With global protests against 5G implementation scheduled for Jan. 25, some local residents are concerned about the alleged health impacts of the new technology as local governments pave the way for new towers in their communities.
In Encinitas, residents protested last fall when the City Council voted to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate designed to streamline the implementation of 5G and other new wireless technology. Under its 5G FAST Plan, the FCC wants the U.S. to be a world leader in 5G.
The current body of research has not established a definitive link between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or 5G specifically, and any particular illness or health condition. A 2018 study by Dr. Agostino Di Ciaula, from the division of internal medicine at Italy’s Hospital of Bisceglie, said there’s no conclusive evidence, but further investigation is warranted.
Opponents of the new technology have alleged it can cause everything from cancer to frequent headaches, nausea and dizziness and memory loss.
“Even if it’s unknown, these multibillion-dollar companies could do better with testing,” said Jelena Radmanovic, an Encinitas resident and mother of a 9-year-old boy in the Cardiff School District.
A campaign by grassroots group Stop 5G Encinitas has been asking the city for “common sense safety and regulation.” In response, the city adopted a requirement that 5G towers can’t be placed within 500 feet of a home, school or daycare center.
One of the group’s leaders, Chris Van Every, said they have “made some great progress.”
In making the case against 5G, Van Every cites academic research linking cell phone usage to cancer, as well as YouTube videos featuring Mark Steele, a conspiracy theorist who has said 5G is a cancer-causing weapon being used to depopulate the Earth, among many other unsubstantiated claims.
Encinitas City Attorney Leslie Devaney said there are no further changes to the ordinance scheduled for discussion.
So far, local school officials have not been part of the pushback against 5G.
“From research that I have seen so far there does not appear to be a consensus that 5G poses a new danger,” Robert Haley, superintendent of the San Dieguito Union High School District, said in an email.
Several school board members from the San Dieguito Union High School District, Encinitas Union School District and Cardiff School District said they have not discussed 5G publicly at their board meetings, with a few adding they were not aware of any cause for concern or wanted more information.
“I look forward to being provided more scientific, factual information regarding any and all health risks,” said Melisse Mossy, school board member for the San Dieguito Union High School District.
Ramesh Rao, director of the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, said 5G “doesn’t alarm me any more than the previous iterations of cellular.”
Contrary to common belief, he added, more towers can enable more restriction of emissions in a given area, since the more towers there are, the less radiation each one has to emit. The fewer there are, the more radiation each one has to blast to cover its designated area.
“It’s the same old bogeyman,” said John M. Eger, a San Diego State communication and public policy professor, former legal assistant to the chairman of the FCC and former director of the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy, referring to fears of cellular technology causing widespread harm to people.
He likened the 5G protests to previous outcries against 2G, 3G and 4G.
“I realize there are always competing studies,” he said. “Almost every conclusion somebody comes to that says there’s a risk has been disputed.”
The benefits of 5G range from faster internet speeds to advancements in autonomous vehicles and other new technology.
“These benefits don’t seem to be sufficient to outweigh people’s concerns,” Eger said.