Is 5G Going to Kill Us All?

On a hot day last summer, Debbie Persampire, a 47-year-old
homemaker who believes that cell phones are poisoning her children, took
me on a tour of her irradiated house on Long Island. Her kids were at school,
her husband was at work, and the house, a modest, tidy split-level typical of
the suburbs, was spectacularly quiet. She brandished a handheld battery-powered
device called an Acoustimeter
to measure the radiation, and waved
me on up the stairs to the second floor into the rooms where her children

Outside, roughly 70 feet from the beds of her son, who is twelve years
old, and her daughter, who is ten, was the source of her concern: a cell site,
a nondescript box the shape of a small steamer trunk that was affixed to a
utility pole just beyond the fence line. Crown Castle, the nation’s largest
provider of communications infrastructure, installed the unit in May of 2017,
and it began operating seven months later. It emitted, like all cell sites, a
constant stream of microwave electromagnetic fields (EMFs). 

The Acoustimeter, detecting
high EMF levels, had been buzzing and chirruping, its LED panel spiking. Then
abruptly it went silent as we entered her son’s room. Persampire swept the
device toward the window, with its view of the street and the fence and the
utility pole, and the buzzing started up again. With a glint in her
eyes, she told me to take note of this fact. “Higher readings by the window,”
she said. “But along the walls, no.” 

In April of 2019, a few months before my visit, she had put on
some old clothes, hauled a ladder in from the garage, and spent the day
painting the walls and ceilings of the children’s rooms in a grim matte black
more suitable for a death metal club. Known as YShield HSF54, the paint came in
just one color. She’d purchased it from LessEMF, of Latham, New York, a company that also sells Acoustimeters.
LessEMF, whose tagline is “work, sleep, live better in the electrified world,” claims
YShield is effective at absorbing EMFs. Persampire had received from LessEMF a
shipment of 10 liters of Yshield (just over two and a half gallons) at the hefty
price of $658, along with her Acoustimeter, which set her back $400 more. With
each stroke of the paint, she said, “came a sense of relief, like I could
breathe again.”

Her husband and children, she told me, trusted she was doing the
right thing. “If anyone thought I was crazy they didn’t say so,” she said. “I
didn’t know much about this topic before Crown Castle placed that antenna. Then
I read the science, and now I know more than I ever wanted to know. We live
with involuntary 24/7 radiation, even in my children’s beds as they sleep.” 

One of the studies that prompted her concern was a 2018 report by
the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a branch of the National Institute for
Environmental Health Sciences. Commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration
to examine the human health risks of cell phone radiation, NTP researchers
placed lab rats in “reverberation chambers”—metal boxes resembling microwave
ovens—and, over a period of two years, exposed certain rats for nine hours a
day, every day, to EMFs of the type that flow ubiquitously from wifi hubs and
cell sites into our laptops, iPads, smartphones, and, of course, our

The researchers concluded there was “clear evidence” that cell phone radiation in exposed male
rats can cause cancers and precancerous lesions in the heart and brain.
The lead designer of the study, veteran toxicologist Ron Melnick, reported that
the researchers also found tumors in rat’s prostate glands, DNA damage in brain
cells, heart muscle disease, and reduction in birth weights. 

Persampire was stunned. “My initial reaction was, How is it
possible that this can be ignored? When is this going to catch on like wildfire
and have everyone making changes?” She promptly ditched her home wifi router,
hardwiring the family’s computers and installing a landline phone with a long
cord. While that diminished the risk, it hardly eliminated it. Persampire knew
from her research that the microwave radiation, beamed from cell sites, was in
the air, all around us. We were exposed whether we used it or not. 

The NTP report was not an outlier. There were similarly alarming
results in numerous other research studies. With each report she read, Persampire’s
concern grew into a kind of panic. There was the warning in 2011 by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health
Organization in Lyon, France, that cell phone radiation was a “possible carcinogen.” There was the voluminous BioInitiative Report, begun in 2007, based on the work of 29 scientists and health
experts from ten countries, who reviewed over 1,800 studies of EMF health
effects published since 2007. Persampire read every one of its 1,557 pages and
even reached out to its co-editor, Dr. David Carpenter, a medical doctor who
directs the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of
New York at Albany. She asked if she should be worried. Carpenter said she should. 

