next-gen networks caused the virus. Studies have shown 5G does not negatively impact humans, so why do so many people believe the opposite?

Engadget looked into the phenomenon of unexplainable symptoms, which is called “Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance,” often known as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or environmental illness. It refers to a set of recurrent symptoms that can’t be attributed to diagnosed medical issues.

Professor Omer van den Bergh, a professor of Health Psychology at the University of Leuven in Belgium, said that people often blame these symptoms on environmental causes. It used to be that common items such as perfumes would be singled out as the problem, but in the modern world, the symptoms are attributed to electromagnetic radiation in the environment.

“Our whole society... seems to assume that if there is a physical symptom in our experience, there must be a physiological cause,” said Prof. Van den Bergh. People then become willing to believe any potential answer as they look to address their symptoms. “If you have, for example, activist groups or other groups that are also sharing a belief that it might be caused by, let’s say, electro-magnetic radiation, then you become selectively sensitive to that,” he added. “You start to perceive correlations between your symptoms and the sources of electromagnetic radiation.”

The belief that electromagnetic radiation causes health problems isn’t new. People have blamed everything from 3G to WiFi for causing unexplained illnesses, which has led to some individuals living ‘off-the-grid’. Fans of TV show Better Call Saul will remember Chuck McGill believing that he suffered from electromagnetic hypersensitivity—though his brother proved it was all in his mind.

Fear of 5G is becoming a serious issue and has led to phone masts in the UK being set on fire. Some social media sites have banned the promotion of the idea and YouTube has been removing videos. Others are profiting from the situation: a company is selling a $346 USB stick that uses “quantum technology” to protect from the effects of 5G, though it turned out to be a $6 thumb drive.

Back in March, a seven-year study by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) found there is no evidence that 5G mobile networks pose any threat to human health.

Prof. Van den Bergh believes those who experience symptoms shouldn’t be mocked or shouted at and emphasized that they really are suffering. Make sure to check out the full article on Engadget.

Image credit: BradleyStearn and Kevin J. Frost