Are Hazmat Suits Needed to Install 5G Cellphone Towers?

Blurry photographs of faraway objects rarely constitute credible evidence.

  • Published 16 May 2019
Stay Informed

The Daily Debunker brings you the top stories on Snopes.com.

Claim

People working with 5G equipment are required to use hazmat suits to protect themselves against radiation.

Rating

Support the fact checking and investigative journalism you rely on at Snopes.com.

Origin

The internet is awash with conspiracy theories that allege 5G cellphone networks pose health risks that world health officials are hiding from the general public. In support of that assertion, a meme suggested that the installation of a 5G cellphone tower requires those performing such installations to wear “hazmat radiation suits” to protect themselves:

Scientifically, this claim makes zero sense. While cell towers in general do use electromagnetic radiation (in this case radio waves) to transmit data, that form of radiation is non-ionizing — a classification of radiation that “includes visible light, heat, radar, microwaves, and radio waves” and “does not have sufficient energy to break molecular bonds or remove electrons from atoms,” according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As a result, as stated at Cancer.org, these forms of non-ionizing radiation do not directly damage the DNA inside cells, “which is how stronger (ionizing) types of radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light are thought to be able to cause cancer.”

Even if the cell tower pictured above emitted ionizing radiation for some reason, the worker’s suit would not protect against it. The worker appears to be wearing a Tyvek suit, which is designed to “protect against particulates and other contaminants.” Ionizing radiation is neither a particle nor a contaminant, and in point of fact, there is no hazmat suit capable of blocking ionizing radiation. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “[personal protective equipment] cannot protect against exposure from high energy, highly penetrating forms of ionizing radiation associated with most radiation emergencies.”

In short, the worker pictured here is wearing a suit that would not protect against the harm alleged to be caused by a 5G cellphone tower, and therefore the picture is of questionable utility in documenting the unfounded claim that such a tower secretly emits ionizing radiation.

As for the image itself, it appears to have originated with a 6 May 2019 post to the Instagram page “theorgonizedearth.” That page, which dabbles in pseudoscience and pushes an anti-vaccination narrative, provided no additional details about where and when the photograph was taken. Furthermore, the claim that the pictured person is wearing a hazmat suit seems to be based solely on what can be observed in the image.

In other words, this claim is based on an assumption of what the image shows. And while this image may appear at first glance to some as if it captures a person in a hazmat suit working on a 5G tower, blurry photographs of faraway objects rarely constitute credible evidence.

We haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly what is going on in this scene (internet commentators have hypothesized that this person is either spraying for bugs or painting, and is wearing a suit to protect against skin irritants and not radiation), but we have found videos and photographs of workers installing 5G equipment without being garbed in hazmat suits:

Not only did we find several other videos and photographs of technicians working with 5G equipment without hazmat suits, but our search for any similar media showing 5G workers with hazmat suits on came up empty-handed, with the exception of the questionable meme posted above.

We’ve reached out to CTIA, a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the U.S., and the National Association of Tower Eractors (NATE) as well as several wireless companies, and we will update this article when more information becomes available.