Then, in 2019, she came across the website of a group called the
International EMF Scientists Appeal. Among its more than 250 members, the group
counted biophysicists, biochemists, and physicians from 43 countries, including
professors at Harvard Medical School, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins,
who collectively had published in professional journals some 2,000 papers and
letters on the biological effects of microwave EMFs. In recent years the
group issued a series of “urgent” pleas to the World Health Organization and
the United Nations’ Environment Programme to “address the global public health
concerns related to exposure to cell phones.” The first of its nine
recommendations was that “children and pregnant women be protected” from

The signatories of the EMF Scientists Appeal were particularly
concerned with a vaunted new wireless communications system known as 5G, which,
they warned, was totally untested for human health risk. Searching online and
making a few calls, Persampire soon learned that the cell site 70 feet from her
children’s bedrooms was in fact a 5G-capable unit. What this meant for the
safety of her kids, she did not know. Worse, she soon realized, nobody did. 

On October 13, 1983, Bob Barnett, then the president of Ameritech
Mobile Communications, placed the first commercial cell phone call. The
recipient, as befitted the historic occasion, was the grandson of Alexander
Graham Bell, who had invented
the telephone more than a century before. Barnett placed the call on a Motorola
DynaTAC 8000X. It weighed two pounds, was 13 inches long, operated only for 30
minutes before needing a charge, and retailed for $4,000. 

No doubt the audio quality was far from perfect, but improvements
would come at a breakneck pace. The brick-like first-generation, or “1G”, phones
of the 1980s gave way in subsequent decades to ever more miniaturized and
inexpensive 2G devices, which allowed users to hear clearly and talk at length.
2G also enabled a totally new form of communication called texting. The 2000s
brought 3G, which offered higher-quality telephony, miraculous-seeming if
torturously slow internet access, and primitive video. With Long-Term
Evolution (LTE) and 4G systems in the 2010s came full-on internet browsing,
streaming movies, Instagram, and porn at your fingertips—the smartphone as we
know it today. 

On the horizon is the new protocol, 5G, fifth-generation wireless,
which has been celebrated as heralding a “fourth industrial revolution.” Boasting transmission speeds as much as five
times faster than current LTE and 4G systems, 5G promises to usher in a
new golden age of wireless, a world of total connectivity. 

With 5G, the latency of transmission—the lag between the moment
information is sent and received—will drop to very low levels. That means
crystal-clear audio, video chats, and teleconferencing in absolute real-time,
and films downloaded in mere seconds. It will also at last enable the
much-ballyhooed “internet of things” to finally usher in a hyper-connected
future. As Wired put it, with breathless fanfare: “All the things we hope will make our
lives easier, safer, and healthier will require high-speed, always-on internet

With the internet of things, just about every appliance in your
home—televisions, refrigerators, stovetops, dishwashers, coffee kettles, ovens,
toasters, and lighting and heating systems—will connect to a seamless
slipstream of electromagnetic frequencies and communicate amongst themselves.
Additionally, 5G will make possible the widespread use of driverless cars,
piloted by machine intelligence; routine telemedicine procedures conducted
robotically by surgeons via remote connections; aerial drone deliveries of
goods; and other high-tech magic as yet unimaginable. “5G is about to change the
world,” a Qualcomm vice-president wrote this year,
declaring “potential 5G use cases as infinite, or at least only as finite as
the frontier of human innovation.”

All that potential explains why antennas like the one by
Persampire’s home are springing up everywhere. The telecom industry has
reported that 5G will require over 800,000 cell sites by 2026, over twice the
amount of cell sites that have been built to date.
 The antennas will be clustered
lower to the ground, closer to homes, businesses, offices, schools, and parks,
affixed to utility poles, on cell towers, on residences and rooftops. They likely
won’t look much different from the unit outside Persampire’s house, and most of
us will probably not notice their arrival.

