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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Environmental and Health Impact of Tucson’s 5G Cell Tower Deployment

Sep 30, 2022 07:30AM ● By Lisa Smith
Tucson’s 5G cell tower deployment began in 2018 with one single tower in Menlo Park. Now, close to 450 have been installed in a densification that has been largely unregulated by our local government. These towers emit continuous, pulse-modulated microwave radiation 24/7 and represent the newest, most rapidly-growing source of environmental pollution in Tucson.
The 5G towers are often referred to as “small cell poles”. They may be smaller in size, but they often deliver more powerful radiation than many 4G macro towers due to their high capacity and close proximity. The towers are being installed next to homes and schools, sometimes directly in front of bedroom windows and classrooms. Their close proximity to homes has a negative impact on property values, not to mention impeding enjoyment of beautiful mountain views and sunsets. But what about the impacts on our health and on the well-being of desert plants and animals?

Negative impact on our health
The science is clear that exposure to microwave radiation poses a significant danger to human health. It is associated with numerous debilitating symptoms, such as sleep difficulty, headaches, skin rashes, memory loss and dizziness. Serious health effects from long-term exposure include neuropsychiatric and reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, DNA damage and cancer. The peer-reviewed and government studies, based on 100 years of research, number over 20,000—far more than for tobacco and asbestos combined (see
A 2022 review of studies of the health impacts of living near cell towers in Environmental Research confirms three specific effects: functional disturbances of the central nervous system (also known as “microwave sickness”), cancer and changes in biochemical parameters such as HBA1c, a marker for diabetes.
Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS), a high sensitivity to microwave radiation and other types of electromagnetic radiation, affects 30 percent of the population and is recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Medicare. Exposure to microwave radiation has also been assigned its own international medical ICD billing code: W90.

Negative impact on plants and animals
Microwave radiation affects all living beings at the cellular level, including our precious plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. A May 2021 review of 1,200 studies published in Review of Environmental Health reported a wide variety of negative impacts on flora and many types of mammals, birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. The adverse effects on animals include alterations to key survival behaviors: migration, orientation, food finding, reproduction, mating and defense. Cell tower radiation exposure is also a leading cause of disappearing pollinators. The review authors warn strongly against the unregulated and dramatic proliferation of microwave radiation required for 5G technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Internet of Bodies and SMART surveillance cities.  

Solving the 5G cell tower problem in Tucson
Plan Tucson calls for a “sustainable community that embraces prosperity, equity and a healthy environment”. How can we ensure a healthy and prosperous future for Tucson when its people, plants and animals are being harmed by increasing exposure to microwave radiation?
Federal and state laws passed by Congress expressly preserve some local control over wireless telecommunications facilities such as the 5G cell towers. Specifically, municipalities have the power to deny installation permits for matters of public safety (A.R.S. 9-592). The laws allow them to adopt protective telecommunications ordinances, as is occurring in many other cities across the country.
Despite numerous requests for protections from residents, Tucson currently does not have such a protective telecommunications ordinance. Harm to people, plants and animals continues unabated. The “rubber-stamp” approval of permits allowed by our Mayor and City Council is a violation of our fundamental rights to safety and property enshrined in the Arizona and United States Constitutions—and of the Oaths of Office they took to protect these rights.
In addition to adopting a protective ordinance, our local officials can take the initiative to conduct an investigation into the dangers of microwave radiation, as done by New Hampshire’s legislature. They can inform the public of the dangers and help people with EMS find medical care and ADA accommodations. They can take advantage of Tucson’s vast fiber optic cable network to provide safer, faster wired connections to serve homes, schools and workplaces. Such a Fiber-to-The-Premises system would allow placement of wireless facilities away from densely populated areas, as done in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

What We Can Do   
Protect ourselves from involuntary cell tower radiation.
If you live near a 5G cell tower, it is important to determine which areas of your home have unsafe levels of microwave radiation. Options are to avoid these areas or to shield walls, windows and roofs with RF-blocking material. Reduce your exposure to other sources of radiation over which you do have control, such as Wi-Fi routers, cordless (DECT) phones and “smart” appliances.

Inform ourselves and advocate for a protective telecommunications ordinance.
To solve Tucson’s 5G cell tower problem, it is important that we continue to inform ourselves with accurate information about their impacts and the role of our public servants in protecting us. Read the Notices to the City of Tucson prepared by residents and business owners from across Pima County (especially Notice #3 regarding the failure to protect electrosensitive residents and the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert) at

Join the email list of Safe Tech Tucson to stay up-to-date on local happenings.
Other sources of information are the Environmental Health Trust and Americans for Responsible Technology. You can advocate for a protective ordinance by contacting your City Council Member, making public comments at City Council Meetings, engaging with like-minded residents and writing an Op Ed in the newspaper.

Lisa Smith, Ph.D. is a Certified EMF Expert at EMF Wellness Tucson. Connect at 520-248-0461 (text) or



“Electromagnetic safety for a healthy life” EMF Wellness helps keep Tucson’s homes, offices, and schools safe from unhealthy levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). It offers profes... Read More »