The issues surrounding 5G data are still complicated, according to a panel of experts assembled by Blank Slate Media at a community forum held Jan. 16 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset.
Speakers on the panel included Frank Clegg, former president of Microsoft Canada; Narayan Menon, a founder of wireless technology company XCellAir and a computer science professor at Hofstra University; Dr. Sanjivan Patel, chairman of the department of pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn; and Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education and a columnist for Blank Slate Media.
The panel began by discussing the possible risks posed by radiation from small wireless devices. Clegg said a letter signed by 250 scientists in 40 different countries and sent to the World Health Organization and the United Nations stated concerns about “radiation of all kinds.”
“I’m not a scientist, I’m a math major, but I think I understand enough to understand the technology,” Clegg said. “And when we have experts who spend their careers researching this topic, raising the red flag and saying they’re concerned about it, then I get concerned as well.”
Possible health effects were also discussed, but Clegg said that the numbers weren’t in due to the breadth of the issue and innumerable variables.
“Nobody has any numbers, because it’s such a complicated discussion to have,” Clegg said. “Even for a carcinogen that we know, we still don’t know what dosage is going to be deadly.”
Clegg also mentioned that unlike smoking or other factors known to cause cancer, most radiation exposure is involuntary.
“If someone puts a cell tower in my neighborhood, or puts five routers in my child or grandchild’s classroom, I don’t have a choice,” Clegg said. “I think we’re getting to that stage of saying, if you can, wire your home and make it as radiation-free as you can. My concern is that people don’t really understand that.”
Concerning the 5G cell nodes causing issues with infrastructure company ExteNet Systems in the Lake Success, Flower Hill and Plandome areas, Wood acknowledged that the state of 5G technology had caused the cell tower boom.
“With 5G everyone knows that these cell towers that used to be along a golf course or on the highway are on your front doors, and now 5G, because of the technology, has to be integrated into neighborhoods,” Wood said. “They need to be close to the user and they need to be densely located.”
Wood also explained that inside the proposed small cells were antennae that put out radiation, and echoed Clegg’s point about involuntary exposure.
“You have no choice, and that’s why we’re having this discussion,” Wood said. “One of the reasons that the towns and villages that have said no to this and have not been sued is that they have said to the telecom companies, we want to be able to measure the output of that antenna without 24 hours notice to make sure it’s in the FCC legal limits.”
The panel agreed that among the best ways to prevent building of cell towers would be to reach out to elected officials.
During the audience question portion, Marla Peck, a member of the group Citizens for 5G Awareness, spoke of the health effects, and asked the panel what the residents could do when elected officials could not do anything.
Wood told Peck that while she felt she “could not give a satisfactory answer,” there were a few officials in Washington, D.C., who knew and understood the issue, and that U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) had held a hearing with the Federal Communications Commission and the CTIA, a trade organization representing the wireless technology industry, on the matter.
“He asked them, ‘how much money are you devoting or putting into the study of the health impacts of your technology?'” Wood said. “And they looked at each other and they said, ‘nothing.'”