The program has been plagued with problems, which department officials initially tried to cover up.
While the meters did not contribute to erroneous bills sent to hundreds of customers over a year ago, auditors found new problems associated with the program. An untold number of customers – thousands, perhaps – received late bills from the city, resulting in multiple bills at once. That’s because of data entry errors and the way they are handled by a computer system and by department staff.
The audit finds that water department staff underestimated how complicated the project would be. There are still over 150,000 smart meters left to install.
As part of the case, in which an Encinitas property owner sued the city for refusing to release all written communications between the city and developers for a hotel project on Coast Highway 101, attorney Felix Tinkov deposed Todd Mierau, an associate planner for the city.
Mierau said he prints out copies of emails and their attachments that are worth saving and puts them in a physical file. He deletes everything else within a few weeks, where it’s lost to the public record forever.
“Emails are kind of irrelevant,” he said.
Tinkov asked him if he regularly cleans out his inbox every couple weeks.
“Purge it – yeah – physically … it’s not important to the record, essentially,” Mierau said.
He goes on to describe his subjective basis for distinguishing between emails worth saving and those that aren’t.
Kelly Aviles, an attorney who specializes in public record cases, said the state’s loose definition of what emails constitute a public record was intended to capture more records, not less. It hasn’t worked out that way.
“Having those arbitrary destruction policies creates an environment where people can delete things they just prefer the public not have,” she said. “And that’s not the law. It flies in the face of the whole policy.”
5G technology is coming like a freight train, and the telecom companies want you to buy in, but what if you found out that the way to faster mobile internet isn’t secure, reliable, or even safe? Three experts share their insight on the coming 5G disaster and show us how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the next big health crisis from corporate America since the smoking epidemic.
ORSAA has previously written to Channel 10 on the False comment by Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki (Dr Karl) on ‘The Project’ Risks Health of Australians and breaches the commercial television industry code of practice (Accuracy and Fairness (Section 3.3); see letter below. Project 10’s reply letter is also below for your interest. Within the letter the Project 10 regulatory officer pointed out Dr Karl was invited on the program to talk about his book. The EMR comment might have been done of subject topic but was done for a reason and was anything but a throw-away line. The ARPANSA (ICNIRP) thermal acute heating standard is not really applicale to the RF-EMR that we are all exposed to on a 24/7 daily basis, this is why other countries in the world have selected a more protective stab]ndards for their citizens. There is a reason why 26,000 scientist arount the world sign a petition to oppose 5G A balance view of the science is all we are calling for at ORSAA and that we take a precautionary approach when so much is now known about non-thermal effects of this radiation and its long-term effects on insect, birds and human life on this planet. We are being irradiated without permission and 5G takes this exposure to a new high. The ICNIRP standard is anything but a balance view of the evidence and is the product of a closed club of scientists who believe that thermal effects are the only health effects of consequence so concepts that we have for low dose ionising radiation exposure like “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) are completely absent.
Is Dr Karl just a showman who is prepared to distort the evidence to entertain and the facts don’t really matter?
On other subjects unfamiliar to me, one has to ask the question, “Is anything Dr Karl says factual?”
It would appear that trusted ‘experts’ are being used by vested interests to mislead the public. The ABC appears to be compromised on this issue of EMF research and health.
A much deeper problem in the selection of experts.
The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) as a source of information on 5G
As stated on their website:
The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) supports the accurate reporting of science in the media and has occupied this critical space at the front-line since 2005.
The not-for-profit Centre works with around 1,600 journalists and 5,000 scientists and has no agenda other than to support the accurate reporting of science in the media for the benefit of the Australian public.
As an independent service for journalists, we help media outlets cover some of the biggest stories in the news – from climate, energy and natural disasters to diet, health, technology and space.
It is emphasised here that the AusSMC is doing an impressive job of providing expert advice on a wide range of vital issues today and is providing an essential service with the ABC as a top foundation supporter. In this regard, it stands to reason that an ABC presenter, such as Dr. Karl, would rely on the scientific advice from the relevant expert at the AusSMC.
