5G tower did not kill palm trees in Arizona

9 May 2024
What was claimed

An image shows a 5G tower inside a fake palm tree that has killed the real palm trees around it.

Our verdict

The tower visible in the image actually provided a 4G LTE service and the surrounding palms died due to lack of water after a particularly hot summer.

An image of a mobile tower disguised as a palm tree, surrounded by what looks like several dead real trees, has been accompanied by the caption “When you put a 5G tower inside a fake palm and it kills real palms around it.” The image has been shared on Facebook over 7,000 times.

A reverse image search shows the same image was previously debunked by fact checkers at AFP in 2021. Using other footage of the distinct trees and road, AFP confirmed that the photo was taken in Avondale, Arizona. A spokesperson for Avondale City Council confirmed to AFP that the cell tower disguised as a palm tree (sometimes known as a ‘monopalm’) was erected in 2019 and belonged to Verizon Wireless, a US telecommunications company. 

Avondale City Council said the three palm trees died as a result of not having received enough water during the summer, which was very hot, not because of the tower. A spokesperson for the council confirmed to Full Fact that this was still accurate. 

AFP also spoke to Verizon Wireless, who said the cell tower in the image was not a 5G site but an antenna providing a 4G LTE service.

5G is the next generation of wireless communications technology, following on from 4G. 5G is capable of providing faster speeds with higher capacity and faster response times than 4G. 

Full Fact has written several pieces about false claims that 5G can kill trees or cause health issues

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What is 5G?

Like 4G, 3G and 2G before it, 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves—a small part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum (which includes microwaves, visible light and X-rays). 

Fears that 5G may be harmful have been steadily building for years, and can be traced back to panics about earlier generations of mobile phone and wireless technology at the turn of the millennium. Conspiracy theories about 5G gained momentum during the Covid-19 pandemic

False claims that 5G from phones can negatively affect human health may stem from the fact that it can operate at a slightly higher frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum than the mobile technology that preceded it, although it’s still much closer to the previous technology than it is to potentially harmful, much higher frequency rays like X-ray and gamma rays.

Higher-frequency waves, like X-rays, gamma rays and some UV rays, are ionising, meaning they can damage DNA in human cells—which is why they may cause cancer at certain doses. But lower-frequency waves, like the radio waves coming from mobiles, are non-ionising radiation, meaning they don’t damage DNA inside cells. 

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which provides scientific advice and guidance on non-ionising radiation (like the radio waves of 5G), sets guidelines on safe levels of exposure. It says these guidelines “will provide a high level of protection for all people against substantiated adverse health effects from exposures to both short-and long-term, continuous and discontinuous radiofrequency [electric and magnetic fields]”.

The UK Health Security Agency says independent expert groups in the UK and abroad have examined the evidence and found that “health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below international guideline levels”.

Researchers at the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) also published a systematic review of the evidence on 5G networks and health in 2021 and concluded that there is no confirmed evidence that exposure levels below the ICNIRP guidelines are hazardous to human health.

The World Health Organisation convened a Task Group on Radiofrequency Fields and Health Risks to assess the available evidence on EMF radiation and health. It was expected to end in December 2023.  

We’ve seen no large scale, or replicated (meaning similar results have been found by other groups) scientific studies that suggest 5G kills trees or any research into the impact of 5G on trees in general. But a House of Commons library research briefing notes 5G masts placed near trees “will need to be taller than the surrounding trees to avoid interference with the signal”.

Image courtesy of Zz

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