SILVER SPRING – Forty people gathered in front of the Verizon store in Bethesda on May 15 and called on all wireless companies to stop deploying small cell wireless microwave antennas in residential areas, which they consider a serious health threat.
Throughout the country, people are opting for 5G (fifth generation) cellular network technology to enable them to speed up their internet access and connect to more smartphones, televisions, computers and gaming consoles wherever they are.
The protestors expressed concern that long-term exposure to wireless technology could result in health problems.
According to literature passed out at the 5G Crisis, for National Day of Action, long-term exposure “causes biological harm, overwhelming the body’s biological, chemical and neurological problems and cognitive deficits to cancer.”
When cell towers are upgraded to 5G “in front of our houses, all choice has been taken away,” said Kate Kheel, who helped organize the protest.
Radiation is coming from the poles and into homes, she said. “According to science, this affects everybody.”
Safe technology means wired, not wireless, she said.
Kheel believes that the technology needed to upgrade to 5G “is worse. It’s significantly more radiation” than 4G.
She questioned the need for people to be connected to the internet wherever they go, playing games, talking on the phone, using social media or watching a movie whether at home, school or work or in between.
But that, according to Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At Large), is reality.
“We know that people use it and will only continue to use more wireless (devices). There is no question about this,” Riemer said.
Last year, he was active in proposing a zoning text amendment that would have eased the way for 5G here by making it easier for companies to place small cell antennas on poles in residential neighborhoods near homes.
The proposed amendment would have made it easier for telecommunication companies to install their small cell antennas on existing utility poles.
That amendment never gained enough support and was dropped. Riemer said he is not aware of plans to bring up the proposal again soon.
As he said during previous council debates, Riemer believes that wireless is here to stay and should be embraced.
“The question of whether you can be for this or against it is preposterous,” he said, adding that he supports bringing the technology to residential areas in the county “with appropriate safeguards, absolutely.”
Currently, 5G technology is approved for commercial but not residential areas, and Riemer said nothing new has been done to bring it to residential poles since his ordinance died last year.
Riemer pointed to an article he read last week in The New York Times that connected Russia with a disinformation campaign connecting 5G with health-related problems.
“They spread lies, create diversion. They have been doing it on 5G now,” the councilman said.
But Kheel said there are scientific studies that show wireless spreads radiation and is harmful.
“This affects everybody,” she said. “Electric fields are running through us.”
While advertisers say 5G is the next big thing, she would prefer people stop and “think through how to integrate technology into our lives.”
Kheel favors installing fiber optic cables to the poles and then allowing individual homeowners to decide what they want coming into their homes.
She also suggested that people download movies for viewing in one space, which would remove the need to have 5G wireless technology accessible everywhere.
Remember when everyone thought paper goods were the greatest thing, Kheel asked rhetorically. Now, environmentalists are trying to eliminate some takeout food containers and get people to stop throwing their paper goods away, she said.
“Over time, we understand,” she said.
The county has joined with a coalition of jurisdictions who are suing the Federal Communications Commission for placing limits on local governments’ ability to regulate small cell tower and antennas.
Meanwhile, Kheel and others intend to continue fighting the widespread use of wireless technology. This month’s protest focused on telecommunication companies, she said.
The group also plans to make its voice heard by government and FCC officials, she said.