However, one issue of concern is the possibility of undue scientific advice bias if a financial supporter of the AusSMC is also an active supporter of an industry that is in question over possible hazards from its activities. The issue of possible financial bias was recognised by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors when they state (in part):
Financial relationships … are the most easily identifiable conflicts of interest and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself.
In relation to the source of Dr. Karl’s viewpoint over 5G technology, it is of concern that one of the supporters of the AusSMC is the telecommunications industry trade association, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) which is actively promoting the rollout of 5G in Australia.
For more on the possibility of inherent bias on the business model of Science Media Centres see
BERENIS – The Swiss expert group on electromagnetic fields and non-ionising radiation Newsletter Nr. 16 / April 2019
Summaries and assessments of selected studies
In the period from late April to early August 2018, 57 new publications have been identified, and eight of these were discussed in depth by BERENIS. Based on the selection criteria, three of these publications were selected as the most relevant ones. Their summaries and assessments are provided below.
1) Experimental animal and cell studies 50 Hz magnetic fields impair cognitive and motor abilities of honey bees (Shepherd et al. 2018)
In the study by Shepherd et al. (2018) honey bees were exposed to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) (50 Hz) with intensities of 20-100 μT and 1000-7000 μT. Comparable magnetic fields can be found at ground level below high voltage power lines or in the immediate vicinity of the conductor cables. Learning and memory were tested by means of the proboscis extension response of the bees with respect to glucose (olfactory learning). Short-term exposure of one minute showed a dose-dependent impairment of the learning behaviour. This impairment was still visible one hour after the exposure. In order to investigate the effect of the ELF-MF on the flight behaviour, changes in the wing beat frequency during tethered flight were measured. An intensity-dependent increase in the wing beat frequency was observed, however, the difference to the unexposed control bees was only statistically significant at the highest intensity (7000 μT). The effects of 100 μT magnetic fields on foraging were studied in a flight tunnel, showing that while the number of successful outgoing flights was reduced, flights returning to the hive were not affected. The results suggest that ELF-MF (50 Hz) emitted from power lines may be an environmental stressor for honey bees, with the potential to impact their cognitive and motor abilities, which could in turn affect pollination. The underlying mechanisms are unclear, although the magnetosensitive system of the bees could be involved. Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanisms of action, and to gain a better understanding of the observations made here.
Magnetoreception: on the influence of weak static magnetic fields on biological processes (Zwang et al. 2018)
The study by Zwang et al. (2018) investigates a possible concept of magnetoreception, the ability to perceive a magnetic field (MF). While it is widely accepted that some animal species such as migratory birds have the ability to detect the Earth’s weak magnetic field and use it for navigation, the underlying sensing mechanism and organ has remained largely speculative. Proposed mechanisms include iron-containing nanoparticles and magnetically sensitive biochemical processes that involve radical pairing (i.e. reactive molecules with unpaired electrons). With regard to the latter mechanism, the current scientific focus is on the photoreceptor cryptochrome (see BERENIS Newsletter Nr. 13 – March 2018), while the biochemical processes and its integration into the regulatory mechanisms of the cells are still unclear. The publication by Zwang et al. (2018) addresses exactly this question by studying the influence of weak static magnetic fields on an enzymatic reaction by a well-controlled cell-free system using purified biomolecules. They used a short piece of DNA with a specific damage (a chemical modification of pyrimidine DNA bases – thymine and cytosine) resulting from UV-C irradiation, which is coupled to a microchip with electrodes. In bacteria, such thymine dimers are repaired in a light dependent reaction by so-called photolyases,
BERENIS – The Swiss expert group
on electromagnetic fields and non-ionising radiation
Newsletter Nr. 16 / April 2019
which are related to the cryptochromes of higher organisms. Both of them are able to absorb blue
light and use the energy to transfer electrons from one molecule to another, involving the formation
of radical pairs. In the case of the photolyases, an electron is transferred to the reduced flavin
cofactor (FAD, flavin adenosine dinucleotide) then to the thymine dimer i in order to repair the
damage before returning to the flavin while reverting the damaged base. In elaborated control
experiments with their microchip, the authors showed that they can follow this repair process, and
that the efficiency of this process is influenced by weak static magnetic fields. They observed that a
0.6 gauss magnetic field (60 μT), thus only 1.5 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field at the
site of the experiment, already reduced the repair efficiency of the thymine dimers. Stronger
magnetic fields up to 30 gauss (3 mT) resulted in a further dose-dependent reduction of the reaction,
whereas fields with higher magnetic flux densities did not yield any stronger enhancement of the effect. Furthermore, it was investigated whether this DNA repair reaction and its sensitivity to MF exposure applies for the related cryptochromes that are thought to be not effective in the repair of the thymine dimers, since they hardly bind to the DNA. For this purpose, the authors shortened a plant cryptochrome down to the conserved region in the photolyases, and again they observed a
repair activity as well as an impact of the MF. Another interesting observation was that this reduction was not only dependent on the strength but also the direction of the MF, and that this reduction was effective only on the microchip where all DNA molecules are aligned but not when they were free floating in solution. Another important conclusion of the authors was that the magnetosensitive radical pairing is not located on the photolyase-flavin complex as hypothesised, but in the thymine dimer itself. In the last step of the repair process, two radicals form on the two dimerized bases. Returning the electron back to the flavin, this either lead to the separation and thus repair or to falling back to the original thymine dimer. The authors conclude that the magnetic field shifts this balance to the disadvantage of the thymine dimer repair.
