Do you own a “Fifth Generation” – 5G – smartphone? They are promoted as the hippest, most essential tool of postmodern life. The Gartner Group, a market research firm, estimates that worldwide sales will be 489 million units in 2021. For North America, estimated 2021 sales are projected to be 158,618 units. One forecast estimated 2020 smartphone sales revenue in the U.S. at $75.5 billion.
For nearly a decade, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman of the Children’s Health Defense (CHD), and others have raised serious concerns about the health impacts of 5G technology. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the powerful telecommunications industry have dismissed the critics’ concerns, lumping anyone who raised questions about the technology’s health impact as part of “anti-vaxxer” movement.
“The American public has been poorly served by the FCC,” warned Kennedy. “The FCC’s guidelines are decades-old and are based on scientific assumptions that were proven false. Its failure and disregard of public health is evident in the growing and widespread conditions involving brain damage, learning disabilities, and a host of complex neurological syndromes.” He added: “The FCC has shown that its chief interest is protecting the telecom industry and maximizing its profits, and its position as put forward in its brief is simply indefensible.”
In 2013, the FCC opened an inquiry into 5G, requesting public comment as to whether it needed to review its 1996 health guidelines for Radio Frequency (RF) radiation emitted by wireless devices and infrastructure. Some 2,000 comments were submitted from a wide assortment of scientific, health and public interest organizations and individuals as well as municipal health departments (e.g., Boston and Philadelphia). In December 2019, the FCC ruled that there was no evidence that wireless technology causes harm, nor a need to review the guidelines.
However, things might be changing. On Monday, January 25th, attorneys for CHD and the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) presented oral arguments before the U.S. Courts of Appeals of the DC Circuit challenging the FCC’s support for the telecom industry’s long-term effort to impose 5G wireless technology on American consumers.
They were joined by David Carpenter, co-editor of the BioInitiative Report, and the Consumers for Safe Cell Phones. In addition, numerous groups submitted supporting documents, among them are the California Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics; U.S. Access Board, NIBS, the Department of Interior, U.S. Navy, the Military, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Toxicology Program (NTP); as well as appeals from leading expert scientists. In all, environmental, health and communications advocacy groups submitted 440 documents consisting of 11,000 pages.
The plaintiffs were represented by two attorneys. Scott McCullough, former Assistant Texas Attorney General, represented the Irregulators last year in its case against the FCC. EHD was represented by Edward B. Myers, who earlier represented the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and several Native American tribes when the court upheld the relevance of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in FCC proceedings. The plaintiffs arguing that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedures Act and NEPA for failing to comply with the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
The documents allege that 5G electronics are responsible in one way or another for a wide range of illnesses. They include a variety of cancers, non-cancer conditions and DNA damage; blood flow to the brain and damage to the blood-brain barrier, cognitive and memory problems; and effects on sleep, melatonin production and mitochondrial damage. Most startling, in December 2020, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) reported that the most likely cause of the symptoms suffered by the U.S. diplomats in Cuba and China was from RF (wireless) weapons.
At the January 25th hearing, U.S. Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins questioned whether the FCC properly cited two working groups under the Federal Drug Administration’s umbrella that are supposed to monitor the possibility of wireless harms. He pointed out that the FCC failed to explore how these bodies contributed to the record and to substantiate whether they exist at all. “I’m just going to be very upfront with why I’m inclined to rule against you,” Wilkins said.
Judge Patricia Millett went further, noting that the universe of connected devices has grown significantly over the last quarter-century. She pointed out that the FCC’s focus on “fixed devices” doesn’t addressed the potential harms of popular “mobile” devices that consumers constantly interact. “Is an iPad a fixed facility? Is a watch a fixed facility? Is a laptop a fixed facility?,” she asked. “The fixed facility stuff doesn’t feel responsive. I’m really curious about all these other devices.”
In 2019, three of the five FCC commissioners were Republican appointees and the chair, Ajit Pai, previously served as a lawyer for Verizon. Pres. Joe Biden has appointed incumbent FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chair. She has a long record supporting Net Neutrality and backing efforts to end the Digital Divide. A Democratic controlled commission may be more favorable to a critical consideration of 5G’s health impacts.
The challenge raised about the health impacts of 5G technology recall the legendary struggles that scientists and health activists faced in the battle over the role of cigarette smoking and lung cancer. While the link between cigarette smoking as a likely cause of cancer was acknowledged as early as the 1940s, it was not until 1999 that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a verdict against Philip Morris for the death of Mayola Williams from lung cancer. One can only hope that the case against 5G will not take that long to resolve.
This post was originally published on CounterPunch.org.