Environmental Health Trust Files Request To FCC to Suspend “Unlawful Approval of 5G Infrastructure”
The Environmental Health Trust joined community leaders throughout the nation in support of a request for reconsideration (filed May 29, 2018) calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to suspend the unlawful approval of 5G infrastructure until the Commission complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and assesses the public health and environmental impacts of thousands of new towers critical to 5G—so-called “small wireless facilities,” each one of which can include more than 1,000 simultaneously operating antennas.
“Small Cells” are defined by the FCC to include cell towers with heights up to 50 feet or more bearing multiple antennas and associated equipment. The order refuses to set any limits on the number of pieces of equipment that can be attached to the towers or placed on adjacent ground. AT&T, Verizon, and other communications companies have stated that they plan to deploy hundreds of thousands of these “small cell” facilities in close proximity to one another in both residential and non-residential areas. The companies also acknowledge that the antennas will emit not only the microwave frequencies currently in public use for wireless facilities, but also higher frequency radiation in the submillimeter to millimeter wave frequencies—far higher than has been previously experienced on such a wide scale in everyday environments. This radiation will be continuous exposure beamed directly into public spaces and people’s homes.
Attorney Edward B. Myers, author of the FCC filing and resident of North Potomac, MD, objected strongly. “The FCC has ignored the requirements of federal law by ruling without having conducted any impact analysis that so-called ‘small wireless facilities’, are not likely to have any significant environmental impacts and, therefore, do not require any prior review under NEPA or the NHPA. The FCC also failed to meet its responsibilities under the Communications Act, independent of NEPA and the NHPA, to ensure that its actions promote health and safety.”
The request for reconsideration points out that in 2012 the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent government agency, found that the FCC’s two decade old health and safety limits for radiation from telecommunications devices may not reflect current scientific knowledge of the impacts of the emissions. The 2012 GAO Report recommended that the FCC formally reassess its health and safety standards. Yet the Commission continues to rely on the outdated standards.
With its recent order, the Commission is rescinding the prior regulatory requirement for pre-deployment environmental reviews under these outdated standards. As a matter of federal law, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 also forbids state and local environmental reviews, provided only that federal regulatory standards have been met. However, the commission declined to conduct any health or safety review prior to having the order take effect despite scientific evidence linking radiation exposure to adverse effects on wildlife and on human health.
The request calls on the FCC to rethink its approach and to update regulatory standards taking into account the latest scientific evidence before permitting the deployment of next generation facilities. The request maintains that the failure of the Commission to take appropriate action is unlawful and will result in irreparable harm to the public. Pending further action, the request asks the FCC to stay the effectiveness of its order.
The move to deploy 5G has led to multiple appeals by scientists such as the International Scientists Appeal to U.N., the Scientist 5G Appeal to the European Union, and the International Society of Doctors for Environment 5G Appeal. A recently published literature review in the journal Environmental Research states, “radiofrequency radiation (RF) is increasingly being recognized as a new form of environmental pollution. Like other common toxic exposures, the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF EMR) will be problematic if not impossible to sort out epidemiologically as there no longer remains an unexposed control group. This is especially important considering these effects are likely magnified by synergistic toxic exposures and other common health risk behaviors.”
“Published research indicates that wireless radiation can negatively impact bees, birds and trees in addition to human health. Our government cannot allow such new technology to roll out without a environmental review, ” stated Devra Davis Ph.D., MPH, President of Environmental Health Trust.
The request for reconsideration and stay can be found at
News: FCC Asks DC Circ. To Pause Small-Cell Rule Challenges by Adam Lidgett, Law360, July 3, 2018
- “With the exception of one petition, all of these pending petitions for reconsideration raise at least one of the two principal questions presented by the petitions for review by this court, namely, whether the commission erred in concluding that small wireless facility deployments are exempt from NHPA and NEPA review, and whether the commission adequately consulted with Indian tribes,” the FCC said. “(Some of the petitions also ask the commission to address other issues, such as whether harms associated with radio frequency radiation provide a basis for the agency to reconsider its decision.)”