In summary, this innovative study provides conceptual insight on how a magnetic compass of living organisms may function at the molecular and biochemical level. For the first time, the direct influence of weak magnetic fields on biologically relevant enzymatic processes could be shown, in which the radical pairing mechanisms play a role. However, the search for the magnetic sensor or the magnetosensitive biological process is not conclusively resolved. It seems rather unlikely that a biological compass is based on the relatively dangerous UV-C induced damage of the genetic material. In addition, the fixed molecular structures required for such a mechanism are not known. In respect to the role of cryptochromes of higher organisms as magnetoreceptor, there is still a lot of space for further experimental studies regarding the mode of operation and the influence of manmade electromagnetic fields.
Epidemiological studies Mobile phone radiation and adolescents’ memory performance in Switzerland (Foerster et al. 2018)
The study of Foerster et al. (2018) investigated the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF from wireless communication devices and memory performance in adolescents. The study follows up a report published by Schoeni et al. in 2015, with twice the sample size and more recent information on the absorption of RF-EMF in adolescents’ brains. Almost 700 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years participated in the study over a period of one year. The participants were recruited from 7th to 9th public school grades in urban and rural areas of Swiss-German speaking Switzerland. Figural and verbal memory performance was measured twice with a one-year follow-up period using standardised computer tests. In addition, with the consent of the parents and the adolescents, the
BERENIS – The Swiss expert group on electromagnetic fields and non-ionising radiation
Newsletter Nr. 16 / April 2019
analysis included objectively collected mobile phone usage data from the Swiss mobile service providers, covering the entire study period. Environmental RF-EMF exposure was individually modelled for the school and residence of the study participants. A subgroup of the adolescents also participated in a personal RF-EMF measurement study. Based on these usage and exposure data, the
cumulative RF-EMF dose from mobile phones and other wireless communication devices was calculated both for the brain and for the whole body. The study found that cumulative RF-EMF brain exposure from mobile phone use over one year may have a negative effect on the development of figural memory performance in adolescents, confirming prior results published in 2015. Figural memory is mainly located in the right brain hemisphere, and association with RF-EMF was more
pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head (80% of study participants). Verbal memory is mainly located in the left brain hemisphere. With regard to usage data from mobile service providers, adolescents using their mobile phone also on the left side of the head tended to show a negative effect on the development of their verbal memory. Other aspects of wireless communication use, such as sending text messages, playing games or browsing the internet
cause only marginal RF-EMF exposure to the brain and were not associated with the development of memory performance over one year. The dependence of the results on the laterality and the absence of associations in the negative exposure control variables texting, gaming and browsing the internet may suggest that RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations. Most of the cumulative brain dose was from own mobile phone calls, while the contribution of mobile phone base stations and Wi- Fi was low. This is the world’s first epidemiological study that has made dose calculations for the
adolescent brain, using objectively collected usage data from mobile service providers. The effects were relatively small and the underlying mechanism is unclear. An influence of other factors thus cannot be ruled out. For instance, the study results could have been affected by puberty, which affects both mobile phone use and the participant’s behaviour as well as cognitive abilities. A German / French summary of the complete HERMES study has recently been published in a Swiss periodical (Roser et al., 2018). In addition to the memory effects described here, the HERMES study
also investigated possible influences on behaviour, nonspecific symptoms and the ability to concentrate.
