5G, the newest generation of cellular technology, is said to offer at least a tenfold improvement over its predecessor that will a drive wave of innovation ranging from new smartphones to what some say will be the next Industrial Revolution.
This new Industrial Revolution will affect every business and consumer by enabling devices to talk to each other and share information gathered through the use of embedded sensors, actuators and other devices that can collect or transmit information.
Think smart homes, smart cars and artificial intelligence.
But, according to some, this progress could have a very high price.
This progress includes radiofrequency radiation that they say can damage DNA and lead to cancers; cause oxidative damage that can cause premature aging; disrupt cell metabolism; and potentially lead to other diseases through the generation of stress proteins.
Frank Clegg, the former president of Microsoft Canada, grew emotional last Thursday when describing the threat posed from 5G at a community forum on wireless technology hosted by Blank Slate Media at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset.
“5G is not safe,” Clegg said. “I want to be able to tell my granddaughter I did everything I could to warn the public about the risks from wireless technology.”
Health concerns about 5G have driven resident opposition to the proposed installation of cell towers by ExteNet in villages across the Town of North Hempstead.
But the village governments are limited in how they can respond due to a ruling by the FCC on the installation of cell towers.
The ruling allows municipalities to have a say where in their communities the cell towers are located and what they look like but it does not permit them to bar cell towers based on health concerns.
Three villages – Lake Success, Plandome and Flower Hill – have responded by slow-walking the approval process with objections to where the cell towers are located and what they look like.
ExteNet has responded by suing the villages. The company claims, not without some justification, that village officials are concerned about the health risks and are using the location and look of the cell towers as an excuse.
ExteNet officials and wireless internet carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile for whose signals the cell towers are being built, all maintain that the health concerns are grossly overblown. And the benefits to consumers and businesses of 5G and other wireless services in this country are enormous.
Of course, the cigarette industry said the same thing about the impact of smoking for decades – even when officials knew better.
This is also not the first time there have been concerns about wireless services.
All cellphone networks work on radiowaves that produce radiofrequency radiation so concerns have existed for a long time about the use of cellphones, tablets, wireless phones and other devices that operate on the technology.
Patti Wood, the executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education and a columnist for Blank Slate Media, said the cumulative effect of all these devices in our lives even before the advent of 5G was a health danger at the community forum.
“There are tens of thousands of studies already, dating back to the 1940s, Russia and the military,“ Wood said.
Another panelist, Dr. Sanjivan Patel, chairman of the pediatrics department at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn and a resident of Manhasset, said he believed the science was less clear on the cumulative effect of radiofrequency waves on adults but believed it was very strong on children, infants and fetuses in their mother’s womb.
The issues with 5G are that they emit higher-energy radiation and because they operate at a higher frequency they travel a shorter distance. This then requires more cell nodes closer to the ground.
And because 5G can help drive so many devices in our homes, cars and workplaces the cumulative effect will rise – perhaps by a great deal.
Villages’ officials, faced with the legal fees of blocking or substantially slowing cell towers installation in North Hempstead, have expressed frustration with the cost of opposing cell tower installations and the lack of support at higher levels of government.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who kicked off a $500 million broadband program in 2015 to create high-speed internet access, announced a plan in his recently released state of the state message to fill gaps in cell coverage in the state.
“Reliable cellular service is critical in order to have access to information, public safety and economic growth,” the plan states.
The plans include several steps such as “batch-permitting” and “shot clocks” for applications on state land and areas lacking adequate cellular service.
Clegg called for local governments to do all they could to delay the construction of cell towers, saying large companies sometime abandon projects that prove costly to implement.
He also called for local governments to work together and residents to press government officials at all levels.
Wood also said residents need to educate themselves on how to minimize their exposure beginning with an examination of schools to determine the level of radiofrequency waves present.
She said there was no reason for Wi-Fi in schools – that the internet should be brought into classrooms with hard wires.
People, she said, should try to minimize the impact on their exposure the way people now respond to the rays of the sun – another form of radiofrequency radiation.
This includes holding your cellphone away from your head while speaking – as recommended by the phone’s manufacturer – discontinuing the use of things like earbuds and shutting devices in your home.
The state of New York should also investigate the health issues raised in studies and develop guidelines to mitigate if not eliminate the harm caused by internet wireless.
Which brings us back to cell towers. Unlike the devices we purchase and use in our homes and office, no choice is given with the radiofrequency radiation produced by cell nodes located outside our homes.
Wireless technology offers many attractive benefits. But those benefits apparently come with many risks as well.
State and local governments should be saying something more than buyer beware.