A 5G small cell can be attached to an existing tower or utility pole
like this one in San Rafael, pictured in 2014. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
On Feb 5, 2019, nearly 200 people showed up at a Marin County Board of Supervisors ('BOS') Workshop to implore the BOS to resist installation of extreme density 4G and 5G antennas on utility and light poles in residential areas for the next generation of wireless telecommunications technology.
Although a few speakers mentioned the unsightliness of the antennas, most focused on their knowledge of health hazards already caused by 24/7 Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) exposures from 2G, 3G and 4G wireless infrastructure antennas that are currently in place. Dozens of people spoke during a 3.5-hour workshop convened by the supervisors Tuesday to discuss direction to staff on possible amendments to the county’s regulations for wireless antenna siting.
Judy Schriebman of San Rafael
“I’ve been at a lot of public meetings. I have never been in a 100-percent-for-one-side public meeting in my entire life. This is unprecedented.”
Three people did speak in favor of the new technology at the meeting; however, all three were paid by wireless carriers to be there.
Supervisors made clear at the beginning of the workshop that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 preempts local governments from considering environmental effects for decisions regarding the placement, construction and modification of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs). Current FCC rules designed to further preempt local authority are being challenged in Court by the City of San Jose et al. in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Cities are asking for a stay of the FCC regulations, while the case proceeds in court.
The county, with other jurisdictions, has joined this legal challenge to the most recent FCC rules, which further limits local fees and aesthetic reviews, and sets accelerated timelines for approving new cell sites. The supervisors concluded the workshop by asking staff to look into setting some restrictions on locating antennas in residential areas. The recent FCC rules (FCC 18-111 and FCC 18-133) may be deemed to have no force or effect, which is the aim of a bill, HR.530, introduced by US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) on Jan 14, 2019.
Currently, 4G wireless technology transmits data on frequencies between 700 MHz and 2100 MHz. The new 5G, or fifth generation wireless technology, uses bandwidth aggregated across a range of frequencies from 600 MHz to 90,000 MHz, including higher-frequency millimeter waves (30,000 MHz and above). Millimeter waves support faster data speeds, but the waves travel don’t as far as typical 4G frequencies. Yet, when enough power is applied, Verizon has stated that its 28,000 MHz and 39,000 MHz Waves easily travel 2,000 to 3,000 feet from antenna to device.
In June, 2018, Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon stated:
We have now busted the myth that 5G has to be line-of-sight. It does not. We busted the myth that foliage will shut 5G down . . . that does not happen. And the 200 feet from a home? We are now designing the network for over 2,000 feet from transmitter to receiver.
Jason L., Verizon Field Engineer:
We're 3,000 feet away from our radio node . . . we're still getting 1,000 [Megabits per second] speeds..
This admission by Verizon in May, 2018 debunks the often-repeated idea that more transmitters will be needed and they will need to be located closer to users. Apparently, this is not true. According to Verizon, 5G technology will work fine when 5G antennas are collocated on existing macro towers that already have 2G, 3G and/or 4G antennas. Collocating 5G antennas like this would be the least intrusive way for Wireless carriers to close any alleged significant gaps in coverage.
Most importantly, placing antennas lower to the ground and closer to homes, schools, daycare, eldercare or medical facilities would create an access barrier to the homes and communities of people who are already experiencing an environmentally-induced illness, Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS). EMS is caused by 24/7 exposures to RF-EMR from cell tower antennas, so-called smart meters and ubiquitous Wi-Fi transmitters in workplaces, commercial and public buildings and spaces. EMS is a disabling characteristic, recognized by the Federal Access board since 2002. The Marin County and its cities are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make reasonable accommodations for EMS residents.
Several speakers Tuesday night said they have already suffered health effects due to RF-EMR exposure to wireless radiation in the current environment in Marin County.
“You don’t want to become me; you don’t want to become electromagnetically sensitive,” said Maggi Garloff, who proceeded to recite a long list of symptoms she attributes to exposure to radio waves.
The list included: headaches, difficulty sleeping, chronic fatigue, depression, shortness of breath, increased allergies, heart palpitations, nose bleeds, digestive and lower tract disorders, chronic pain, aching joints, muscle stiffness, dizziness, eye strain, dry skin, eczema, and rashes.
“I call this my litmus finger because when I go into really bad areas it starts tingling,” Garloff said.
Jess Lerner, who helped organize a group called 5G Free Marin, said she first noticed a wireless sensitivity when she was a graduate student at Brown University and her roommates installed a wireless router.
“In the years to come, with exposure increasing, it would become impossible to ignore,” Lerner said. She said her symptoms include headaches, a pounding and racing heart, shaking hands, feeling light-headed, general weakness, and insomnia.
Chandu Vyas of San Rafael said he discovered he was sensitive to wireless radiation after a smart meter was installed in his home.
“I suddenly developed terrible daily headaches,” Vyas said. “After many tests, my doctor found nothing wrong. Then I visited my family in India for a month and my headaches went away. When I came back home, my headaches also returned.”
It is well known that ionizing radiation emitted by sources such as X-ray machines boosts cancer risk by shredding molecules in the body. It has been assumed that the only effect produced by the non-ionizing radio-frequency radiation used by cellphones is the heating of tissue. That, apparently, is not the full story.
Tiffany Baer said, “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) RF-EMR exposure guidelines are only commercial guidelines that prevent burning of the skin, but the effects go much deeper than the skin.”
David Schonbrunn said, “While the science, back in the day, only explored the thermal effects of RF-EMR exposures, it has progressed since then. The established science shows that there are many biological effects at levels of wireless radiation that are far below that which would heat tissue.”
Rachel Gaunt said, “Numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown harmful effects from levels well below the current FCC limits. Replicated research has shown that low-level wireless radiation will promote cancer growth.”
Harry Lehmann of Novato said that a report issued by the National Toxicology Program in November 2018 confirmed findings that microwave radiation from cellular sources is carcinogenic and the mechanism of harm is non-thermal.
“This is no longer something that is even in rational dispute,” Lehmann said. “People who are saying this is not harmful have simply not looked at the scientific data.”
Referring to the research performed by the National Toxicology Program, which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a March 2018 article in Scientific American stated, “evidence advanced by the studies shows prolonged exposure to even very low levels of RF radiation . . . makes rats prone to a rare tumor called a schwannoma, which affects a type of neuron (or nerve cell) called a Schwann cell.”
Writing about this same study, the National Cancer Institute, stated, “These experimental findings raise new questions as to the potential for radio frequency radiation to result in cellular changes.”
None of the three industry representatives who spoke Tuesday addressed the health hazards of 24/7 exposures to RF-EMR. They only stressed that the transition to 5G is needed to accommodate increased demand for wireless service from customers.
“Most people have purchased smart phones and are increasingly relying on wireless devices for their home, residential and business uses,” said Matt Yergovich, a permitting specialist with AT&T.
Cris Villegos, a representative of Verizon Wireless, said cellphones are increasingly used to make calls.
“In order to ensure that these calls are made successfully we have to ensure that the network is operating at its full potential,” Villegos said. Villegos said 5G would also allow for the installation of smart chips in cars that will provide collision avoidance.
William Hammett, a Sonoma engineer who certifies that carriers are meeting FCC emission standards did not identify himself as an industry representative when speaking, but said after the meeting that he was paid by Verizon to attend.