Foerster M, Thielens A, Joseph W, Eeftens M, Röösli M (2018): A Prospective Cohort Study of Adolescents’ Memory Performance and Individual Brain Dose of Microwave Radiation from Wireless Communication. Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Jul 23;126(7):077007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30044230 Roser K, Schoeni A, Foerster M, Röösli M (2018): Wie wirkt die Nutzung und die Strahlung von Mobiltelefonen auf Jugendliche? [Quels sont les effets de l’utilisation et du rayonnement des téléphones mobiles sur les jeunes?] Primary and Hospital Care – Allgemeine Innere Medizin, 2018:
18(21): 386–388. https://primary-hospital-care.ch/de/article/doi/phc-d.2018.01852/
Schoeni A, Roser K, Röösli M (2015): Memory performance, wireless communication and exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: a prospective cohort study in adolescents. Environ Int.
2015 Dec;85:343-51. Epub 2015 Oct 30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26474271
BERENIS – The Swiss expert group
on electromagnetic fields and non-ionising radiation
Newsletter Nr. 16 / April 2019
Shepherd S, Lima MAP, Oliveira EE, Sharkh SM, Jackson CW, Newland PL (2018): Extremely Low
Frequency Electromagnetic Fields impair the Cognitive and Motor Abilities of Honey Bees. Sci Rep.
2018 May 21;8(1):7932. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29785039
Zwang TJ, Tse ECM, Zhong D, Barton JK (2018): A Compass at Weak Magnetic Fields Using Thymine
Dimer Repair. ACS Cent Sci. 2018 Mar 28;4(3):405-412. Epub 2018 Mar 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29632887
Dr Stefan Dongus
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health
Environmental Exposures and Health Unit
Socinstr. 57, P.O. Box, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland
Tel: +41 61 284 8111
MPs claim 5G ‘electromagnetic radiation’ is carcinogenic and kills insects
We don’t have enough faces or palms
A GROUP OF ill-informed MPs have argued that 5G ‘electromagnetic radiation’ is carcinogenic, worse for the environment than aviation and could wipe out the world’s insect population.
The claims were made in a debate moved by Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi on Tuesday, where MPs discussed the risk of “health-related effects of electromagnetic fields” – a long-debunked urban myth – and 5G communications.
Antoniazzi cited Washington State University’s Dr Martin Phall who has described the 5G rollout as “absolutely insane“. Phall also claims that electromagnetic fields are responsible for autism and is a favourite of conspiracy theorist David Icke.
“The government are sweeping the health concerns under the carpet and there appears to be an absolute refusal to acknowledge that the health-related effects even exist,” claimed Antoniazzi.
“What shocked me was the number of people who have ES [electromagnetic sensitivity] but are too afraid to talk publicly about their illness, because they are really wary of being humiliated and ostracised.
“Electrosensitivity is the symptomatic sensitivity to electric or magnetic fields of any frequency, including radio frequency transmissions. The condition was first described in 1932. It is when a person’s physiology is affected by external electromagnetic fields, giving rise to a spectrum of symptoms, which are often neurological.
“It is therefore an illness caused by environmental agents – essentially, an environmental toxic pollutant.”
Symptoms, apparently, include headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleep, limb pain, stabbing pains, brain fog and impaired cognitive function, dizziness, tinnitus, nose bleeds and palpitations.
“I will not accept the response that electrosensitivity does not exist; studies show that it does. It has many effects that are not at all subjective, including effects on proteins and DNA, cell death, altered brain activity and effects in animals, as my honourable friends have mentioned. Those effects can be measured, and they cannot be dismissed as being all in the mind.”
Geraint Davies, MP for neighbouring Swansea West, added that “4G has the same carbon footprint as all of aviation, and 5G will be a lot more”.
