By the time everyone’s weird uncles started spouting out theories tying 5G tech to cancer and covid-19, people’s unfounded conspiracies about radio waves and radiation had already been making rounds across the country for decades. The term for this specific fear—radiophobia, literally the fear of radiation in all its forms—first boomed into the public consciousness in the early 1900’s, a few short years after physicians began using X-rays on their patients.
Back then, it made sense to be a bit wary of the machine your doctor was wheeling out. In the early days of this tech, factory workers charged with manufacturing X-ray tubes would end up with radiation burns so bad that in at least one case a worker’s hand needed to be amputated. Some of the patients exposed to these early devices, meanwhile, didn’t end up faring much better.
For whatever reason, these fears have persisted well into the modern era, despite federal agencies and medical authorities putting out endless studies showing that modern machines are, well, modern. In the century since this tech was first tested, we’ve created machines that blast patients with relatively low doses of radiation that are a hell of a lot safer than what people were using in 1903.