Factcheck: The FDA Has Not Deemed 5G or Cell Tower Radiation As Safe

The FDA has no authority in regards to cell tower radiation and 5G infrastructure, nor has the agency evaluated the body of science on cell tower radiation. 

A January 11, 2022 letter by Ellen Flannery of the Director of the FDA Office of Policy Center for Devices and Radiological Health confirms the absence of FDA authority and research in the area. When asked about 5G “small” cell tower safety by a California mother who had a wireless facility in front of her home, FDA’s Flannery responded,  “The FDA does not regulate cell towers or cell tower radiation.  Therefore, the FDA has no studies or information on cell towers to provide in response to your questions.” Link to FDA’s Ellen Flannery Letter. 

On March 31, 2023 FDA Ombudsperson Abiy Desta wrote EHT’s Theodora Scarato, “Please be aware the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have regulatory authority over cell phone towers and has not done an assessment on the safety of radiofrequency energy being emitted from antennas located on cell phone towers.” (Link to FDA Scarato email exchange

On March 29, 2022 Laurie Lenkel FDA Ombudsman wrote that the “FDA is responsible for protecting the public health from hazardous or unnecessary radiation from radiation emitting electronic products” and “… the 5G tower you inquired about is under the authority of the FCC, not the FDA.” (Link to FDA’s Lenkel email

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A June 20, 2016 email by FDA’s David Kassiday also confirms that the FDA does not address the environmental, ambient exposures from cell phone towers. Kassiday stated, “We don’t have jurisdiction over cellphone towers since those are environmental emitters.” 

While the public might assume the FDA is always monitoring the science and monitoring exposures, this is inaccurate. For example, consider the absence of funding in the FDA budget- the  2021 FDA’s  Annual report was released on January 31, 2022 and there is no mention of the issue of cell phones or cell towers or wireless electromagnetic radiation. The FDA has not shown any evidence of monitoring research with new agency reports, meetings or budget on the issue. 

A Pittsburgh Law Review article on the FDA and it’s role in ensuring public safety in regards to wireless radiation entitled, The FCC Keeps Letting Me Be: Why Radiofrequency Radiation Standards Have Failed to Keep Up With Technology concludes, “The FCC and FDA have failed in their obligation to prescribe safe RFR guidelines produced from wireless communication devices to protect the public health and safety.” 

In December 2021, numerous groups petitioned the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the issue of radiofrequency radiation exposure requesting it be declared as an Imminent Hazard to public health because while the RF exposures to children and vulnerable populations are rapidly increasing, the FDA has not clarified its present official safety policy. Scientific studies are documenting biological harm at levels far below the current 1996 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exposure guidelines. The petition documented people harmed by RFR and also the misleading and inaccurate statements by the FDA regarding RFR safety that have resulted in the widespread public belief and reliance by federal agencies and state governments, physicians, and the public that the FDA is ensuring safety. 

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In their response, the FDA denied the petition, stating that the section of the law on the issue of the FDA and  imminent hazard radiofrequency does not apply to cell phones or wireless devices.  

Additional Documentation

  • The Government Accountability Report on 5G (GAO 2020) clarified that the FDA and other organizations “only reviewed a subset of the relevant research”  and stated in regards to the FDA Literature Review that “The assessment focused on cancer-related animal and human studies of frequencies below 6 GHz.” 
  • Not only did the FDA do a limited literature review looking only at cancer, but it omitted impacts to the brain, oxidative stress, and reproduction. It omitted evaluation of children’s unique vulnerability. Most importantly it discounted the results of the National Toxicology Program which is why numerous scientists – including several now retired US government scientists –  are calling for the FDA to retract the review as it offers unsubstantiated assurance of safety (EHT 2020).  
  • EHT’s 150 page report “FDA’s Misleading Information on Cell Phone Radiation on the FDA documents the lack of adequate research review and misleading information put forward by the FDA. 
  • In 2020, the FDA refused to testify to the New Hampshire State Commission on 5G and refused to answer specific questions regarding it’s purported review of health effects of 5G and wireless networks.  Although the FDA responded with a few general sentences about how “FDA’s doctors, scientists and engineers continually monitor the scientific studies and public health data for evidence that radio frequency energy from cell phones could cause adverse health effects, “the FDA refused to answer specifics such as providing reports or answering questions about the safety margin, and the FDA’s research activities. Read FDA Communications with the New Hampshire 5G Commission 
Share Source: Environmental Health Trust