He claimed that 5G would also have a “detrimental impact on insect life”, which is decreasing in number at a rate of 2.5 per cent a year. He suggested that “the precautionary principle” ought to be applied to the roll-out of 5G, which presumably means that it shouldn’t proceed, “even if all sorts of commercial threats are being made to the government behind closed doors”.
Belief in electromagnetic radiation even extends to the shadow front bench, with David Drew MP, the shadow minister for environment, food and rural affairs joining in: “I have met people who are incredibly affected by electromagnetic sensitivity – to the extent that, when they moved into their house, they had to have the smart meter taken out, and even asked their neighbour to take out theirs.
“Once that happened, their health dramatically improved. People say that electromagnetic sensitivity is all psychosomatic, but I have seen the evidence of people’s sensitivity to electromagnetic waves. If we ignore it, there will certainly be health and biological consequences, and there may be many more problems.”
He demanded that the government respond “to the growing evidence”, adding: “There is growing concern, and it needs to be recognised and answered.”
And the shadow minister for public health, Sharon Hodgson, added her not considerable scientific knowledge to the debate, too: “I had heard… that 5G can go through us, where other things go around us, so it cannot go through trees but it can go through humans. There is a lot more we need to know about the technology.”
Thankfully, or perhaps remarkably, in view of the expertise thus far demonstrated in the debate, the parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care, Seema Kennedy MP, was able to offer some actual science.
“People ask whether radio wave exposure levels are increasing and whether there could be health consequences, and I want to put on record right at the beginning that, very importantly, radio waves are non-ionising radiation.
“That means that the packets of energy that form the radiation are too small to break chemical bonds: the radiation cannot damage cells and cause cancer in the same way as ionising radiation,” said Kennedy, adding that a lot of research has already been done in the UK and around the world into the issue.
She also noted: “Health concerns about electromagnetic fields have been raised in relation to each successive wave of new communications services, from 2G to 3G and 4G mobile phone networks, and with WiFi, smart meters and now 5G.”
On a recent Saturday, the foes of 5G—and the world it would create—were out in force at Vintage House on First Street East. They had come to hear Dafna Tachover, the Israeli-born founder of We Are the Evidence, an international organization that publicizes the woes inflicted on humans by wireless radiation. It’s sometimes called “Micro Sickness” and “Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitivity.”
Tachover is one of many humans harmed by laptops and cellphones. More and more people say they have the same symptoms she has. They are in Sonoma and all over the world.
Ten years ago, soon after she bought a new laptop computer for her work, Tachover felt odd. She had heart palpitations, experienced what she calls ‘cognitive block in the brain” and felt tingly sensations in her hands and feet.
It wasn’t just the new laptop that caused the problems. All wireless devices made her feel that she wasn’t herself, and that something had taken over her mind and her body.
Tachover moved away from New York where she had been living and working as a lawyer. For two years, her home was her own car; it was the only environment in which she felt anywhere near her normal self.
“Flying was a nightmare,” she says. “Airports were the worst.” To escape from wireless devices and from radiation, she lived in the Catskill Mountains in New York State, and later in a tent in Green Bank, West Virginia, a town that has no cell towers and where people who suffer from “micro sickness” go to get healthy.
These days, Tachover has no fixed abode; some of her friends and fans call her “a Wandering Jew.” Over the last few months she has wandered across California and brought her message to receptive audiences.
Born in Israel in 1972, and descended from Iraqi Jews on her mother’s side of the family and European Jews on her father’s side, Tachover served in the Israeli military from 1990 to 1993. As a lieutenant, she managed the computer center for the Israeli Defense Forces. “I don’t remember anything I did there,” she says. “I erased it all from my memory.” That’s probably for the best.
In 1998, she became an Israeli lawyer, and the following year she brought legal action against the Ministry of Education to ban all use of WIFI in schools in Israel. “I wanted to save the children,” she says. “My duty was to protect them.” Though she submitted affidavits from school kids who said that WIFI made them sick, the court ruled against her. Yedioth Aheonoth, a daily newspaper published in Tel Aviv, called her “A Radiation Victim,” a title she has rejected, though she explains that she is a victim of government and industry lies about wireless communication.
