Not so fast with wireless rollout!
A recent opinion piece in this newspaper touted the many advantages that advanced wireless technology might bring to Long Island.
While we agree that reliable cell service is important, the protection of the health and safety of Long Islanders is a much more important goal.
The potential impact of human exposure to radio-frequency or “RF” radiation, the kind emitted by microwave ovens, smartphones and cell towers, has been under scrutiny since World War II.
The original focus was on its thermal effects – at what levels could RF radiation actually burn human skin? As microwave ovens became popular in the 1960s, users were warned of the potential danger of accidental exposure.
Lately, scientists have been more focused on the potential for biological effects from RF radiation – the possible disruption of normal cell function, leading to various types of human health problems, including cancer.
In 2011, after looking at the growing body of scientific studies showing a significant risk, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic,” which means there is sufficient evidence of harm to be concerned.
Preliminary findings of a study by the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health released in 2016 showed a link between exposure to RF radiation and increased risk of both heart and brain tumors.
More recent laboratory studies have confirmed the potential negative impact of long-term exposure to typical levels of wireless radiation from both near-field exposures like cell phones and far-field exposures like the antennas that use RF radiation to transmit the signals to your phone.
A study to be released this week shows that far-field exposures are just as likely as near-field exposures to cause biological harm.
Which bring us to the current rapid deployment of “small cell” wireless transmitters in neighborhoods across Long Island. The issue here is proximity. Proximity is the factor that increases or decreases your risk from RF radiation. The closer you are, the more radiation you and your family will receive.
So it’s very troubling that at the same time the scientific community is raising caution flags about our increasing exposure to RF radiation, the telecom industry is busy installing its powerful radiation-emitting wireless transmitters on utility poles just outside our doors, or in our backyards.
This rollout of “next generation” 5G wireless technology is not required to improve cell phone service on Long Island as the author seems to claim. Nor is it required for our FirstNet public safety system.
It is not designed to bring broadband to underserved communities. It does not improve safety or security.
Industry insiders confide that its primary purpose is to allow giant telecoms to blast their signals into homes on Long Island to allow consumers to stream video.
The phone maker Ericsson estimates that by 2021, 95 percent of mobile data traffic will be used for streaming video.
There is a long list of behaviors and products that were once touted as “solutions” to various problems. Cigarettes were good for digestion. Asbestos was harmless and would protect you from fire.
Vioxx would ease the pain from arthritis, and hormone replacement therapy would alleviate the discomfort of menopause. Now we know better.
Is wireless radiation the next in this sad procession? We won’t know for years, but until we do, caution is the common sense approach to any massive increase in wireless deployment, on Long Island or anywhere else.
Associate Director of Grassroots Environmental Education