SHEFFIELD — Bucking the gospel sung by the telecommunications industry and its regulators, Sheffield is poised to possibly ban 5G installations across town until independent scientists deem its emissions are safe.
Voters also might say yes to a regulation that would tightly control radiofrequency radiation from the installations through scheduled as well as random testing.
The Sheffield-based nonprofit S.A.F.E., or The Scientific Alliance for Education, successfully petitioned to place the bylaw for small cell wireless facilities that host 5G — or fifth generation — technology on the warrant for the May 1 annual town meeting.
While the Select Board had started to draft its own regulation, it decided against it to avoid confusion.
The group’s regulation follows another petition it submitted to ask voters to stop the installation of additional 5G transmitters in town until the Federal Communications Commission considers the breadth of research to determine whether its current safety limits for exposure to wave technology are adequate.
There are currently 23 5G nodes scattered across Berkshire County, according to Ookla’s interactive 5G map. One of those is behind the Sheffield fire station.
The technology is hailed as a way to speed up the flow of data.
But thousands of scientists worldwide have signed petitions raising concerns and calling for more research, given what is known about radiation levels below those emitted by 5G — and what is not.
Existing research, for instance, has shown a clear connection between radiation levels even below 5G and tumors in lab animals.
A peer-reviewed study published in December found that emission comparable to those from 5G “affected functional activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and was stressful in nature.”
Communities around the world have paused 5G rollouts over concerns that the effect of the higher doses of radiation on humans and the environment have not adequately been studied.
Other scientific reviews found little evidence 5G could cause health problems.
But the FCC has not yet taken the breadth of information into its decision-making about its safety standards despite a court mandate that it do so following a lawsuit.
Great Barrington voters also will weigh in at the May 1 annual town meeting on whether to pause 5G until the safety questions are reasonably answered.
The bylaw defines “small cell installations” as those systems that are “designed to provide network coverage to small areas as opposed to tall, high-power, ‘macro’ towers which serve a wide area.”
The S.A.F.E. bylaw would require a $10,000 bond for each small cell installation to ensure compliance with FCC exposure limits.
In addition to regular testing of emissions with reports to the town’s building inspector, the town would also have the right to charge the telecommunications company for random testing once a year unless tests reveal the installations are exceeding emissions safety limits. If that happens, the town will demand that the installations be brought into compliance, conducting additional tests to confirm radiation levels are in line with the bylaw.
Nina Anderson, S.A.F.E.’s executive director, said she likes to compare the 5G to the way the tobacco industry suppressed and manipulated information about the dangers of its products.
With 5G, she said, there might be a threat to health, and it is “invisible.”
The group is holding a information meeting for Sheffield and Great Barrington voters at the Bushnell Sheffield Library March 16 where they’ll show “Canary in the Gold Mine,” a film about wireless radiation.