Smartphones, and the wireless frequency that runs them, have revolutionized the way we live. But are they as safe as we are told? A federal court ruled that regulators must reconsider the nation’s wireless safety standard due to extensive evidence of harm.
Since 1996—back when cellphones were rare and brick-sized—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deemed that exposure to the non-ionizing radiation emitted from wireless devices caused no health issues.
Since then, our daily exposure to wireless radiation has increased considerably. And with 5G just around the corner, more of this invisible pulsed frequency is projected to saturate even more of our environment in the years to come.
Wireless devices generate the same radiation as a microwave oven. But both the wireless industry, and the agency that regulates them, say it’s the threshold of heat that makes microwave exposure dangerous. Since cellphones don’t emit radiation intense enough to cook you, they’re considered safe.
For years, regulators have held firm on this conclusion. In 2012, the Government Accountability Office urged the FCC to take another look. So, the agency opened a public inquiry for evidence of whether its wireless safety guidelines genuinely required an update. Over the course of six years, thousands of studies, personal stories of health problems related to wireless exposure, and comments from doctors, scientists, and medical organizations all sent the agency the same general message: sub-thermal microwave exposure can cause health problems.
At the end of 2019, the FCC wrote a report in response to the comments they received. Despite the evidence, the agency once again concluded that its previous standard was sufficient to ensure public safety, even with 5G.
“After reviewing the extensive record submitted in response to that inquiry, we find no appropriate basis for and thus decline to propose amendments to our existing limits at this time,” states the report. “We take our duty to protect the public from any potential harm due to RF exposure seriously.”
Soon after the report was published, a lawsuit was filed by the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and Children’s Health Defense (CHD). The goal was to force the agency to take another look.
And it worked. On Aug. 13, the court ordered the FCC “provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its guidelines adequately protect against harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation unrelated to cancer, in accordance with the opinion of the court filed herein this date.”
Getting the opportunity to sue a federal agency is rare, and the cases that make it usually don’t end with the changes that petitioners hope for. That’s why Scott McCollough, CHD’s lead attorney for the case against the FCC, called it “an historic win.”
“The FCC will have to re-open the proceeding and for the first time meaningfully and responsibly confront the vast amount of scientific and medical evidence showing that current guidelines do not adequately protect health and the environment,” McCullough said in a statement.
The evidence presented to the court consisted of 11,000 pages showing harm from 5G and other wireless equipment that most people carry with them, or are exposed to in their homes, schools, and workplaces every day.
Petitioners pointed to multiple studies and reports published after 1996 showing that wireless radiation at levels below the FCC’s current limits caused negative health effects, such as reproductive problems, and neurological problems that span from effects on memory to motor abilities. They also showed evidence of human sperm and DNA damage at low levels of RF radiation, and blood-brain barrier permeability with exposure.
Much of the evidence presented in court had previously been sent to the FCC in an attempt to convince the agency that there were flaws in its conclusions about microwave exposure and safety. Attorney Dafna Tachover, CHD’s director of 5G and Wireless Harms Project, says this judgment will force the FCC to recognize the immense suffering millions of people have already suffered due to outdated and unfounded safety standards.
“Finally, the truth is out. I am hopeful that following this decision, the FCC will do the right thing and halt any further deployment of 5G.”
Even with this win, wireless safety standards may still not change, but the FCC has to now explain why. The court concluded that regulators must address the evidence showing harm from sub-thermal microwave exposure.
“The FCC completely failed to acknowledge, let alone respond to, comments concerning the impact of RF radiation on the environment,” the judgment states. “The record contains substantive evidence of potential environmental harms.”