GREAT BARRINGTON — More than a dozen residents have signed a petition asking that the town ban 5G cellular telephone technology until the federal government completes a court-mandated review of emissions safety levels for people and the environment.
The petition is one of five certified by the town clerk to be decided by voters at annual town meeting May 1.
One petition seeks to loosen restrictions on short-term rentals. Another asks that the town purchase, own and operate the Housatonic Water Works Co. due to ongoing water quality problems and safety concerns.
The town won’t be the first to consider a moratorium on millimeter wave 5G — or fifth generation — small cell technology that uses radio frequencies above 6,000 megahertz.
Sheffield will also mull whether it will pause a rollout until the Federal Communications Commission considers whether it has adequate safety limits for exposure to radiation from 5G that is based on research “from scientists independent from industry.”
Campaigns to pause 5G rollouts are underway around the globe. Thousands of scientists have joined forces and signed petitions to raise concerns given the unknowns as well as existing research showing a clear connection between radiation levels below 5G levels and tumors in lab animals, for instance.
One peer-reviewed study published in December found that emissions levels like those used in 5G systems “affected functional activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and was stressful in nature.”
Other scientists who have reviewed studies found little evidence 5G could cause diseases or other health problems.
The petition also asks that the town consider the alternative to 5G — installation of fiber optics. Great Barrington has one 5G node behind Berkshire Bank downtown, according to Ookla’s 5G map. It’s one of 23 scattered across the Berkshires.
The Great Barrington petition’s authors could not be reached for comment.
The petition cites a 2021 federal appeals court’s mandate following a lawsuit that the FCC explain how its limits — unchanged since 1996 — are acceptable for long-term exposure. The FCC has not yet acted.
In that opinion, the court criticized the FCC’s reliance on the Food and Drug Administration’s position that cellular technology is safe, saying both agencies had been derelict by showing a disinterest in scientific study of emissions.
The safety question has led to a handful of bills in the Massachusetts Legislature to reduce all wireless radiation, particularly for children, as well as to study the effects of 5G.