The build-out, one of the most expensive communications
infrastructure expansions in U.S. history, is expected to require tens of
billions of dollars of investment and, it’s hoped, bring in many times that in
profits, adding over $17 trillion into the global economy by 2035, by one estimate.

Meanwhile, millions of miles of new fiberoptic cable will be laid
underground or strung on utility poles to support the insatiable hunger for
bandwidth. And as consumers enter the upgrade cycle for 5G-capable
devices, many millions of new phones will be manufactured and sold globally
over the next five years, while the total number of connected
internet-of-things devices will rise to an estimated 50 billion by 2022. 

5G, in other words, is big money, and for obvious reasons the
telecom service providers, the phone manufacturers and distributors, the
fiberoptic cable and cell site manufacturers and installers would prefer that the
roll-out proceed without impediment.

One of the central tenets of modern public health regulation is
the precautionary principle. This is the commonsense idea that without clear
evidence that innovations are safe for the public, their use should be
restricted, if not avoided altogether. 

When I first wrote about cell phone radiation in 2010, I met a neuroscientist named
Allan Frey who had spent decades in the field of bioelectromagnetics, which is
the study of the effects of EMFs on living organisms. Working at General
Electric’s Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University in the 1960s, Frey
devised an experiment whereby frogs would be exposed to certain microwave
frequencies. His findings were surprising. The radiation, he discovered, could
trigger heart arrhythmias, and with a slight change in the frequencies, he
could stop the frogs’ hearts from beating altogether.

The prevailing wisdom had previously held that only the ionizing
frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum (x-rays, gamma rays, and the like)
could disrupt living cells and produce an adverse biological effect. According to this orthodoxy, the
only way frequencies below the ionizing part of the spectrum could alter living
organisms is with what’s called a thermal effect, when the radiation is
directed at very high power to heat up tissue, as in a microwave oven. 

Frey’s study looked at non-thermal effects from low-power
microwave frequencies—the levels similar, as it happens, to those by which our
smartphones operate today. Among his most significant discoveries was that such
frequencies can indeed be made dangerous using what is known as modulation. In
simple terms, modulation occurs when a signal is embedded with another signal
that carries information, such as the sounds, pictures, and movies on your
phone. This second signal modulates the “carrier” signal.

In a study published in 1975 in the Annals of the New York
Academy of Sciences
—a study famous in the field of bioelectromagnetics—Frey
reported that low-power microwave frequencies at certain modulations could
induce “leakage” in the barrier between the circulatory system and
the brain in rats. Breaching the blood-brain barrier is a serious matter,
exposing the brain to toxins, viruses, and bacteria. 

Another longtime researcher in this field, Henry Lai, then a
professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington, in the 1990s showed with fellow
researcher Narendra P. Singh that modulated microwave frequencies
in exposed rats could cause breaks in DNA strands, such that genetic mutations
might result and be passed on. The damage, shockingly, occurred with a single
two-hour exposure. 

In 2003, a neurosurgeon named Leif Salford replicated
Frey’s blood-brain barrier work and went a step further, finding that modulated
microwave frequencies could actually kill brain cells in rats. “A rat’s
brain is very much the same as a human’s,” Salford told the BBC. “They have the same blood-brain barrier and neurons. We
have good reason to believe that what happens in rats’ brains also happens in

What troubles experts in bioelectromagnetics most is that the
destructive effects these studies have documented occurred at levels far below
the human safety exposure limits set by the Federal Communications Commission. 

In September 2017, Dr. Martin Pall, a professor emeritus of
biochemistry at Washington State University, presented the evidence of risk at an event sponsored by the National Institutes
of Health. Pall cited 18 studies that revealed microwave EMFs could alter the
structure of the testes and ovaries, lower sperm count, and diminish the
production of sex hormones. Twenty-five studies suggested that EMFs could
produce “neurological/neuropsychiatric effects,” including, in Pall’s litany,
“insomnia, fatigue, depression, headache” in humans and “major changes in brain
structure seen in animals.” At least 21 studies, including those conducted by Lai and Singh, attested to single-strand and double-strand breaks in cellular DNA.
Some 32 studies found oxidative stress and free radical damage to cells, and
elevated levels of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which can cause
neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia. Pall warned that microwave EMFs
are “much more active in children than in adults,” because children, among
other factors, have thinner skulls, allowing EMFs to more deeply penetrate the
brain, and higher densities of stem cells that apparently are more sensitive to
microwave radiation.

