REGION — Count Robert Engler among those who think the forthcoming superbloom of 5G antennae across San Diego County — one sometimes within 500 feet of the next and never much more than 1,000 feet away — will blight town and country up and down the Pacific coast.
The UC San Diego medicine professor emeritus is among scores of residents who undersigned a letter to county supervisors outlining their opposition to a policy, later unanimously approved, that places few restrictions on where the four national mobile carriers can place the hardware that will carry the cellular signals that make possible the next generation of super-fast wireless internet access.
“I am deeply concerned about the new (Federal Communications Commission) directive making it possible for the telecommunications industry to place cell antennas anywhere in the county right-of-way. I am voicing my strong objections to the FCC takeover of the county’s land as well as due process with respect to our rights. … We do not feel that the current county plan to update the zoning ordinance provides enough protection for communities such as ours,” said Engler, who lives between Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe in the Rancho Del Mar neighborhood.
Engler does not, however, share many of his allies’ views that the 5G antennae pose a health threat to people who live nearby and who will use 5G-equipped devices. The radiofrequency radiation emitted by the antennae, both in older cellular data networks and the 5G network to come, does not appear to pose any harm to humans, he said.
“I do not have any concerns about RF radiation effecting health. My concerns are aesthetic … I did look at the literature and concluded that there is no evidence to support RF [radiation] causing disease in those living close to high-emission sources,” Engler said
In this, he is in agreement with the mobile carriers themselves, with the industry’s ostensible regulators at the FCC and with consensus of published academic studies of radiofrequency radiation.
“Radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS (personal communications service) transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits. These safety limits were adopted by the FCC based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the Federal Government responsible for health and safety. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students,” the FCC has stated in published guidelines on cellular transmission infrastructure placement.
On Aug. 8, FCC chair Ajit Pai, a former general counsel for Verizon, said he would recommend to the full commission that it maintain current limits of radiofrequency radiation emitted by wireless devices and infrastructure components. If approved, the action will end an inquiry started by the FCC in 2013 into more stringent limits are warranted.
In a press release announcing the recommendation, the commission quoted Jeffrey Shuren, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health as saying, “(t)he available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or under the current limits … ” and “(n)o changes to the current standards are warranted at this time.”
Nevertheless, a passionate confederation of residents is skeptical of the “all’s clear” assurances issued by researchers and policymakers.
Locally and across the nation, people say they are concerned about the unknown health risks that might be unleashed by the new technology. At an Aug. 7 board of supervisors hearing on the proposed policy, a majority of those who thought that county officials should claim authority to regulate where and how the mobile carriers build their 5G infrastructure did so because they fear radiation emitted by 5G antennae.
UC San Diego medicine professor Beatrice Golomb wrote to supervisors prior to the meeting asking them to block construction of 5G antennae in areas under their control until they could take steps that include setting up an independent epidemiological study to measure whether rollout of 5G increases local incidence of certain cancers, as well as neurological, cardiological and other health problems.
Quoting a former Brussels environmental minister who opposed 5G rollout there, Golomb wrote, “We hope our elected leaders and government officials show equal courage in defense of their people. Pressures to prioritize industry over human interest will be strong. Lucrative industries and PR operations with which they work have well learned the lessons pioneered by Big Tobacco, heavily funding science and scientists to generate doubt and deny health problems, using resources to influence or ‘capture’ legislators, legislation, nonprofits, media, journalists and regulators.”
Her tone was echoed by Del Mar resident Stephanie Boege, who told supervisors: “You are the last line of defense against this blanketing of radiation that is about to happen.”
San Diego County Supervisor Diann Jacob, who chairs the board, said she is not convinced herself that 5G will not harm public health but made the motion to adopt policies weaker than those recommended by the county planning commission.
“I’m concerned that 5G may cause significant potential health risks. I’m not convinced that it does not,” she said. “ … I greatly resent the fact that the FCC has usurped our local control considering health aspects because it’s a questionable area and we’ve received some testimony today that’s pretty compelling along those lines.”
The policies passed 5-0 with votes in favor from supervisors Kristin Gaspar, a former Encinitas mayor, and Jim Desmond, a former San Marcos mayor, both of whom also said that FCC mandates limit how far they can go to restrict the antennae placement.