FCC responds to 5G health concerns as politicians push for more information

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been tasked with quelling concerns about the safety of 5G, as consumers across the country seem to be growing increasingly alarmed by speculation that 5G may pose a health threat.


A group of U.S. politicians have written the FCC in recent months asking for information on the safety of 5G small cell infrastructure on behalf of their constituents. Representatives Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Peter Defazio (D-OR) each sent letters to the FCC expressing concerns about possible negative health impacts of RF exposure due to 5G small cells.


“Small cell towers are being installed in residential neighborhoods in close proximity to houses throughout my district,” said Rep. Suozzi in his letter (PDF). “I have heard instances of these antennae being installed on light poles directly outside the window of a young child's bedroom. Rightly so, my constituents are worried that should this technology be proven hazardous in the future, the health of their families and value of their properties would be at serious risk.”


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The Congress members pointed out that the FCC’s own RF safety guidelines do not account for the higher frequency exposure possible with 5G small cell infrastructure.


“Current regulations governing radiofrequency (RF) safety were put in place in 1996 and have not yet been reassessed for newer generation technologies.” Rep. Kim said in his letter (PDF). “Despite the close proximity to sensitive areas where these high-band cells will be installed, little research has been conducted to examine 5G safety,” he said, adding that the FCC itself has admitted that its SAR guidelines need to be reassessed to address more recent wireless technologies.


Rep. Defazio noted that the Government Accountability Office made a similar assessment in 2012. “It is unacceptable that six years later the FCC still has not conducted a reassessment of its 1996 guidelines,” Defazio said in his letter (PDF).


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In a series of letters sent in response to the inquiries, Pai states that the FCC places a “high priority on the safety of wireless services and devices,” but doesn’t specifically address the outlined concerns.


“The FCC relies on the expertise of health and safety agencies and organizations with respect to appropriate levels of RF exposure,” Pai said. “Our current RF exposure limits incorporate recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and other federal health and safety agencies. And these limits are derived from exposure limits recommended by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Both these institutions have extensive experience and knowledge in RF-related issues and have spent a considerable amount of time evaluating published scientific studies that can inform appropriate exposure limits.”


Pai concluded each letter by offering to bring Congressional staff members to a testing facility in Columbia, Maryland in order to “see and speak with our engineers and technicians as they operate the RF testing equipment.”