All of these effects, he noted, occur at exposure levels “orders
of magnitude” lower than those allowed by current U.S. and international safety
guidelines. Pall takes the risk so seriously that he now wears a metal mesh
undergarment designed, he says, to deflect the electropollutants emanating from
cell sites, mobile phones, and wifi antennas. He does not carry a cellphone or
use wifi, and his work computer is hard-wired. 

At the conclusion of his talk, he turned to the question of 5G
technology. He invoked the precautionary principle: Given the research to date
about earlier generations of microwave telecom systems, the 5G roll-out, Pall told
the NIH assembly, was “absolutely insane.” 

You can think of an electromagnetic frequency like ocean waves
reaching the shore at a set interval. The more frequent the waves, the smaller
the distance between them, i.e. the shorter the “wavelength.” So, for example,
a frequency of three GigaHertz has a wavelength of 99 centimeters; at 300 GHz, the wavelength is less than
a millimeter.

The extremely high frequencies—what scientists call millimeter
waves, which range from 30 to 300 GHz—carry information at faster speeds. While
2G, 3G, and 4G function at frequencies as low as 700 megaHertz and as high as 2.5 GHz, 5G will operate using millimeter waves. These penetrate objects less
easily, which explains the need for vastly increased numbers of cell sites at
closer proximity to users. (As 5G-capable cell sites come online in the next few
years, the earlier generations of microwave systems will not fade away but will
remain in operation as a kind of backup, meaning that total levels of exposure
will vastly increase.) 

Millimeter waves have never before been made available for
public communications systems. They have, however, been utilized by the U.S
military, and what little we know about those applications gives some observers
pause. The U.S. Air Force, for example, has developed weapons using millimeter
waves to cause the skin of enemy combatants (or, as the need arises, unruly
crowds of citizens) to heat up painfully. One of these weapons, known as the Active Denial System, can send a high power beam of energy at a
distance of up to 1,000 meters to penetrate less than 1/64 of an inch into the
skin, inflaming the skin’s surface.  

The most comprehensive review of the biological effects of
millimeter waves was conducted by a team at the U.S. Army Medical Research
Detachment at Brooks Air Force Base, in San Antonio, and published in 1998. The
research group observed “[p]rofound MMW effects…at all biological levels, from cell-free
systems, through cells, organs, and tissues, to animal and human organisms.”
Significantly, they also noted that “many of the reported effects were
principally different from those caused by heating, and their dose and
frequency dependencies often suggested nonthermal mechanisms”—which is to say
that, once again, the research showed bioeffects from microwave frequencies
that occurred well below the power levels required to cause heating.

EMF researchers have pointed out that millimeter waves are
less able to penetrate skin than lower frequency waves, suggesting they should
therefore be less dangerous. Yet the variety of bioffects described by the Army
Medical Research team were “quite unexpected from a radiation penetrating less
than 1 mm into biological tissues,” as the report stated. The researchers
admitted to being confounded by the evidence, saying that the observed effects
“could not be readily explained.”

The report added that “biological effects of a
prolonged or chronic MMW exposure of the whole body…have never been
investigated.” The safety limits, it pointed out, are “based solely on
predictions,” an approach it deemed “not necessarily adequate.” 

Last October, Dr. Joel Moskowitz, of the School of Public Health
at the University of California, Berkeley, asserted in Scientific American
that exposure to millimeter waves “can have adverse physiological
effects.” His article was titled, “We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe.” Moskowitz
has spent more than four decades in the field of public health research and
policy, and now directs the Center for Family and Community Health at UC
Berkeley. According to his review of the recent literature—what little of it
there is—millimeter waves might negatively affect the peripheral nervous
system, the immune system, and the cardiovascular system. “The research
suggests,” he wrote, “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.,

The research suggests—in other words, we really don’t know. 

