Is 5G a health and safety risk? There is growing concern on both fronts as consumers and technicians raise old issues that are taking on new life with 5G.
First, on the consumer front, residents in North Potomac, Md., are pushing back against new cell antennas being installed on utility poles near their homes and schools. The town is slated to get 61 new cell towers for 5G, and residents fear that the towers being placed so close their homes -- within 20 feet -- will bring harmful radiation. (See 5G: Health Risks & Nimbyism.)
It's a fear that has cropped up in the past, but it is exacerbated by 5G because of the number -- creeping into the hundreds of thousands -- of new 5G small cells required, as well as the use of new -- and largely unstudied from a health perspective -- technologies like multi-antenna arrays and millimeter wave.
While past studies have shown that RF signals from cell phones don't give off enough energy to cause health risks, 5G is uncharted territory, and that's enough to put people on edge. Theodora Scarato, executive director of Environmental Health Trust, told WTOP News (though without citing sources), "There are hundreds of scientists who have concluded that this is a risk."
On the safety front, Todd Schlekeway, executive director of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), tells FierceWireless that it's challenging to find and retain enough workers to service cell towers. Here again, it's an old problem, but one that's made worse with 5G because of the sheer number of new towers being erected and the speed at which operators are looking to install or update them.
Schlekeway said there's only an estimated 29,000 technicians in the tower industry in the US, and that NATE is looking to create more interest by raising awareness and promoting the opportunities for advancement among minorities, military veterans and millennials. He called the job an opportunity to "start at the top and work your way down while being promoted."
— Sarah Thomas, Contributing Editor, Telco Transformation