Before a lively audience at Vintage House, Tachover offered mostly bad news. “We are going into a world I don’t want to be part of,” she says. “The future looks like a very bad place.”
Tachover doesn’t expect people to throw away all their devices and she doesn’t only offer bad news. “You don’t have to give up your phone,” she explained. Still, she urges everyone to turn off cellphones as much as possible, op out from so-called “smart meters,” get rid of Blue Tooth, and disable WIFI when not in use.
“Keep your house as free from these devices as you can,” she says. “And keep up the fight against 5G which will increase exposure to radiation.” Sometimes faster isn’t better. Sometimes more information delivered in fewer seconds than ever before isn’t real progress.
5G, the next generation of cellular technology for the next generation of smartphones, is imminent. And with it, there’s concern about the health risk of this new, more powerful network. How worried should you be about the coming 5G healthpocalypse?
By now, you may have seen articles on Facebook or alternative health websites. The gist: 5G is a dangerous escalation of traditional cellular technology, one packed with higher energy radiation that delivers potential damaging effects on human beings. Some 5G pundits contend that the new network generates radiofrequency radiation that can damage DNA and lead to cancer; cause oxidative damage that can cause premature aging; disrupt cell metabolism; and potentially lead to other diseases through the generation of stress proteins. Some articles cite research studies and opinions by reputable organizations like the World Health Organization.
It sounds worrisome, but let’s take a look at the actual science.
What Is 5G?
5G has been hyped for a few years, but this is the year that carriers begin the process of rolling out the new wireless standard. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have all started to deploy their networks in the first half of the year, though widespread availability is still a year or more away. 5G will get a foothold in little more than a handful of cities this year.
That isn’t keeping device manufacturers and service providers from jumping onto the 5G bandwagon. Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Fold (the phone that unfurls into a tablet), for example, are both 5G-ready, along with models from LG, Huawei, Motorola, ZTE, and more.
5G offers at least a tenfold improvement in network performance. The last major network upgrade was 4G, which debuted in 2009 (the year of the Colorado balloon boy hoax), with a peak speed of about 10 Mbps. In comparison, 5G is poised to deliver peak speeds between 10 and 20 Gbps. And network latency will drop from 30ms to about 1ms, ideal for video game streaming, online video, and the Internet of Things, which is anticipating 5G to connect sensors, computers, and other devices with ultra-low latency.
Before we address 5G, it’s worth pointing out that the latest health fears about radiation aren’t happening in a vacuum (there’s some physics joke in there, no doubt). Concerns about 5G are the latest iteration of decades of headlines about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. We’ve seen controversies about everything from the health risks of Wi-Fi to smart meters.
Likewise, decades of studies have found no link between cell phones and cancers like brain tumors, though that hasn’t kept municipalities like San Francisco from passing laws requiring stores to display the radiation emitted by handsets—which implies, in the minds of consumers, risk.
How Dangerous Is Radiofrequency Radiation?
At the root of all concerns about cell phone networks is radiofrequency radiation (RFR). RFR is anything emitted in the electromagnetic spectrum, from microwaves to x-rays to radio waves to light from your monitor or light from the sun. Clearly, RFR isn’t inherently dangerous, so the problem becomes discovering under what circumstances it might be.
Scientists say that the most important criterion about whether any particular RFR is dangerous is whether it falls into the category of ionizing or non-ionizing radiation. Simply put, any radiation that’s non-ionizing is too weak to break chemical bonds. That includes ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, and everything with a lower frequency, like radio waves. Everyday technologies like power lines, FM radio, and Wi-Fi also fall into this range. (Microwaves are the lone exception: non-ionizing but able to damage tissue, they’re precisely and intentionally tuned to resonate with water molecules.) Frequencies above UV, like x-rays and gamma rays, are ionizing.
Dr. Steve Novella, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale and the editor of Science-Based Medicine, understands that people generally get concerned about radiation. “Using the term radiation is misleading because people think of nuclear weapons—they think of ionizing radiation that absolutely can cause damage. It can kill cells. It can cause DNA mutations.” But since non-ionizing radiation doesn’t cause DNA damage or tissue damage, Novella says that most concern about cell phone RFR is misplaced. “There’s no known mechanism for most forms of non-ionizing radiation to even have a biological effect,” he says.
