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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/5/19

EMF Assault: Coming Soon to a Utility Pole Outside Your Home

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Telecommunications companies are planning to blanket towns throughout the U.S. with huge numbers of close-proximity "small" cell towers, in order to implement 5G, which stands for 5th generation wireless. When hearing this, it's very common for people to react by saying "Oh we already have 5G where I live, what's the big deal?" In most cases, the 5G they are thinking of is 5Ghz, the frequency which shows up on their internet connection. If a real 5G (5th generation) rollout has been started in your community, you quite likely are already painfully aware of what the big deal is, since you will be noticing large, ugly, radiation-emitting structures appearing on utility poles throughout residential areas.

The frequencies of these new antennas will be much, much stronger than the current 4G (4G operates at 6Ghz or less, while 5G begins at 24 Ghz and can go up to 100, or even300, Ghz). The new small cells, which are actually quite large, will be located everywhere that people live, work and play. Thousands of studies have found harm to health and the environment from wireless radiation (see ehtrust.org, and bioinitiative.org), and these dangerous effects can be anticipated to be magnified tremendously with 5G. An industry spokesperson admitted to Congress that there are no studies showing the safety of 5G radiation, and they do not plan to do any.

The term "small cells" may sound innocuous, but the reality is quite different. The wireless antennas will emit microwaves and basically function as cell towers. Each installation can have over 1000 antennas that are transmitting simultaneously and 24/7. 5G will not only utilize the wireless frequencies already in use, but also add higher frequency submillimeter and millimeter waves. As described by Joel Moskowitz of Berkeley's School of Public Health, writing in the Scientific American, over 250 scientists and medical doctors from around the world issued a declaration calling for an immediate moratorium on the rollout of 5G cell antennas, citing human health effects, and impacts to wildlife.

Peer reviewed, published science indicates that exposures to wireless radiation increases rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, male infertility, memory loss and Alzheimers. (See Sarah Benson's review of the studies click here). Of particular note is the $30-million dollar study, conducted by the National Toxicology Program of NIH, which found "clear evidence" of a link between wireless radiation from cell phones/wireless devices and cancer. The Ramazine Institute Study found that lab animals exposed to radiation from distant cell towers had a greater chance of developing heart tumors.

Contrary to popular belief, 5G will do nothing to bring high speed internet to underserved communities. For some, it will provide even faster download speeds and connect the Internet of Things, such as driverless cars. This radiation is devastating to various forms of wildlife, and will provide much more surveillance of our personal lives. Do we want to give up the beauty of the natural world, our children's health, our right to privacy--just to have the latest wireless gadget, or to have a driverless car? Because 5G is somewhat blocked by buildings, the quality of connections will not be great and the speeds will slow down when many people are using it. 5G even prevents accurate weather prediction, which is so essential in these days of increasingly devastating climate events.

At the federal level, the FCC is trying to strip communities of the right to have any oversight of these installations and no moratoriums are allowed. Hundreds of cities and government entities are suing the FCC to have this undemocratic FCC order overturned (San Jose et al vs. FCC)--a case which will be heard in 2020 in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals In the meantime, community activists are pressuring their local governments to pass protective ordinances insofar as the law permits. Cities can't ban 5G but they can require setbacks from residences, schools, facilities for the elderly, etc. Cities in California have more flexibility than those in some other states, because the attempt to completely override all local government control of small cells was defeated two years ago, when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB 649.

Although an FCC order tried to eliminate environmental reviews by NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) for the installations, a recent DC Court of Appeals decision, Keetoowah vs. FCC (with key intervenor briefs by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Ed Myers) struck down that part of the FCC order. Some citizen activists are now demanding that NEPA reviews be done for every 5G installation, as required by that court decision.

Generally the telecoms have never done meaningful NEPA reviews, simply lumping all small cells into the NEPA description of "categorical exemption," or in a few cases, Environmental Assessments are done. In all cases these so-called "reviews" have found that there is no significant environmental impact, ignoring the large number of studies which show extremely harmful impacts of wireless radiation on trees, birds, bees, and endangered species. ((See afetech.org/environmental-and-wildlife-effects/). As a side note, if these ubiquitous towers wipe out bees and other pollinators, they will also destroy most of our food supply, which depends on these insects. However by demanding NEPA (and in California also CEQA) reviews, activists are hoping that the rollout can be slowed down long enough for the cities' case to be heard in the 9th District Court of Appeals, since many legal observers anticipate that court decision will vacate the attempt to eliminate local control of 5G.

