Lawsuit Challenges FCC Wireless Safety Standards

Groups claim robust science ignored due to close ties between regulator and industry
August 20, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2020

Wireless technology has become an essential part of our world. But what if this modern necessity is also harming our health?

That’s the claim in a suit filed against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The case was submitted in February, but two nonprofits—Children’s Health Defense (CHD) and Environmental Health Trust (EHT)—jointly filed their opening brief on July 29 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The case challenges the FCC to reconsider its wireless health and safety guidelines that have been in place since 1996.

When the rules were first written, cellular phones were simple, brick-sized units, and relatively rare. Today, they’ve morphed into slim, multipurpose devices, kept in our pockets, that are virtually indispensable to nearly everyone. But as wireless use has increased, so has our exposure to the non-ionizing radiation used to carry the data over the airwaves—known as radiofrequency (RF) or microwave radiation. The case alleges that the FCC ignores clear evidence of harm to people and the environment from this ubiquitous technology.

For more than 25 years, regulators have assured the public that FCC safety standards are still effective enough to meet a modern world bathed in a wireless field. They are also confident that even 5G—another, higher-frequency layer of RF radiation with hundreds of thousands of new broadcasting cells installed in close proximity to where people live and work—poses no threat to our well-being.

The brief, however, points to evidence of harm at so-called safe levels. Some petitioners attached to the case claim that normal, everyday exposure to wireless has made them so sick that they are forced to retreat from the modern world just to survive.

Heat Hypothesis

In a July 30 press conference for the case, CHD Chairman Robert F. Kennedy explained that the federal standard designating safe levels of microwave radiation exposure—the Telecommunications Act of 1996—states that safety is merely an issue of temperature. Basically, as long as exposure is not enough to create heat, as in a microwave oven, the body suffers no harm. But the case against the FCC urges the agency to take a closer look at the evidence to the contrary.

“We know now, from thousands and thousands of peer-reviewed published studies, that microwave radiation injures the human body and human cells at a tiny fraction of what it takes to raise the temperature of your body,” Kennedy said. “It shows a grim inventory of injuries connected to Wi-Fi, including oxidative stress, sperm and testicular damage, cell damage, DNA damage, and neuropsychiatric damage. The neuropsychiatric damage can be so powerful that it can be read almost immediately on EEGs in children, and those effects do not disappear after you withdraw the radiation.”

But regulators say these studies fall short. After years of collecting public commentary regarding concerns of harm from wireless technology, the FCC declared that there was nothing substantive enough to change their guidelines. In an over-100-page report from Dec. 19, 2019, the Commission stated that their old standard was sufficient to ensure public safety.

“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,” the FCC report states. “We take our duty to protect the public from any potential harm due to RF exposure seriously.”

But Dr. David O. Carpenter, director of the U.S. Institute for Health and the Environment and a petitioner in the CHD case, says the heat hypothesis that regulators rely on to determine safety doesn’t come from doctors.

“They derived their information from the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers, (IEEE), and agencies dominated by electrical engineers and physicists, not the kind of people you want to go to if you have a heart attack,” Carpenter said. “And yet, these are the people that the FCC take their information from in setting standards that are supposed to be protective of human health.”

Carpenter has been warning about the damage wireless poses to public health for several years. He’s co-editor of the Bio-Initiative Report—a document compiled by 29 independent scientists and health experts from around the world detailing evidence of harm from wireless radiation.

The Bio-Initiative Report was first published in 2012, but stronger studies have come out since then—notably, a $30 million study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP). With support from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the NTP study was designed to be the final word on whether or not wireless causes health problems. The study exposed rodents to a lifetime of cellphone radiation showing that wireless exposure clearly causes cancer, DNA damage, and disrupts the endocrine system.

Another large and important study from Italy’s Ramazzini Institute reported similar conclusions. It looked at animal exposure at much lower RF intensities—well below FCC’s safety limits—and still showed clear evidence of cancer.

Such evidence has driven scientists around the world to push the World Health Organization (WHO) to reconsider their evaluation of the health risks related to wireless. In 2013, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found that children are more susceptible to RF radiation exposure than adults and that “positive associations have been observed between exposure to radiofrequency radiation from wireless phones” and brain tumors, “glioma, and acoustic neuroma.”

The agency concluded that radiofrequency radiation was a possible human carcinogen. However, one of the reasons WHO didn’t give wireless exposure a stronger warning is lack of animal evidence—an omission the NTP and Ramazzini studies aim to fill.

“The evidence for cancer from radiofrequency radiation is overwhelming and absolutely definitive, and yet ignored by the FCC,” Carpenter said.

But you’re not likely to hear these details of this unsettled science in the mainstream media. Kennedy said one of the most frustrating issues in getting the public to understand the harms related to RF radiation is the powerful influence the wireless industry has in silencing the story. In a world where media companies are often intimately tied to big telecom companies that have a stake in the 5G rollout, such stories are bad for business. Facebook, in particular, admits to censoring criticism of 5G.

“Their metric is not that it’s a misrepresentation or that it’s not true. Their metric is that it departs from the official FCC government pronouncements of 5G, and that is the ultimate insult to our democracy,” Kennedy said. “We know all these things about it, and the only reason they’re escaping regulation is through corruption and agency capture, and ultimately through censorship.”

