Trump's 5G Network Raises Concerns for Public Health and the Environment
By Sabine El Gemayel
The Trump administration is considering proposals for a national 5G wireless infrastructure in order to counter China's position in global technology markets, despite the many uncertainties and potential dangers of this technology for human health and the environment.
According to a PowerPoint deck produced by a senior National Security Council official, the U.S. has to build superfast 5G wireless technology quickly because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure" and "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain." Trump has argued that, unlike a privately created 5G network, a government-run 5G network would be more secure against a threat of Chinese operatives and hackers that want to carry out cyber-espionage.
"We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls," the senior official told Reuters.
On July 25, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing titled The Race to 5G: Exploring Spectrum Needs to Maintain U.S. Global Leadership. In the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the U.S. wireless industry is "poised to invest roughly $300 billion in deploying 5G networks, which could create three million new jobs and boost GDP by $500 billion."
The 5G network would provide faster internet speeds and low latency wireless broadband services, which means faster and higher capacity transmissions to carry data, run driverless cars and support other yet unknown technological innovations. But does national security and these purported benefits justify potential dangers to wildlife and human health?
In 2018, the U.S. National Toxicology Program and the Ramazzini Institute in Italy have both concluded via large studies that wireless radiation is a potential cancer risk. The World Health Organization classified these radiations as class 2B carcinogens, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The science also raises concerns that the implementation of 5G networks will harm not only humans, but also the environment and wildlife, particularly the bees, butterflies and other pollinators needed to grow our food sources. Wireless radiations can disrupt the magnetic "compass" that many birds and insects use for migration.
"We apply limits to all types of pollution to protect the habitability of our environment, but as yet, even in Europe, the safe limits of electromagnetic radiation have not been determined, let alone applied," said Matt Shardlow, CEO of the charity Buglife, an organization in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates.
For 5G to be implemented, a dense network of smaller cellular infrastructure is required because 5G airwaves don't travel as far as older generation networks do. This infrastructure would inevitably put millions of people in close proximity to a potential carcinogen.
After word of Trump's plan got around, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), wireless industry groups and awmakers from both parties in Washington rejected Trump's 5G nationalization plan because they are ideologically opposed to building public telecommunications services. For example, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, commented, "We're not Venezuela, we don't need to have the government run everything as the only choice." FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Tweeted a statement opposing any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network.
In June, it was reported that Mike O'Rielly, a Republican FCC commissioner and Trump supporter, wrote an email to a telecom attorney in January stating that the administration's own proposal to nationalize a 5G network around the country "would be a tremendous error and an executable nightmare, especially for this administration which has faced inordinate obstacles and opposition."
Many progressive Americans in favor of net neutrality would argue that internet should be a municipal public utility, just like garbage collection or electricity. In today's world, if you don't have internet at home, you not only miss out on connecting with your social network, news and culture, but most importantly on your ability to access and manage your banking or any services that you are subscribed to.
However, the internet can also be delivered through wires. We have choices when it comes to telecom infrastructure. In addition to the massive amount of data monitoring, 5G's infrastructure will require millions of new radiation-emitting cell towers that the FCC is intending to place on street lights, utility poles and/or mailbox-size transformers in front of our homes.
I sent a letter to the heads of the FCC, Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services that was signed by actors, filmmakers and advocates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Laura Dawn and Naomi Wolf. We asked for a federal warning about exposure to wireless radiation from wifi just like the city of Berkeley's "Right to Know" Ordinance for cell phones, as well as federal public health fact sheets about ways to reduce exposure to wireless radiation, particularly for children in schools.
California took a leadership role in 2017 by issuing a public health fact sheet, "How to Reduce Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy from Cell Phones." It would be helpful if all health agencies—federal, state and local—issued wireless technology safety guidelines. Now that the National Toxicology Program study has raised serious concerns regarding the potential carcinogenicity of 5G radiation, in accordance with statutes that require businesses to inform citizens about exposures to chemicals known to cause cancer and reproductive harm, and all residents of the U.S. should be taught safer handling of wireless technology.
It's up to Congress members to stand firm in their resistance to Trump's plans for a national 5G system, especially with his efforts to further unravel the national health care system. These two matters are closely related, because scientific research has shown the need for further investigation before subjecting humans and environment to 5G network exposure.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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