The link between cell phone radiation and cancer is one that’s never going to be fully resolved. Studies have shown that while there is some statistical link between exposure to cellphone radiation and incidence of cancer, that link doesn’t transfer to the population at large, and any risk from exposure to cell phones is marginal at best.

But while the physics might not change, the type of radio waves might. A new wave of 5G cell sites will dramatically change the electromagnetic radiation map of the US, and some people think it will be for the worse.

An in-depth report in The Nation sheds light on the historical battle between the telecoms industry and the scientific establishment, and gives an idea of the battle that’s yet to come. The article begins by examining the historical relationship between the telecoms industry and regulators, and how current standards came to be adopted:

The wireless industry has sought to downplay concerns about cell phones’ safety, and the Federal Communications Commission has followed its example. In 1996, the FCC established cell-phone safety levels based on “specific absorption rate,” or SAR. Phones were required to have a SAR of 1.6 watts or less per kilogram of body weight. In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised the FCC that its guidelines “do not account for the unique vulnerability and use patterns specific to pregnant women and children.” Nevertheless, the FCC has declined to update its standards.

The big concern, however, is how 5G is going to change the conversation:

The wireless industry’s determination to bring about the Internet of Things, despite the massive increase in radiation exposure this would unleash, raises the stakes exponentially. Because 5G radiation can only travel short distances, antennas roughly the size of a pizza box will have to be installed approximately every 250 feet to ensure connectivity. “Industry is going to need hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of new antenna sites in the United States alone,” said Moskowitz, the UC Berkeley researcher. “So people will be bathed in a smog of radiation 24/7.”

The Nation‘s full report, which is well worth reading, can be found here.