Of course, just because there’s no known mechanism for non-ionizing radiation to have a biological effect, that doesn’t’ mean it’s safe or that no effect exists. Indeed, researchers continue to conduct studies. One recent study was released by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an agency run by the Department of Health and Human Services. In this widely quoted study about cell phone radio frequency radiation, scientists found that high exposure to 3G RFR led to some cases of cancerous heart tumors, brain tumors, and tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats.
The study is a good object lesson in how hard it is to do science like this. As RealClearScience points out, the number of tumors detected were so small that they statistically could have occurred by chance (which may be more likely since they were only detected in male subjects). Moreover, the level and duration of the RFR exposure were well in excess of what any actual human would ever be exposed to, and in fact, the irradiated test rats lived longer than the unexposed control rats. Says Dr. Novella, “Experienced researchers look at a study like that and say that doesn’t really tell us anything.”
Sizing Up 5G’s Risks
Ongoing studies aside, 5G is coming, and as mentioned, there are concerns about this new technology.
A common complaint about 5G is that, due to the lower power of 5G transmitters, there will be more of them. The Environmental Health Trust contends that “5G will require the buildout of literally hundreds of thousands of new wireless antennas in neighborhoods, cities, and towns. A cellular small cell or another transmitter will be placed every two to ten homes according to estimates.”
Says Dr. Novella, “What they’re really saying is the dose is going to be higher. Theoretically, this is a reasonable question to ask.” But skeptics caution you shouldn’t conflate asking the question with merely asserting that there’s a risk. As Novella points out, “We’re still talking about power and frequency less than light. You go out in the sun, and you’re bathed in electromagnetic radiation that’s far greater than these 5G cell towers.”
It’s easy to find claims online that the greater frequency of 5G alone constitutes a risk. RadiationHealthRisks.com observes that “1G, 2G, 3G and 4G use between 1 to 5 gigahertz frequency. 5G uses between 24 to 90 gigahertz frequency,” and then asserts that “Within the RF Radiation portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, the higher the frequency, the more dangerous it is to living organisms.”
But asserting that the higher frequency is more dangerous is just that—an assertion, and there’s little real science to stand behind it. 5G remains non-ionizing in nature.
The FCC—responsible for licensing the spectrum for public use—weighs in as well. Says Neil Derek Grace, a communications officer at the FCC, “For 5G equipment, the signals from commercial wireless transmitters are typically far below the RF exposure limits at any location that is accessible to the public.” The FCC defers to the FDA for actual health risk assessments, which takes a direct, but low-key approach to addressing the risks: “The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”
In 2011, the World Health Organization weighed in, classifying RF Radiation as a Group 2B agent, which is defined as “Possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This, too, is nuanced. Says Novella, “you have to look at all the other things they classify as a possible carcinogen. They put it in the same class as things like caffeine. That is such a weak standard that it basically means nothing. It’s like saying ‘everything causes cancer.’”
Part of the problem with the WHO declaration is that it’s focused on hazard, not risk—a subtle distinction often lost on non-scientists, not unlike the rigorous distinction between “precision” and “accuracy.” (Precision refers to how tightly clustered your data is; accuracy refers to how close that data is to the real value. You might have a dozen miscalibrated thermometers that all tell you the wrong temperature with a very high degree of precision.) When the WHO classifies coffee or nickel or pickles as a possible carcinogen, it’s asserting hazard without regard for real-world risk. Explains Novella, “A loaded pistol is a hazard because theoretically, it can cause damage. But if you lock it in a safe, the risk is negligible.”
Scientists will continue to test new networks as technology evolves, to make sure the technology we use every day remains safe. As recently as February, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal critiqued the FCC and FDA for insufficient research into the potential risks of 5G. As the NTP study shows, research into radiation risks is difficult and often inconclusive, meaning it can take a long time to make real progress.
But for now, everything we know about 5G networks tells us that there’s no reason to be alarmed. After all, there are many technologies we use every day with a substantially higher measurable risk. And as Dr. Novella says, “With 5G the hazard is low—but non-zero—and the actual risk appears to be zero. We’ve picked up no signal in the real world.”