Federal appeals court hears case on FCC’s 5G safety standards

While tech companies work to get the 5G label slapped on their products to appeal to consumer demand for faster internet speeds, there’s a push to get the Federal Communications Commission to update the standards it uses to determine if a technology is safe.

A number of groups, including the Environmental Health Trust, went to federal court to try forcing the FCC to drop the 24-year-old standards it’s used to contend that there’s “no scientific evidence to establish a causal link” between wireless device use and illnesses.

The trust’s Theodora Scarato is a Montgomery County resident who’s been active in local zoning issues involving 5G technology. She explained the core of the argument made Monday before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.

“The Federal Communications Commission did not review the record when they decided to keep our 24-year-old cellphone and wireless radiation and safety limits,” Scarato said.

Dr. Devra Davis, an epidemiologist with the trust, said the standards that were set for testing 5G were set 24 years ago.

“They’re out of date,” Davis said, “and they cannot adequately reflect a technology that did not exist and was not even on the drawing boards when those test systems were developed.”

The case before the court doesn’t ask that a ruling be made on whether 5G technology is safe. Rather, it asks whether the data the FCC used to back its position — that there isn’t any scientific evidence to show a link between illnesses and wireless technology — should be considered valid 24 years later.

In a brief filed late last year, the FCC noted that it “voluntarily initiated an inquiry” into its radiofrequency-exposure limits in 2013 and determined that they are safe and appropriate. It also said the Food and Drug Administration “recommended no changes to the limits,” adding “no other agency advocated tightening the limits.”

WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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