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

DanJones 5/30/2018 | 2:50:45 PM
More 5G health concerns rising Not much evidence actually presented yet though!


Joe Stanganelli 4/26/2018 | 6:02:06 AM
Re: Fair concern @kq4ym: At the end of the day, health risks be damned, there's too much money at stake regardless of where the science goes here.

Cigarettes are one thing; they're a lifestyle item. Infrastructure doesn't run on cigarettes. And we still have 'em! Imagine, then, how hard -- nay, nigh impossible -- it would be, in the face of hypothetically conclusive evidence of "cellular = cancer", to eliminate cellular techhnologies from society. LOL.
Joe Stanganelli 4/26/2018 | 5:58:59 AM
Re: Fair concern @mendyk: I expect that demand for tinfoil hats has only increased since the recent, possibly accidental release of these government documents on remote mind control. (link)
mendyk 4/17/2018 | 1:53:44 PM
Re: Fair concern In the long run, we are all dead. -- J.M. Keynes
kq4ym 4/17/2018 | 12:50:49 PM
Re: Fair concern While the Anerican Caner Society prounounced " cell phones don't have enough energy to damage DNA directly," I'm not sure if they are claiming that for 5G radio waves which being much much shorter in wave length, can have a more damaging effect depending on the distance from the broadcasting antenna or antennas; the closer the more dangerous. And it's going to be a bit scary without long term studies on the effect on the environment and us.
Firefly LiFi 4/5/2018 | 5:13:55 PM
LiFi / Visible Light Communications bridges avoid RF issues Firefly LiFi, a new company formed by San Diego-based LightPointe Communications, Inc. and Teleconnect of Germany, is developing optical bridges for short-range backhaul and small cell applications which avoid RF radiation issues entirely.  Several other LiFi companies have recently been funded to do the same, for a market which is expected to be massive for LiFi technologies—touching many sectors from 5G small cell to transportation to mobile devices and lighting.

Unlike previous generation longer-range optical bridges which utilize more expensive laser technology, a new generation of affordable LED-based short-range wireless bridges will play a key role in small cell infrastructure, which is 'green' and safe, and ideal for such applications.  And unlike longer distance FSO laser technologies which can be interrupted by fog in some geographic locations at certain distances, this next generation of LED-based bridges will not have issues with weather, due to the inherently shorter distances of such deployments.

Such bridges will also be deployed for camera connectivity. And Firefly LiFi is already shipping indoor versions of this technology, which it demonstrated at the Global LiFi Congress in Paris in February 2018. Europe, in fact, has had major concerns with RF radiation and its health impact for years. And as this article mentions, this concern is becoming increasingly voiced here in the USA.

LiFi, utilizing visible light and infrared light transmitted via LEDs, will help address this concern. It's faster, safer/healthier, more secure, immune to RF congestion, and license-free, as compared to WiFi and RF wireless bridges.  And in some applications LiFi/VLC technology can be integrated into sources of lighting, thus killing two birds with one stone—safe and fast data transmission combined with efficient LED lighting.
mendyk 4/5/2018 | 10:57:19 AM
Re: Fair concern I sense an entrepreneurial opportunity for makers of stylish tinfoil hats and other protective garments.
Joe Stanganelli 4/4/2018 | 7:26:09 PM
Fair concern FWIW, a newly released NIH study reported on just last week does, in fact, link the type of radiation from cell phones to rare forms of cancer. ( See, e.g., scientificamerican.com/article/new-studies-link-cell-phone-radiation-with-cancer/ )

Of course, skepticism still pervades, but the science is hardly settled. Moreover, considering how close together small cells will have to be to support 5G bands, the concern that the NIMBYists share is a fair one.
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