“When we talk about 5G, we’re not working with a full deck,” Louis
Slesin, the editor and publisher of Microwave News, a journal that
covers microwave technology, told me. “With 5G, not only are there practically
no health studies, we don’t have a clue about the modulations that will be
used.” He noted that the studies about millimeter waves remain classified. “The
government, I think, knows more than it’s willing to say.”

In December 2018, concerned about the health implications
of the 5G roll-out, Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat from Connecticut,
sent a letter to FCC commissioner Brendan Carr noting that “most of our current
regulations regarding radiofrequency safety were adopted in 1996 and have not
yet been updated for next generation equipment and devices.” He asked him to
cite any recent studies demonstrating the technology’s safety. Carr replied in part by citing an FDA statement that claimed “the available scientific evidence continues to not support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current radiofrequency energy exposure limits.”

Blumenthal found Carr’s response so lacking that he pressed the
issue two months later in a February 6 hearing of the Senate Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The hearing was titled, “Winning the Race to 5G
and the Next Era of Technology Innovation in the United States.” The witnesses included,
among others, executives from CTIA, the
wireless industry trade association.

Declaring that “Americans deserve to know what the health effects
are,” Blumenthal asked the hearing’s witnesses directly: “How much money has
the industry committed to supporting additional independent research? … Is that
independent research ongoing? Has any been completed?”

What was extraordinary was that these top-tier industry executives
freely admitted there were no studies showing 5G systems would be safe for the
public. The telecom industry had dedicated no money to such research; none was
ongoing, none had been completed. 

“So we are kind of flying blind here, as far as health and safety
is concerned,” Blumenthal concluded. 

Still, he didn’t seem especially surprised by the non-response.
The objective of the session was not to protect the public, after all, but to
support the industry, and whatever the health risks of 5G, they were quickly
brushed aside in an hours-long hearing dominated by demands that government
regulators grease the efficiency of the roll-out. Meredith Attwell Baker,
president of CTIA, counseled the senators that “the U.S. is not the only
country to recognize the transformational impact of 5G. There is international
consensus: The nations that lead on 5G will capture millions of new jobs and
billions in economic growth.”

To hear the witnesses tell it, the only real risks were to U.S.
tech sector profits and national security, due to the commanding position among
5G equipment suppliers of Chinese-owned companies Huawei and ZTE. (The U.S. has
ceded the 5G infrastructure market to foreign manufacturers.)

Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China
Economic and Security Review Commission, told the committee that China is
“already doing everything it can legally and illegally” to ensure its
superiority. Baker framed 5G as
part of a global techno-industrial arms race. “We cannot take our foot off the
accelerator,” she cautioned. “To fully realize the technological
breakthroughs we are talking about, we need more spectrum, and we need it as
soon as possible.” 

Asked to comment on the lack of research on the potential health
effects of the technology the industry is so restless to bring to market, a
spokesperson for the CTIA insisted that “the safety of consumers is the
wireless industry’s first priority,” adding, “We follow the guidance of
experts when it comes to cellphones and health effects.” Quoting the FCC’s latest evaluation of the health risks, conducted in 2019, the
CTIA spokesperson told me in an email, “‘No scientific evidence establishes a
causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.’”

The spokesperson directed me to Eric Swanson, a professor of
theoretical physics at the University of Pittsburgh and a paid consultant to
the telecom industry. “[F]ederal agencies responsible for regulating the safety
of cell phones and wireless infrastructure,” he wrote in an emailed statement
that was vetted by CTIA, “have not found any link between electromagnetic
fields allowed by the FCC regulations and cancer or other adverse health
effects.” Swanson also insisted, “The consensus of the world-wide health and
safety organizations is that non-ionizing fields at the levels allowed by the
FCC regulations are safe.” 

As proof of this “consensus,” he cited declarations of cell phone
EMF safety that had been issued by the Food and Drug Administration, the
National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the European Scientific
Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks, the World Health
Organization, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’
International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety.

