“… we should support the recommendations of the 250 scientists and medical doctors who signed the 5G Appeal that calls for an immediate moratorium on the deployment of 5G and demand that our government fund the research needed to adopt biologically based exposure limits that protect our health and safety.”
The telecommunications industry and their experts have
accused many scientists who have researched the effects of cell phone radiation
of “fear mongering” over the advent of wireless technology’s 5G.
Since much of our research is publicly-funded, we believe it is our ethical
responsibility to inform the public about what the peer-reviewed scientific
literature tells us about the health risks from wireless radiation.
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
recently announced through a 
press release that the
commission will soon reaffirm the radio frequency radiation (RFR) exposure
limits that the FCC adopted in the late 1990s. These limits are based upon
behavioral change in rats exposed
to microwave radiation and were designed to protect us from 
short-term heating risks due to RFR exposure.  
Yet, since the FCC adopted these limits based largely on
research from the 1980s, the preponderance of peer-reviewed research, 
more than 500 studies, have found harmful
biologic or health effects from exposure to RFR at intensities too low to cause
significant heating.
Citing this large body of research, more than 240 scientists who
have published peer-reviewed research on the biologic and health effects of
nonionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF) signed 
the International EMF Scientist Appeal, which calls for
stronger exposure limits. The appeal makes the following assertions:

“Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF
affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national
guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in
harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of
the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders,
and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond
the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant
and animal life.”

The scientists who signed this appeal arguably constitute the
majority of experts on the effects of nonionizing radiation. They have
published more than 2,000 papers and letters on EMF in professional journals.
The FCC’s RFR exposure limits regulate the intensity of
exposure, taking into account the frequency of the carrier waves, but ignore
the signaling properties of the RFR. Along with the patterning and duration of
exposures, certain characteristics of the signal (e.g., pulsing, polarization)
 increase the biologic and health impacts of the exposure. New exposure limits are needed which
account for these differential effects. Moreover, these limits should be 
based on a biological effect, not a change in a laboratory
rat’s behavior.
Based upon the research published since 2011, including human
and animal studies and mechanistic data, the IARC has recently prioritized RFR
to be reviewed again in the next five years. Since many EMF scientists believe
we now have 
sufficient evidence to consider RFR
as either a probable or known human carcinogen, the IARC will likely upgrade
the carcinogenic potential of RFR in the near future.
Nonetheless, without conducting a formal risk assessment or a
systematic review of the research on RFR health effects, the FDA recently
reaffirmed the FCC’s 1996 exposure limits 
in a letter to the FCC, stating that the
agency had “concluded that no changes to the current standards are warranted at
this time,” and that “NTP’s experimental findings should not be applied to
human cell phone usage.” The letter stated that “the available scientific evidence
to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at
or under the current limits.”
The latest cellular technology, 5G, will employ millimeter waves
for the first time in addition to microwaves that have been in use for older cellular
technologies, 2G through 4G. Given limited reach, 5G will require cell antennas
every 100 to 200 meters, exposing many people to millimeter wave radiation. 5G
also employs new technologies (e.g., active antennas capable of beam-forming;
phased arrays; massive multiple inputs and outputs, known as massive MIMO)
which pose unique challenges for measuring exposures. 
Millimeter waves are mostly absorbed within a few millimeters of
human skin and in the surface layers of the cornea. Short-term exposure can
have adverse physiological effects in the peripheral nervous system, the immune
system and the cardiovascular system. The research suggests that long-term
exposure may pose health risks to the skin (e.g., melanoma), the eyes (e.g.,
ocular melanoma) and the testes (e.g., sterility).
Since 5G is a new technology, there is no research on health
effects, so we are “flying blind” to quote a U.S. senator. However, we have
considerable evidence about the harmful effects of 2G and 3G. Little is known
about the effects of exposure to 4G, a 10-year-old technology, because
governments have been remiss in funding this research. Meanwhile, we are seeing
increases in certain types of head and neck tumors in tumor registries, which
may be at least partially attributable to the proliferation of cell phone
radiation. These increases are consistent with results from case-control
studies of tumor risk in heavy cell phone users.
5G will not replace 4G; it will accompany 4G for the near future
and possibly over the long term. If there are synergistic effects from
simultaneous exposures to multiple types of RFR, our overall risk of harm from
RFR may increase substantially. Cancer is not the only risk as there is
considerable evidence that RFR causes neurological disorders and reproductive
harm, likely due to oxidative stress.
As a society, should we invest hundreds of billions of dollars
deploying 5G, a cellular technology that requires the installation of 800,000
or more new cell antenna sites in the U.S. close to where we live, work and
Instead, we should support the recommendations of the 250
scientists and medical doctors who signed the 
5G Appeal that calls for an immediate moratorium on the deployment
of 5G and demand that our government fund the research needed to adopt
biologically based exposure limits that protect our health and safety.
The views expressed are those of the author and are not
necessarily those of Scientific American.
Joel M. Moskowitz
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., is director of the
Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the
University of California, Berkeley. He has been translating and disseminating
the research on wireless radiation health effects since 2009 after he and his
colleagues published a 
review paper that found long-term cell phone users were at greater risk
of brain tumors. His 
Radiation Safety website
had more than two million page views since 2013. He is an unpaid advisor to
International EMF Scientist Appeal and Physicians for Safe Technology.