Maybe you’ve heard about exciting, new 5G technology that promises to make our connections to the Internet— and all of the things connected to the Internet— faster and better than ever. Like other cell phone technology, 5G emits radiation. Two federal agencies recently said the available scientific evidence to date does not support the idea 5G emits enough radiation to hurt people. But some scientists disagree. At first, the concerns sounded far-fetched. We were surprised by what we learned. Today’s cover story is: 5G-Whiz.
Chances are you haven’t met many people like Professor Martin Pall.
Sharyl: Is it true that you do not carry a cell phone?
Martin Pall: Yes, I don't carry a cell phone.
Sharyl: How do you possibly communicate in today's world without your cell phone?
Pall: I use a wired mouse, I use the wired connection from my computer to my printer. And so everything's wired and, and I even have a shield over the, over the screen so that I get less EMF from the screen.
EMF— electric and magnetic fields—are invisible areas of energy or radiation produced by items like electric appliances, computer screens and cell phone technology. Pall is so worried about the potential for health risks from EMF, he even has special clothes with lots of little metal wires to shield him from the rays. We had no idea when we asked, but yes— he’s wearing the fabric right now.
Sharyl: Is that a shirt?
Pall: It’s a T shirt, yeah. And it has little metal fibers in it, and it helps to shield your torso.
Sharyl: Makes them bounce off or not come through?
But before you make the mistake of writing off Pall as a nutty professor, you should know he’s considered one of the world’s pre-eminent scientists on Electro Magnetic Fields. And his concerns are backed up by dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies.
Sharyl: You got your BA at Johns Hopkins University, very prestigious institution. You got your PhD at the California Institute of Technology. So you are someone who comes to this issue with a great set of credentials and experience.
Pall: Yes, and my bachelor's degree is in physics and my PhD is in biochemistry and genetics. So I've got both the life sciences and the physics. It's the way in which these two interact which is crucial for understanding how EMF impact the cells of our bodies.
The rollout of this new technology is happening as we speak.
President Trump: And we're going to have 5G. We're going to have the best 5G in the world, just like we have everything else
Sharyl: What was 1-G?
Woman on phone: Hi, how are you?
Adelstein: 1-G was just basic voice on your phone.
Adelstein: 2-G was when we went to a little bit of data. You could get a text, for example.
Sharyl: Jonathan Adelstein heads the Wireless Infrastructure Association and represents companies like Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.
Adelstein: 3-G was actual text. You could get the Internet on your phone easily.
Adelstein: And 4-G you can stream video. All of a sudden you had much faster connection, really a broadband connection, not just an Internet connection.
Sharyl: And what is 5-G?
Adelstein: 5-G is going to be 4-G on steroids. It’s going to be data that's faster and more of it, but it also enables the connection of more devices to the network.
But the same magic that makes 5-G bigger, better and faster poses serious health risks to people, says Pall.
Pall: We know that the EMF impact the cells of our bodies, all the cells of our bodies by activating some channels. And when they do that, they produce all kinds of effects. And those include neurological neuropsychiatric effects. They include reproductive effects, they include oxidative stress, which is involved in essentially all chronic diseases. So I'm, I'm deeply concerned about the situation.
Sharyl: Is it your feeling that mobile phone use and 5-G in the future have been and are causes of chronic disease epidemics in this country?
Pall: I believe that the exposures we already have are producing major effects already on our health. And that 5-G will be vastly worse than anything that we, we are already exposed to.
At least three expert medical groups have linked certain kinds of electromagnetic fields or EMFs to cancer, particularly childhood leukemia: The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a working group under the World Health Organization, and a European Scientific Committee - which studied cell phones in particular. Pall says there’s more to worry about.
Pall: what's been shown is you get depression, you get, “I can’t sleep, tired all the time. I'm depressed. I've got headaches. I can't concentrate. I'm anxious.” All the things that everybody complains about now we know are caused by EMF exposures and not just one type, but multiple types of EMF exposures.
Protesters chant: Stop 5G. We want safe technology.
The concerns are shared by citizens and scientists around the world who are campaigning against 5-G
Protestors: We want fiber, not 5G.
A small sidewalk rally last May in Bethesda, Maryland
Concerned citizen: Hello council, thank you for hearing my presentation
And in Sacramento, California last June
Concerned citizen: These antennas are being installed without our permission, without any warning at all. Many of us do not want to be guinea pigs in this experiment but we apparently have no say in the matter.
Still, U.S. regulators insist there’s nothing to fear. After reviewing “hundreds of studies,” the Food and Drug Administration recently told Congress “the current safety limits for cell phone radiation remain acceptable for protecting the public health.” At the same time, the FDA did urge the cell phone industry to support new research on cell phone safety.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: We’ve heard from a lot of witnesses about the very important potential of 5G
At a hearing in February, Senator Richard Blumenthal asked wireless representatives if they had funded new safety studies as the FDA asked. They said
Steven Berry, Wireless Industry executive: No I’m not aware of any
Sen. Blumenthal: So there really is no research ongoing, we’re kind of flying blind hereas far as health and safety is concerned.
Sharyl: Senator Blumenthal correct— that we're flying blind?
Adelstein: It’s something that's been well studied. It's continuing to be studied. We follow all the guidelines and the World Health Organization. You know, we defer to the scientists as the industry who say it's safe. You can't ever prove a negative, but there've been no indications of any problems. Let, you know, the government do whatever it needs to do to set strongest possible guidelines and industry will adhere to them.
Sharyl: How do you explain them saying the science doesn't exist, that there's nothing that gives us cause for concern?
Pall: It’s all corruption. There’s no other explanation. I think they're at least 25 different reviews that have been published on this over the years.
Sharyl: You’re implying that the industry, the telecommunications industry is so powerful here in this country, is that a reason you think why our government hasn't commissioned these studies and isn't talking about it?
Pall: I can't figure out any other reason.
Whatever the case, 5-G deployment in the U.S. is moving full steam ahead. 5-G for mobile phones is already being deployed with broader expansion coming in 2020 - especially in big cities. Supporters say there’s no reason to think it’s dangerous. Critics say there’s no evidence it’s safe.
Sharyl: It strikes me that there is probably zero chance we're going back from the technology that creates this kind of exposure.
Pall: We need to dramatically decrease exposures. We’re taking risks of the sort that no rational society can possibly take. We're doing it blindly and, and in my judgment with absolute stupidity.
The FCC has been criticized for not updating cellphone safety standards since 1996. But FCC officials insist there’s “nothing special about 5G” and the higher-frequency signals used to deliver it pose no health risk.