Earth Matters: Small cells, big problems: the reality of 5G

The Island Now
Patti Wood

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the next generation of wireless technology, known as “5G.”

Wireless companies gush about how this new technology will revolutionize the way we live, work and play, and in neighborhoods across Long Island, crews are busy installing new “small cell” wireless antennas on telephone poles and lamp posts in anticipation of the big rollout.

But there’s another side to the 5G story, and it’s one everyone needs to know about. 

What is 5G, you might ask, and how is it different?  5G uses the existing 3G and 4G wireless network and adds a new layer of radiofrequency microwave radiation to transmit large amounts of data.

5G uses ultra-wide millimeter waves that are much faster and more powerful than existing networks, but they only travel relatively short distances. As a result, the rollout of 5G will require a vast new network of millions of new small cell antennas installed in close proximity to homes and apartments. 

And that’s where the problems begin. 

Researchers and cell phone companies have known for years that RF microwave radiation can cause serious health problems. A recent $30-million dollar study by the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health found “clear evidence” that long-term exposure to RF microwave radiation increased the risk of cancer. 

Another study released this year looked at the effects of exposure to radiation from cell towers. That study, conducted by the renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy, showed similar increased risks of cancer.  

A study from Yale University demonstrated that RF microwave radiation can interfere with normal brain development and function. These studies build on a large and growing body of published, peer-reviewed, independent (non industry-funded) studies showing biological harm from RF microwave radiation, including DNA strand breaks and increased oxidative stress.

For years, the wireless industry has sought to downplay the potential health effects of exposure to RF microwave radiation, using paid consultants to cast doubt on the research (and researchers) and promote the false narrative that there is no credible science linking exposure with health effects.  

Now we have proof of those links, and we need to be extremely careful about how we expose people to this type of radiation. 

The issue here is involuntary exposure.

While mobile phone users have the option to use a headset, a speakerphone, a car phone or not to use a cell phone at all if they choose, no such option exists for people who live in close proximity to a 5G wireless antenna.

The antenna will be emitting powerful microwave radiation 24/7, every day, week after week, year after year, whether the nearby residents use the service or not. There is no way to escape. 

So what are the benefits of 5G, and do they outweigh these risks?

According to the wireless industry, 5G will facilitate the Internet of Things, improve the accuracy of driverless cars, and allow users to download a feature-length movie in five seconds instead of twenty.

While it may be important to some people to have their refrigerator automatically order more milk from the store or to have a driverless car navigate its way to their home, it’s hard to argue that these things constitute a vital public service.

The fact is, 5G is not needed in residential areas for national security or public safety. It won’t help first-responders or close either the digital divide or the rural divide. 

What it will do is put certain vulnerable populations at higher risk for health problems, including unborn children and young children, those with implanted medical devices, the elderly, people with hypersensitivity to RF microwave radiation and anyone with a compromised immune system. In other words, a lot of people.

Adding to this bad news, it turns out there is little your local government can do to stop a wireless company from installing a 5G antenna in front of your house or in your backyard. Over the past 20 years, the industry has quietly put into place federal laws and regulations that severely limit what local governments can do. Only our elected federal officials can stop the industry-hyped race to roll out 5G. 

Citizen groups opposing the build-out of 5G small cell infrastructure are sprouting up wherever antennas are being installed, and many of them have joined together in a coalition called Americans for Responsible Technology. The organization has also established a website for political action,            

So, will we decide to listen to science and question the wisdom of deploying 5G antennas in residential neighborhoods?

Or will we decide that the profits of the telecom industry and the conveniences of a fully integrated internet life are worth more than our health? Stay tuned.

TAGGED: 5G, cell phones, internet
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