5G: Health Risks & Nimbyism

The anticipated 5G wave of new small cells is likely to kick off a new round of cellular 'Nimbyism' too.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

April 4, 2018

2 Min Read
5G: Health Risks & Nimbyism

Expect to see a lot more concern about RF exposure and 5G health risks in the coming years, now that the FCC has relaxed rules on small cell deployment and 5G radios are beginning to be rolled out.

This local news story cropped up in my feed this morning. It's a pretty typical story: local residents are worried about cellular equipment being deployed near their homes. Nothing you haven't heard before, right?

But the difference now is just how many tiny radio small cells are expected to be deployed on utility poles in residential areas. "Our quiet suburban neighborhood is being targeted for 16 cell towers to be installed within 20 feet of our homes," said Donna Baron, a resident of North Potomac, during a county council public hearing, WTOP reported. "North Potomac is being targeted for a total of 61 cell towers."

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The expected 100 meter to 200 meter coverage range of mobile millimeter wave 5G means that the industry is in fact expecting to deploy hundreds of thousands of small cells in the coming years, a task that has been made somewhat easier by the FCC relaxing the federal review rules on such deployments. (See FCC Trims Small Cell Reviews, AT&T Cheers and FCC Vote Could Cut 5G Small Cell Deployment Costs for US Operators.)

For local residents, however, this isn't likely to damp down "Not in my backyard" (NIMBY) worries or health concerns, particularly as several important elements of 5G -- multi-antenna arrays and millimeter wave -- use technology not previously seen in the public sphere as yet.

So, there's bound to be health concerns around 5G. Particularly with an expected multitude of small cells increasing people's potential exposure to RF waves. Meanwhile, some researchers are looking into any potential health risks with millimeter wave. (See Could the 5G Future Pose a Health Risk? .)

The American Cancer Society has a rundown of the studies on the potential for phones to cause cancer. "The RF waves given off by cell phones don't have enough energy to damage DNA directly or to heat body tissues, it said in a report last revised in February.

I doubt this is going to allay people's concerns about small cell proliferation and increased RF exposure though.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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