When Kristin Welch began looking to move to another home in the Beverly/Morgan Park community, her sister, Erin Hassan, expressed a concern.
She explained that Chicago was a “rollout city” for 5G wireless networks, which allow data on cellphones and other electronics to transfer information faster, and she had concerns about the safety of such networks.
Afterwards, they formed Stop 5G Chicago, a group that is asking residents to sign petitions that would prevent 5G cell towers from being installed, as well as hosting meetings sharing information about research.
The sisters grew up locally, and they’re concerned about the amount of information that corporations involved with 5G are sharing as more cities prepare to install the networks.
“People don’t know,” Welch said. “It’s not being talked about. It’s almost like it’s behind closed doors.”
A recent Chicago Tribune article reported that 5G “taps into millimeter waves at the top of the radio spectrum, which have not previously been used for telecommunication.”
The waves allow for data to transfer faster; but they don’t travel through buildings and the rain like earlier editions of wireless, so more 5G equipment must be installed.
Some fear the frequencies can cause health problems—even cancer—or harm the environment.
The networks have been installed in several cities nationwide, but some residents, including many on the west coast, have organized to oppose future installations before more is researched.
Locally, Welch and Hassan said they have less than 1,000 petition signatures, and they want to obtain 2,500 to put pressure on aldermen in the City Council to take action.
They hosted a meeting in May, and they shared information at a town-hall meeting at the 22nd District police station in June. They also said they met with several elected officials and city employees in June.
A 2016 Los Angeles Times article reported that early data showed a slight increase in tumors in rats exposed to cell phone radiation. Welch wants more research.
“We’re using higher frequencies that have very limited testing,” Welch said, “and the testing that is out there is concerning.”
CTIA represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and claims on its website that other countries are implementing 5G, making it imperative that the U.S. keep pace. Claiming the wireless industry supports over 4.5 million jobs and contributes about $475 billion a year to the U.S. economy, the CTIA said 5G “will be even more transformative—making our lives better, our communities safer and our nation more prosperous.”
In a statement, the CTIA said 5G is safe and pointed to other media reports supporting that.
“The safety of cellphone consumers is important to CTIA and the wireless industry. We follow the guidance of the experts when it comes to antennas and health effects. Following numerous scientific studies conducted over several decades, the [Federal Communications Commission], the [Food and Drug Administration], the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and numerous other international and U.S. organizations and health experts continue to say that the scientific evidence shows no known health risk to humans due to the RF energy emitted by antennas and cellphones.
“The evidence includes analysis of official federal brain tumor statistics showing that since the introduction of cellphones in the mid-1980s, the rate of brain tumors in the United States has decreased.”
Organizers of Stop 5G Chicago have presented their concerns at multiple meetings in recent months, and a May 21 meeting, which drew about 100 people, featured in-person and video presentations from concerned professionals, including Theodora Scarato, executive director of Environmental Health Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes a healthier environment.
Scarato said she goes as far as not keeping wireless devices in her home.
Welch and Hassan said the June meeting with elected officials including 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea, state Sen. Bill Cunningham and state Rep. Fran Hurley was positive.
A message seeking comment from the local officials was not returned by press time.
The sisters have also given presentations at several local elementary schools, they said, and urged attendees to be safe when considering installation of wireless networks.
“What we are presenting is nothing crazy,” Hassan said. “We are asking them to do what other school districts, cities and states are doing already.”
Hassan and Welch are also concerned about homes losing their property values and 5G being installed on a street corner, beaming right into nearby homes.
As the women pressure elected officials, they said their voices should be heard—before it’s too late.
If a 5G tower is installed on their block, they fear it will never come down.
“What happens if this stuff is sitting in front of our house,” Welch said, “and we can’t do anything to take it away?”
For more information, visit the Stop 5G Chicago page on Facebook or email email@example.com.