But while these regulatory and health advocacy organizations may
be in agreement, no such consensus exists in the scientific community. I
forwarded Swanson’s 3,500-word statement to Joel Moskowitz of Berkeley. “The
majority of scientists who study non-ionizing EMFs and publish peer-reviewed
research on this topic disagree with these organizations,” he told me. One need
only look, for example, to the hundreds of independent researchers—Moskowitz is
one of them—who have signed the International EMF Scientists Appeal. 

The 2018 publication of the National Toxicology Program’s EMF
study prompted considerable relief among researchers and public health
advocates alarmed at the lack of discussion around the technology’s risks. The
findings of cancer and other effects in rats exposed to phone frequencies
would, it was hoped, change the national conversation. 

Dr. Ron Melnick, 76, oversaw the design and protocols for the EMF
rodent experiment. He retired from the NTP in 2009, having spent 28 years
studying the toxicity of everything from perfluorinated chemicals, which leach
from Teflon cookware, to the byproducts of water chlorination. One of his most
consequential investigations involved butadiene, a compound found in cigarette
smoke and tailpipe emissions. In the wake of Melnick’s studies of the
chemical, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration reduced the
permissible exposure by 99.9 percent. 

The protocols that Melnick crafted for the rodent study—not least
the reverberation chambers as an approximation of human exposure—came under
rigorous review from officials at EPA, FDA, NIOSH, and the Bioelectromagnetics
Society, among others. From these peer reviewers the unanimous conclusion
was that this would be the most authoritative animal study yet conducted in the
U.S. for assessing human risk. It would also, as it happens, be the most
expensive toxicity investigation that taxpayers ever funded, at a cost of $30 million.

Not long after the publication of the final results of the NTP
study, a group of researchers at the Ramazzini Institute, a nonprofit cancer
research lab in Bologna, Italy, released the findings of their own study of the
health effects of EMF radiation. The lead author of the experiments, Dr.
Fiorella Belpoggi, had spent most of her 44-year career, like Melnick, looking
at suspect agents—solvents, plastics, pesticides, fuel additives, and asbestos,
among others—and now had turned her attention to the toxicity of microwave

Rather than using Melnick’s custom-designed reverberation chambers
to examine the effects of radiation from nearby sources, the Ramazzini team
examined exposures from more distant “farfield” sources, such as cell towers.
But the results aligned. “They observed, as we did, an increase of glial
cell tumors of the brain and Schwann cell tumors of the heart,” Belpoggi
told me in an email. “Such rare tumors in the same strain of rats, in
both studies statistically significant, at different levels of exposure—near-field
and farfield—in two different laboratories, cannot be just by chance.” 

I asked Belpoggi about the significance of the NTP and Ramazzini
studies for determining human safety exposure limits. “What I do not understand
is why, for example, the chemical industry has to demonstrate the safety of a
compound before putting it into the market,” she replied, “but the technology
industry has no such rule, and they disseminate their products without any
study of the impact on public health.” She offered one theory to explain the
discrepancy: “The economic value of the telecom industry now is enormous.” Like
Martin Pall, Belpoggi called for application of the precautionary principle,
both for exposure from current microwave systems and for the new system of 5G
millimeter waves. “I cannot affirm that millimeter waves are dangerous,” she
told me, “but no one can affirm that they are not.”

In the United States, the FDA ignored the Ramazzini findings. As
for the NTP report, the agency issued a statement in 2018 denying the study’s validity for
determining human safety, despite the fact that it had commissioned the study,
and the federal government had lavishly funded it, for that very purpose.
Reaffirming the FCC’s 1996 exposure limits, the director of the Center for Devices and
Radiological Health at the FDA, Jeffrey Shuren, wrote in a letter that the FDA had “concluded that no changes to
the current standards are warranted at this time,” and stated flatly that
“NTP’s experimental findings should not be applied to human cell phone
usage.” The FDA assured the public, in direct contradiction of the NTP
results, that “the available scientific evidence to date does not support
adverse health effects.” 

Ron Melnick was shocked. “I’ve never experienced a government
agency dismissing cancer results as was done by the FDA with cancer and cell
phone radiation,” he told me. “FDA asked the NTP to assess human risk, the
results were provided—and now they’re saying they don’t accept the results?”

