• 11 NOV 22
    • 0

    How the FCC Shields Cellphone Companies From Safety Concerns

     The wireless industry is rolling out thousands of new transmitters amid a growing body of research that calls cellphone safety into question. Federal regulators say there’s nothing to worry about — even as they rely on standards established in 1996.

    Peter Elkind, ProPublica, Nov 10, 2022

     
    Excerpts from this major exposé of the FCC’s negligence and complicity with the telecom industry
     
    “Orsi and the Pittsfield board decided to try to do something about Verizon’s tower. They quickly discovered that they would get no help from federal regulators. The Federal Communications Commission, which has responsibility for protecting Americans from potential radiation hazards generated by wireless transmitters and cellphones, has repeatedly sided with the telecom industry in denying the possibility of virtually any human harm.”
     
    “But it was a signal of a growing fear — other cities have fought cell sites only to be forced to back down — and evidence of a striking shoulder-to-shoulder partnership between a federal agency and the industry it is supposed to regulate. The build-out of a new generation of wireless networks, known as 5G, is amping up the stakes of this conflict for localities across America. It will require an estimated 800,000 new base stations, including both towers and densely spaced “small cell” transmitters mounted on rooftops and street poles. That means nearly tripling the current number of transmitters, and many of them will be placed close to houses and apartments.”
     
    “The FCC is an improbable organization to serve the role of protecting humans. It specializes in technical issues that make the communications system function, not in health and safety. “At the FCC, they feel like this is really not their problem,” said Edwin Mantiply, who dealt with cellphone-radiation issues before retiring from the agency four years ago. “It’s not their job to do this kind of thing. They might have a token biologist or two, but that’s not their job.” The result, Mantiply said, was that in situations where the science isn’t black and white — and it isn’t when it comes to cellphones — the agency tended to listen to the telecom industry, which vehemently insists that cellphones are safe. “They don’t really want to deal with uncertainty,” Mantiply said of the FCC.”
     
    “In the view of Mantiply and a rising number of scientists, there’s more than enough evidence about cellphone risks to be concerned — and some of the strongest evidence comes from the federal government itself. In 2018, a massive, nearly-two-decade study by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, found “clear evidence” that cellphone radiation caused cancer in lab animals. “We’re really in the middle of a paradigm shift,” said Linda Birnbaum, who was director of the NTP until 2019. It’s no longer right to assume cellphones are safe, she said. “Protective policy is needed today. We really don’t need more science to know that we should be reducing exposures.”
     
    “The way the FCC went about reexamining its standards so dismayed a federal appeals court that, in 2021, it excoriated the agency for what it called a “cursory analysis.” The court accused it of “brushing off” evidence of potential harm and failing to explain its reasoning. The agency’s “silence,” the court said, left unclear whether the government even “considered any of the evidence in the record.” The appeals court ordered the agency to revisit the adequacy of its safeguards.”
     
    “It’s a slog at the moment to convince people this isn’t just crazy stuff,” said Louis Slesin, an MIT-trained environmental policy Ph.D. and the editor of Microwave News, an industry newsletter that has chronicled the wireless-radiation debate for four decades. “This is part of the organized campaign to devalue the science, with the government as a co-conspirator. The other really important factor is nobody wants to hear this because everybody loves the technology. If you shut down people’s phones, the country would come to a stop.”
     
    “Epidemiological studies show a rise in behavioral disorders among children whose mothers were heavy cellphone users while pregnant, while lab research found hyperactivity and reduced memory in mice exposed in the womb to cellphone radiation. “The evidence is really, really strong now that there is a causal relationship between cellphone radiation exposure and behavior issues in children,” said Dr. Hugh Taylor, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine and past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The period of fetal brain development is a “very vulnerable time,” he said.””
     
    “Both the FCC and Food and Drug Administration websites dismiss the existence of any special health risk to children. And the agencies don’t counsel people to limit their exposure. Instead they list safety steps, while insisting they’re really not necessary.”
     
    “By contrast, more than 20 foreign governments have adopted protective measures or recommended precautions.”
     
    “Meanwhile, the FCC doesn’t even consider “biological” impacts: the possibility that wireless exposure, even at levels well below the FCC limits, can cause an array of human health problems, as well as harm to animals and the environment. The FCC’s approach matches the industry’s long-standing position: that wireless radiation is simply too weak to cause any nonheating damage.”
     
    “Going forward, the FCC, which has no in-house health or medical expertise of its own, would increasingly rely on the FDA and industry-influenced technical organizations.”
     
    “The NTP findings, combined with similar results that year from the Ramazzini research institute in Italy and other studies, demanded a strong response, according to three long-time former government experts who spoke to ProPublica. “It should have been the game-changer,” added Moskowitz, the Berkeley public-health researcher.”
     
    “Today Birnbaum, who retired in 2019 after 40 years with government health agencies, is tempered in her assessment of the evidence. “Do I see a smoking gun? Not per se. But do I see smoke? Absolutely. There’s enough data now to say that things can happen.””
     
    “On his final day at the FCC in August 2018, as he was retiring after 42 years in government, Mantiply raised the issue with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during a brief courtesy visit. “Don’t dismiss all this stuff because you’re hearing from industry, and they’re dismissing it,” Mantiply told her. “There’s uncertainty, and we don’t know what’s going on. It’s a very, very difficult problem.” Rosenworcel, he said, listened politely. Fifteen months later, the FCC voted unanimously to shut down its review after six years. There was no need to change anything, the commissioners concluded…. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., disagreed…. “Ultimately,” the court wrote, “the Commission’s order remains bereft of any explanation as to why, in light of the studies in the record, its guidelines remain adequate.””
     
    “In its statement to ProPublica, the FCC said it is exploring “next steps” with its “federal partners.” However, the FDA, the FCC’s chief partner on health concerns, said in its own statement that it is not currently working with the FCC on any response to the court ruling. There’s been no visible sign of any preliminary FCC steps, according to four lawyers and representatives of the environmental groups that brought the court challenge.”
     
    “In November 2020, a bipartisan state commission in New Hampshire charged with investigating 5G issued a detailed report concluding that wireless radiation “poses a significant threat to human health and the environment.” Among its recommendations: that all new cell towers be at least 1,640 feet (500 meters) from any residence, school or business.”
     
    ““It’s very natural for the FCC to listen to the industry,” said Mantiply, the former agency staffer. “That’s their audience and who they deal with most of the time.” But, he added, “They’re answering to industry more than anything.””
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    Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
    Center for Family and Community Health
    School of Public Health
    University of California, Berkeley

    Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

    Website:          https://www.saferemr.com

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