Viewpoint: Communities take on telecom giants to address health risks of ubiquitous WiFi

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Karen Rubin, Columnist

There has been an outpouring of opposition to 5G wireless technology matching the roll-out of antennas and towers. People are panicked, riled up and feeling powerless to stop the wave.

This extraordinary laissez-faire goes back to the 1996 Federal Communications Act that basically gave free rein to telecom and internet companies to spread their new technology – localities cannot stop them from building towers or antennas based on environmental or public health concerns, or insert financial obstacles like high licensing fees, royalties or PILOTs.

The technology has expanded and become ubiquitous – there is now a push toward the “Internet of Things” – linking up and automating self-driving cars, refrigerators that order food from the grocery, lights and locks that can be turned on and off from anywhere in the world.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that 5G antennas that make this expansion of wireless technology will emit radio-frequency microwave radiation 24/7, 365 days a year.

And unlike the risks posed by smoking cigarettes or driving without a seat belt, which are personal choices, these 5G towers will be virtually ubiquitous spewing non-ionized radiation.

You have no choice and won’t be able to get away from it. Even when you walk outside, you will still be bombarded, and, as Narayan Menon, CTO & EVP Engineering and founder of XCellAir noted during Blank Slate’s town hall on wireless technology, it can be multiplied by bouncing off buildings

But the authorities and guidelines on what is acceptable human exposure (and not just for a man, but for women, pregnant women, children, infants), that the telecom industry has been using have not been updated since 1996.

So much has changed since then. Indeed, people are exposed to quintillion times more radiation (that’s 18 zeros) today compared to 10 years ago.

In 1999, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institutes of Health, initiated a study on the biological impacts of wireless radiation, “to help clarify any potential health hazards including cancer risk, from exposure to cell phone radiation and to pave the way to better protection for public health.”

Some $30 million later, the study showed “clear evidence” that chronic exposure to wireless radiation is linked to increased risk of cancer and DNA damage.

But the findings have been suppressed. The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health Director, Jeffrey Shuren, whose wife is a partner in a law firm representing wireless companies, has downplayed the study’s findings, saying the study results did not apply to humans.

Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, stressed she is not advocating shutting down these new technologies that have changed society so much and are being embraced as a catalyst for economic progress.

What the activists are saying is: Make it safer, especially for vulnerable populations– pregnant women, children, people with compromised immune systems, implanted medical devices, electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

There has been the strongest outcry among parents, fearful of their children who are literally bombarded with RF radiation all day and all night long, to get schools to replace wireless with ethernet. (The documentary, “Screenagers’” examines the impact of screens and new tech on kids’ development, screenagersmovie.com.)

Indeed, you can’t introduce a toy or an electrical appliance without it going through safety standards, and there is a Technical Electronic Product Radiation Safety Standards Committee under the FDA, established under the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968, which regulates X-ray machines, medical devices and “ionizing” radiation (wifi is “non-ionizing radiation). Over time, that has meant safer machines.

But people can install a monitor in the crib next to a baby’s thin skull, pregnant women are not warned against keeping their cell phone or tablet on their belly and the impacts on how the fetus develops, men are not told about the damaging impacts keeping their cell phone in pants pockets can have on fertility, and there has been a huge increase in tumors of the gland under the ear where most people don’t heed Samsung’s warning to hold their cell phone at least a half-inch away from their head.

Right now, the telecom giants – now the biggest, most powerful companies in history – have no incentive whatsoever to invent new methods that are safer or using the infrastructure to connect to the Internet to be based on fiber-optics and ethernet rather than wireless technology.

And they are in a frantic race to build as much 5G infrastructure as fast as they can on the theory that once it is in place, there is little the government would be willing to do.

But even though the 1996 FCC law limits the ability of localities to refuse the construction of cell towers, putting up whatever legal or financial obstacle possible and letting the lawsuit play out can have great effect, for as Frank Clegg, former president of Microsoft Canada, who now is on a crusade to rein in wireless, noted any delay is deadly to the company, and with enough cases, the courts may even recognize the rights of the people and enforce the liabilities of the companies.

And, if the claim by companies is that their technology is safe, whatever lease agreements they sign should testify to that and require the company to be responsible to either modify or remove infrastructure if and when it is shown to be a health risk.

Companies should be liable for health risks, much as asbestos companies were, especially if the executives actually know about the dangers, like Big Tobacco.

Meanwhile, there are safety precautions that can be taken. Wood recommends “hard wiring” home, school and workplace (the old Ethernet system); turning off routers and cell phones at night or at least putting into airplane mode; don’t keep the phone or computer near breast, genitals or on stomach; instead of a blue tooth use the speaker setting or an “air tube” headset; avoid using cell phone in cars, trains, buses or elevators; avoid cordless or DECT phones especially where you sleep (see BabySafeProject.org; www.Grassrootsinfo.org).

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve worked in RF Safety for 20 years and have a wealth of info. Cities can implement safety requirements. Those are based on the 1996 guidelines, but most cities don’t realize they can even do this. They can require proof of RF compliance, require hazard assessments for each site, and require yearly reassessments. The cities also must provide training, or ensure training has been done, for any worker (city employee, electrician, utility, roofer: Basically anyone working at heights) that is around RF. With 5G transmitters are everywhere and therefore ANY worker working at heights is required to be trained and have personal protection monitors to be in compliance with OSHA. visit http://www.rsicorp.com for more info. I also have several white papers on RF safety.

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