Recently, the Encinitas, California City Council voted to impose restrictions on the placement of controversial 5G wireless network antennas within its city limits. The move comes in response to protests by some residents who are concerned, primarily, about the potential health risks of the high-frequency small-cell antennas. The council’s vote represented a partial victory for Stop 5G Encinitas supporters (thanks to the outstanding community outreach), which have been lobbying heavily to prevent further construction of 5G towers – but its members had hoped for much more.
A scenic seaside suburb just north of San Diego, Encinitas has a history of citizen-led initiatives that often butt heads with federal, state, or local mandates. Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling ordering local governments to clear the way for 5G by repealing any regulatory barriers that would impede its rollout. The Encinitas City Council complied with an “urgency” vote that would have accelerated 5G construction in the city, but Stop 5G Encinitas wasn’t having it.
Opponents of the 5G towers have several concerns, including the unsightly nature of the towers – which are typically installed on utility poles every 100 yards or so – and the possibility the towers would reduce home values. But at the forefront of the controversy are health concerns.
5G technology, at its fastest data rates, uses millimeter-wave transmission which produces radiation at a much higher frequency than previous mobile communication networks. Opposition groups cite concerns by scientists worldwide that little is understood about the effects of long-term exposure to those frequencies at such close range. Most of all, they want to have a say in whether these antennas are installed in their own communities.
Stop 5G Encinitas
According to the Stop 5G Encinitas website, a $30 million study (concluded in 2018) by the US National Institutes of Environmental Health Science (A division of the National Institutes of Health) showed clear evidence that exposure to cellular phone radiation results in increased cancer risk. The study revealed a higher instance of brain and heart cancer cells in male rats exposed to GSM and CDMA cell phone frequencies over the course of the study. Furthermore, the website says that the World Health Organization has put cellular phone radiation on par with diesel exhaust and lead as a “possible carcinogen”.
In all, the group’s lawyer requested 26 amendments to Encinitas’ 5G policy. In a unanimous vote, the City Council barred construction of 5G small-cell antennas in residential areas and parks, areas with high risk of fire, and within 500 feet of any primary school or daycare. Telecommunications providers can seek an exemption to these restrictions from the city planner, but any decision can be appealed to the council.
The Fight Continues
Although opponents of 5G in Encinitas think that the City Council’s decision has them moved in the right direction, many would like to see more happen. Several members of Stop 5G Encinitas want 5G antennas that have already been installed taken down until more is understood about their health effects. Others want the barring of antennas near schools to be extended to middle schools and high schools as well. The group vows to keep fighting.