Studies show property values drop up to 20% on homes near cell towers. If the telecoms are successful, there will be several 5G installations on each block, because they claim that the cell towers have to be much closer to customers' homes, since 5G technology does not travel as far as 4G. In some localities, cities are attempting to ramp down neighborhood outrage by saying these hideous installations will be disguised by decorative facades. For the people most affected by close proximity cells--those who have severe reactions when exposed to high levels of wireless radiation--decorative facades are actually worse than having to look at these monstrosities. Once they are hidden, people will not be able to protect themselves or their children by trying to stay away from the small cells and the massive amount of radiation they emit.

Wireless antennas present major worker and public safety issues: Fire fighters are very familiar with the severe neurological damage caused by having cell towers on fire stations. They got stations exempted in two pieces of California legislation regarding placement of cell antennas (AB 57 and SB 649). If they're not safe for fire fighters, who are among the strongest and healthiest members of our society, how can they be safe for all the rest of us? Utility workers will be the most heavily impacted of all, and there are news reports that thousands of utility workers annually experience severe adverse health effects from exposure to high levels of cell tower radiation.

The heavy large equipment cabinets mounted on poles present extreme fire hazards. Cars run into utility poles, wind storms knock them down. Even before 5G, overloaded poles were the cause of a huge fire in Malibu in 2007. Even more terrifying, the cabinets have power back-up on the ground, large receptacles that contain propane or lithium batteries,which are well known fire hazards. Some cities in fire-prone California have figured out it would be a good idea to get rid of these ticking time bombs. and are eliminating the back up power boxes from the installations. Unfortunately, in most cities they will probably still be utilized.

To make this scenario even more 1984ish, many telecoms are placing smart meters on the small cell equipment to measure the power usage. Smart meters have a long established history of causing fires. To give just a few examples, the city of Portland had to remove 40,000 smart meters on people's houses due to fire hazards. In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, hundreds of thousands of smart meters were removed due to the risk of fire. A former employee of a California utility testified at a CPUC hearing in Santa Rosa in 2015 that he observed that when someone's electric service had been turned off and then was re-started, there was a power surge which sometimes resulted in a fire caused by the smart meter malfunction. When he brought this problem to his superiors' attention, they did the logical thing, and fired him. (This whistle-blower was also interviewed in the excellent documentary "Take Back Your Power.") For a very thorough analysis of why smart meters present such a huge fire risk, see this report summary click here

What can people do to oppose this onslaught against our human rights and democratic decision-making? One way is to share this information with your friends and neighbors, so they will keep the pressure on your local, state, and federal officials, to abolish the rules that prevent intelligent local oversight of telecom installations--which in the case of 5G would mean banning all close proximity cells. Get on the mailing list of groups like Environmental Health Trust, Stop Smart Meters, EMF Safety Network, and 5GCrisis, so you can be kept informed about new developments and organizing efforts that are happening around the country. The latter organization makes it easy to find a local stop5G group, or start your own.

Please lobby your representative in DC to support HB 530 (Eshoo) and S. 2012 (Feinstein), the bills that would overturn the FCC's regulations which deprive local governments the right to regulate 5G. You should also tell them to oppose HR 7236, which would severely limit the liability of telecoms for injuries caused by exposure to radiation from their equipment, as long as the equipment met the FCC's safety guidelines. These hopelessly outdated guidelines were established decades ago, before much of the scientific evidence of harm had been produced.

Above all, we need to re-think our ever increasing addiction and dependence on wireless gadgetry. Cell phones generally stop working in a local emergency, so we need corded landlines, preferably copper wired, to be able to get out safely. Even in non-emergencies, corded connections provide clearer communication, and you will have the added benefit of not running the risk of giving yourself or your family cancer. Many states, such as California, allow you to opt out of having wireless electricity and gas meters (aka "smart meters") for a small monthly fee. You should always insist on getting an purely mechanical analog meter as replacement, since those are the ones that do not emit harmful RF radiation (although in some cases the utilities try to give people who opt out analog meters that are very high in a different type of harmful radiation, LF, but that's too long a discussion for this article).

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Jenny Miller is a writer, activist, and freelance editor, living in California.

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