CTIA had asked Eric Swanson, the telecom consultant, to comment on
the NTP study, which he attacked, in his emailed statement, for what he called
the “unreliable statistical significance of the…study conclusions.” He warned
of the likelihood of false positives due to “obvious flaws in the study.” Yet
the putative flaws he identified, according to Joel Moskowitz, had been
debunked by both former and present NTP staffers, among them Ron Melnick in an article for the journal Environmental Research, in which he refuted the “unfounded criticisms”
one by one. “The methods employed by the NTP are considered by most
toxicologists to be the gold standard,” Moskowitz told me. He called the FDA’s
dismissal of the study “a travesty” and suggested that “political
considerations” were likely to blame. 

considerations—meaning industry influence—may be playing an outsize role in the
scientific determinations of other groups that have granted microwave telecom
systems a clean bill of health. The WHO’s conclusion that
the systems are safe, for example, relies on exposure limits recommended by the
International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a
non-governmental organization whose advising scientists on EMF issues are
closely tied to telecom companies. Last year, in a series titled “The 5G Mass Experiment,” a pan-European group of investigative journalists found that of
the 14 chief scientists at ICNIRP who crafted cell phone EMF safety guidelines,
ten had received funding from industry. The conclusion was that these ICNIRP
members comprise a “small circle of insiders who reject alarming
research,” effectively serving their telecom paymasters
by setting lax exposure limits. 

The WHO itself appears to be divided on the issue. Its own cancer research
branch, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified microwave
EMFs as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 2011. Last year an IARC advisory
group of 29 scientists examined the peer-reviewed research on cancer risk, and then
advised that IARC revisit its 2011 decision and prioritize microwave EMFs for
another review. It is uncertain whether IARC will do so.

On my way to meet Debbie Persampire, riding the Long Island Rail Road
from New York City, I sat in a car near a group of pre-teens, who each clutched
a smartphone close to their bodies. The kids giggled and swiped and played
music and videos as their mothers sat silently nearby, mesmerized by their own

Persampire picked me up at the train station, and I mentioned the
scene in the car. “The science is telling us the devices are utterly
dangerous,” she said. “The combination of the danger with their clearly
addictive nature—well, we need to start thinking about what we’re doing.”

Persampire’s answer was to start a grassroots coalition called Citizens for 5G Awareness, which has been busily agitating since its founding in 2018. They
have pestered elected officials with email and letter-writing campaigns,
testified before county commissions, organized street rallies and protests,
hosted public screenings of their new favorite film, Generation Zapped, and, not least, shared grim YouTube videos. One documents an
experiment conducted by schoolchildren who discovered that plants were unable to grow when placed near a wifi antenna. Another shows a teenage girl in
Eugene, Oregon, testifying that wifi exposure in her school made her sick.  

At Persampire’s house, I met several of the group’s core members,
including Fay Tsamis,
a real estate manager who tried to convince the local school district to ban
wifi from classrooms. When school officials dismissed her concerns, Tsamis
took the enormous step of removing her kids from wifi exposure to homeschool

As I talked with these newly minted citizen activists, I was
reminded that modern public health calamities, from asbestos to auto safety to
leaded gasoline and tobacco, often follow a predictable narrative. Industry
dismisses the health risk, government regulators shrug and look away, and a
beleaguered minority is left to sound the alarm. Sometimes, as with the
anti-vax movement, they’re proven wrong; but sometimes their warnings are all
too prescient. According to Persampire, some 200 new antennas, designed to
operate with 5G millimeter waves, have already been built in the Huntington

In 2017, numerous signatories of the EMF Scientist Appeal called for a moratorium on the roll-out of fifth-generation wireless. These
scientists were so distressed by the technology’s risks that they invoked the
principles of the Nuremberg Code regarding experimentation on unwitting
subjects. Our embrace of the wonders of wireless, they said, might someday
prove to be a vast crime against humanity—one in which the telecom industry
treats the public like so many lab rats confined to our personalized toxic reverberation


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