FCC says 5G is safe, wants to maintain current RF exposure limits

Consumers around the nation have expressed concerns about the potential health consequences associated with 5G networks. The issue arrives as cities increase the number of RF antennas to support 5G networks, spurring a letter sent in December 2018 to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr over the matter. In a statement about the concerns published today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed that the agency maintain the current radiofrequency exposure limits for handheld gadgets.

The early days of cell phones spurred conspiracy theories and general public concern over the potential for developing brain tumors linked to phone use. Such concerns largely disappeared over the years as mobile phones replaced landlines and usage took place without any grand issues.

The world is on the cusp of widespread 5G deployment and with it comes a new batch of health-centric paranoia. Due to their high-frequency signals, 5G networks require a large number of antenna towers placed throughout cities, typically putting them in close proximity to each other.

Questions over the potential health ramifications of this deployment resulted in a letter from Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-Calif) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) sent to the FCC seeking data in support of 5G technology's safety. Though some people remain suspicious of current studies and expert assessments of mmWave radiation exposure, the FCC is satisfied with existing guidelines and seeks to maintain them.

"The United States' RF exposure limits for handheld devices are among the most stringent in the world," the FCC said in a newly published statement. The agency's Office of Engineering and Technology's Julius Knapp clarified:

The FCC sets radiofrequency limits in close consultation with the FDA and other health agencies. After a thorough review of the record and consultation with these agencies, we find it appropriate to maintain the existing radiofrequency limits, which are among the most stringent in the world for cell phones.

The FDA backs the existing RF exposure guidelines, stating that scientific evidence at this point in time hasn't found any negative health effects in humans at or below the current limits. Under this proposal, the FCC wants to establish 'a uniform set of guidelines' that will make sure that companies are compliant with the limits.