Regulators, meanwhile, say doing otherwise would be promoting unsubstantiated claims and would amount to kicking the country when it’s down.

In an article in The Washington Post titled “5G Conspiracy Theories Threaten U.S. Recovery,” FCC general counsel Thomas M. Johnson Jr. writes that “conjectures about 5G’s effect on human health are long on panic and short on science,” but activists try “to capitalize on fear and misinformation.”

“Paradoxically, such fears are likely to exacerbate suffering during the COVID-19 crisis, because the dislocation caused by the coronavirus pandemic requires strong Internet connectivity to facilitate telework, remote learning, as well as staying in touch with friends and family. Investment in 5G is thus central to the United States’ recovery, and it’s important for Americans to know that wireless networks are safe,” Johnson writes.

Source of an Illness 

The legal argument for this case is a debate about what the science says regarding the potential for harm. But for people who already claim to be hurt by wireless technology, the issue is far more personal.

We’ve all gradually been subjected to greater exposures of wireless radiation over the past 25 years, and most of us seem fine. But there’s a long list of symptoms associated with RF radiation exposure—from headaches and tingling hands, to nausea and memory loss. Some cases are mild, but others can be debilitating.

This illness is known as Electromagnetic Sensitivity (ES) or microwave sickness, and it’s hardly a new discovery. Years before cellphones were invented, NASA recognized evidence of microwave sickness in 1980. The condition is also covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Carpenter says a “significant percentage of the population” already suffers from microwave illness. However, a major problem is that most people won’t think to look to their devices as the source of their sickness. In fact, even most doctors are unfamiliar with the harms linked to this technology and the symptoms it can cause.

“It is undoubtedly affecting many people who never thought about the fact that their headaches, the ringing in their ears, their fatigue, their general sense of ill health may be coming from the fact that their Wi-Fi was too strong, that they are on their cell phone too often, that they’re too close to a 5G generator out in the street or a cell tower,” Carpenter said. “But this is very well documented and an increasing number of people are exposed.”

The suit cites more than 100 reports of sickness from FCC-authorized RF/EMF levels. Some include documentary support, including medical diagnoses.

The only known cure for ES is prolonged distance from sources of RF radiation. But as wireless technology spreads, this invisible influence becomes almost impossible to escape. ES suffers told stories of devastating personal and financial harm and disruption to their lives as a result of this exposure, and an inability to live or participate in modern society.

One doctor familiar with the signs of ES is Dr. Tori Jelter, another petitioner in the case, and a pediatrician who sees evidence of the disease in her clinic on a regular basis. She describes the transformation of one 10-year-old child with autism who was completely nonverbal. The child’s parents brought him to Jelter because he started to exhibit very aggressive behavior. They thought he might need medication, but Jelter wondered if his environment was to blame.

“Because I had reviewed the literature saying that wireless radiation can profoundly affect behavior, I suggested that they decrease his exposure, and see if that was a contributing factor before starting medication. I recommended they turn off the Wi-Fi router for 12 hours at night, and unplug all cordless phones and see if that made a difference,” Jelter said.

“This boy who had never said a word before in his life, within three days, he said a full sentence, and after that gradually improved. The aggressive behavior dissipated.”

Another example Jelter gave was of an 8-year-old boy who had a pervasive developmental disorder. As she considered his symptoms, Jelter requested that his parents modify the wireless radiation in the home. Soon after, teachers at his school called the parents in for a meeting. They wanted to know what kind of medication was responsible for such a dramatic improvement.

“In fact, he had improved two grade levels in two months. The parents explained that there was no medication, they just turned off the Wi-Fi router and unplugged the cordless phones,” Jelter said. “It’s a travesty to children that wireless radiation isn’t regulated more. I’ve written letters to the FCC but nothing happened. It seems like nothing really changes unless you settle things in the court of law, and it’s long overdue.

Finding a doctor like Jelter allows ES sufferers to identify the root cause of their illness, and do something about it. But not everyone is so lucky. Nineteen-year-old Isobel Gallo said she got sick from wireless exposure when she was 16. She developed nausea, heart pain, shortness of breath, brain fog, and burning ears. But no one could figure out what was causing it.

“Neither me, my parents, nor the school was aware that microwave radiation could make people sick,” Gallo said. “Like many other children, I was told I was mentally ill. I was told that I had developed some kind of cyber phobia. I was told I was making up my symptoms in order to gain attention. And because of our ignorance, I was injured much more seriously than I would have known things from the beginning. I was forced to withdraw from high school and am currently housebound.”

Gallo submitted an affidavit as part of the case (1 of 15 affidavits submitted to the court). She claims that FCC regulation has destroyed her future because her condition makes it impossible to go to college and difficult to find work, maintain friendships, or even walk around her neighborhood.

“It is outrageous that the FCC has allowed its obsolete standards to injure so many children. Their job is to protect the public. I should have been protected. And instead, the FCC has completely ignored my existence,” Gallo said. “The FCC needs to listen to the scientists and protect its people.”

Officials at the FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment about the case.

Follow Conan on Twitter: @ConanMilner