Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Debate against the rollout of a Fifth Generation (5G) wireless communications network has an ally at the Rhode Island Statehouse.
Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Charlestown, is concerned about the health risks associated with the local, state, and nationwide rollout of the wireless hardware and the potentially harmful exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
“It has everlasting effects and we need to raise awareness on this subject,” Morgan said during a May 23 public meeting she hosted at the Statehouse.
Morgan isn’t sponsoring any legislation but she does support a study commission to review possible health impacts. 5G skeptics point to research suggesting a link to cancer, fertility issues, and other ailments for people who suffer from radiofrequency radiation.
Morgan hosted Dr. Annie Sasco, a cancer researcher and former unit chief with the World Health Organization’s International Association for Research on Cancer, to speak about the health risks of non-ionizing radiation and a lack of research to determine if 5G is safe enough for universal use.
“This is going to be done without any prior experiment,” Sasco said during the recent meeting in the Senate Lounge at the Statehouse.
The latest and most comprehensive study, by the U.S. Department of Health’s National Toxicology Program, found an occurrence of some cancers in mice and rats exposed to radiation from the less commonly used 2G and 3G radio frequency. But the study’s authors caution that the findings shouldn’t be applied to humans.
Sasco and other health officials say the study’s results show a clear link between cell-phone use and heart and brain cancer. They note that the study used less harmful 2G and 3G radiofrequency radiation. Sasco suggested a one- or two-year moratorium on the network’s rollout until the higher frequency 5G and the more common 4G and Wi-Fi exposure are studied.
“What we know now is very worrisome,” Sasco said. “I’m 95 percent sure that 5G is going to be much worse.”
One troubling aspect is fact that the 5G network, unlike 3G and standard 4G, requires a closely built network of antennas and transponders. Not only are they considered unsightly, but they must be installed about 200 feet apart for the signal to reach wireless devices. To deliver the promised faster Internet service and data delivery the hardware is affixed to light and utility poles throughout neighborhoods. Thus, the public is exposed to a more intense level of radiofrequency radiation than current networks emit.
Rhode Island has been courting 5G aggressively. In 2017, at the urging of Gov. Gina Raimondo, the General Assembly passed legislation that hastens the rollout of 5G hardware across the state by preventing local planning and zoning boards from reviewing and approving the systems.
Illinois-based ExteNet Systems Inc., a wireless network developer, has agreements with National Grid and Verizon New England for installing the equipment to wooden utility poles in Providence and Pawtucket.
Providence and state officials have been reluctant to be interviewed on the subject and to address questions about possible health risks.
Meanwhile, a small but growing number of municipalities, in both the United States and around the world, have passed moratoriums on 5G and enhanced 4G networks because of health concerns.
A handful of Rhode Island residents at the May 23 meeting spoke about health effects from increased wireless radio waves they are exposed to at home from devices such as wireless utility meters and from Wi-Fi networks in schools, businesses, and public places.
“I think we need to stop and look at this before we start putting these intricate units outside of our houses,” Morgan said. “What we need to do is step back a little and look at where it could lead.”