Susan Brinchman
Susan Brinchman, leading a protest rally Wednesday, says: “If 5G small cells are installed and ‘turned on.’ there will be literally no escape from an unprecedented, involuntary close-range exposure for all residents of our county to harmful microwave radiation.” Photo via

Her latest battleground: 5G wireless technology.

Electrosmog — which she defines as “invisible pollution consisting of electromagnetic radiation” — has been the bane of Brinchman’s existence for a decade. She says SDG&E’s installation of a wireless smart meter at her former La Mesa home led to a slew of health issues. She called it torture.

Eventually, the “nightmare” ended when pressure and court rulings led the California Public Utilities Commission to let residential customers “opt out.” They could retain their old spinning-wheel analog meter or have it restored. (Only 2,750 San Diego County households have analog meters, under 0.2% of all SDG&E residential customers, the utility says.)

But if federal and local authorities have their way, Brinchman (pronounced BRINK-man) fears a return of her inflamed sinuses, headaches, nausea and ringing in the ears — and even a rise in cancer.

She’ll blame small cell wireless antennas planned for light poles and other street fixtures — “more often than we see fire hydrants,” she says.

So the 68-year-old former San Diego Unified special-education teacher is leading a protest rally from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the bayfront side of the San Diego County Administration Center.

She’s hoping as many as 100 parents and others attend the “National Day of Action” event. Americans for Responsible Technology and dozens of affiliated local groups are promoting their own rallies.

Her Center for Electrosmog Prevention is calling on wireless companies to stop the roll out of 5G infrastructure and encourage residents to contact local elected officials to stop 5G, quit promoting “smart cities” and boycott the technology promising superfast download speeds and linking “the Internet of Things.”

“The plan for 5G is not considered safe, according to hundreds of nonindustry scientists, and has had, in fact, zero safety testing, a fact admitted by industry leaders during a Senate hearing in February,” Brinchman says, sharing video of Sen. Richard Blumenthal asking about 5G safety.

The Federal Communications Commission, she says, should “stop pandering to industry and issue guidelines for microwave radiation exposure that are at least 7 million times lower than they now allow.”

Jilane Rodgers Petrie, a spokeswoman for Washington-based CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, defends the safety of 5G by quoting its own experts and the feds.

Fact sheet on 5G from CTIA, the wireless industry trade group. (PDF)

“The safety of cellphone consumers is important to CTIA and the wireless industry,” she said in a statement. “We follow the guidance of the experts when it comes to antennas and health effects. Following numerous scientific studies conducted over several decades, the FCC, the FDA, the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and numerous other international and U.S. organizations and health experts continue to say that the scientific evidence shows no known health risk to humans due to the RF energy emitted by antennas and cellphones.”

Petrie said evidence includes analysis of official federal brain tumor statistics showing that since the introduction of cellphones in the mid-1980s, the rate of brain tumors in the United States has decreased.

According to the FCC, she added, “radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits. These safety limits were adopted by the FCC based on the recommendations of expert organizations and endorsed by agencies of the federal government responsible for health and safety.

“Therefore, there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students.”

Pushing back is UC Berkeley public health professor Joel Moskowitz, who faulted “the many fallacies in the CTIA’s response to your query,” and pointed to a recent presentation he gave.

“More than 240 scientists from 42 nations have signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal which calls for stronger exposure limits for radio frequency radiation than the U.S. and other nations adopted in the 1990s,” he said. “All of these scientists have published peer-reviewed research on electromagnetic fields and biology or health representing a total of over 2,000 papers in professional journals.

Moskowitz, who calls the FCC “a captured agency,” said about 100 of the scientists have also signed the 5G Appeal, which urges a moratorium on the deployment of 5G in the European Union. His Electromagnetic Radiation Safety website has had over 2 million page views since 2013, he says.

In a phone interview Monday, Brinchman also slammed San Diego tech giant Qualcomm, whose 5G modems will make it possible for devices like Apple’s iPhone to operate at the faster speeds.

“I think it is irresponsible not to have done safety studies on the whole 5G plan by the telecom industry, and Qualcomm is part of that,” she said. “But it’s understandable because there’s no way a safety study would show there’s any way to make this safe. It’s all about money.”

Brinchman says Americans “are so trusting that the government wouldn’t harm them with these devices, [believing officials] would’t allow harmful devices to be unleashed on them. They’re just so innocent about it. They have no idea.”

Her activism traces to her quarter-century in the San Diego Unified School District, including 2 1/2 years at Sherman Elementary School, where she exposed health issues caused by mold there. She says her efforts caused the school to be torn down and rebuilt. (A school spokesman at the time said mold wasn’t the reason for the razing.)

At her home in San Diego Country Estates, Brinchman uses a cable connection to access the Internet. (She says it took two years to find a house to buy with neighbors’ meters facing away.)

She even takes credit for getting a restaurant overlooking the Country Estates golf course to remove a smart meter. (She noticed it was installed near a group of children having a party, “aimed right” at their heads.)

San Diego County correspondence and votes regarding 5G technology deployment. (PDF)

“By some, miracle, they got that off,” she said. “Had to go through a wringer to get them to stop exposing the public.”

Today Brinchman likens “Big Wireless” to Big Tobacco — the major cigarette companies that long knew smoking was hazardous and addictive but didn’t share that info with the public.

She says the telecom industry’s pattern is “Deny, deny, deny. Twist and spin. Hire industry-friendly scientists. Infiltrate and take over ‘captive’ government agencies such as FCC and FDA. Use money and influence to lobby elected officials. Make huge profits while ignoring the actual untainted, independent science.”

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a story that fueled the 5G debate — and further galled Brinchman.

“Your 5G Phone Won’t Hurt You. But Russia Wants You to Think Otherwise,” said the headline, followed by: “RT America, a network known for sowing disinformation, has a new alarm: the coming ‘5G Apocalypse.’”

Early Monday morning, a long comment from a California reader named “SD” was posted on the story: “I don’t doubt that Russia may be engaged in propaganda and misinformation, [but] … the mainstream view is not always correct and history will reveal this to be so in this case too.”

Brinchman says it wasn’t her comment. She also doubted that anyone associated with her group has been cited by Russia Today.

“Never occurred to me,” she said.

She has suspicions about the timing of the article, however, which she labeled a likely “hit piece.”

“My initial thought is that this is the 5G Day of Action week,” she said. “The 5G telecom companies are nervous and are doing everything they can to make people want 5G.”

She also says New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson is staking the future of that outlet on 5G, and Sunday’s story didn’t mention what she considers a conflict of interest.

Having invested billions of dollars, Big Wireless can’t risk Americans rejecting 5G — regardless of health, safety, privacy and security issues, she said.

“Doubt is their product,” she said. “Same playbook as Big Tobacco, chemical companies and so on.”

She offered a final, “important,” thought.

“What if America deploys 5G and harms the health of the entire nation with microwave radiation poisoning, and Russia doesn’t, and Russia stays well?” Brinchman wrote via email. “It would be an easy way to take down your enemies.”

Updated at 11:40 a.m. May 14, 2019.