|Memorial to the insatiable hunger for data:|
a mobile phone antenna
by Jürg Steiner, Berner Zeitung, 22 December 2013 (translated from German by Google and the Editor of this blog)
We are sending ever faster and bigger data packets through our mobile and wireless network. We are doing so through electromagnetic radiation. Are we preparing the way for the next disease of civilization?
Casting WLAN networks like fishing nets, the Spitalgasse in Bern would be impassable. From the street, via a smartphone, one can locate dozens of pulsating wireless screens within a confined area. There are no benefits but everyone is irradiated, also by the mobile antenna covering the city center at full strength.
In the train, the same picture: from left and right, pulsating electromagnetic waves from private phones and laptops, while travelling through the sea of rays of the mobile phone network.
And that's just the beginning. By the end of 2014, the CFF [Swiss Railway] wants to guarantee the best internet connections and optimal cell phone reception in all its cars on long-distance traffic. In train stations, free Wi-Fi is the standard. The city of Bern is driving the development of a nationwide free Wi-Fi network. Postal buses move along the periphery like rolling Wi-Fi islands.
Hospital beds without WLAN coverage will be perceived as an imposition. In residential areas, routers from each apartment building overlap into a WLAN jungle. The Swiss mobile providers are upgrading their networks with more efficient LTE technology so that one can rapidly upload photos to Facebook, download PDFs smoothly, and stream YouTube movies.
Everything, everywhere, always. One can no longer escape the radiation coverage of wireless and cellular networks. Most of the news and information appearing on the concentrated display of one’s smartphone is being transmitted using electromagnetic waves, whether via WLAN or mobile.
And that is why we are producing increasing electromagnetic pollution. Invisible. Impalpable. But very close to our bodies.
Conflict comes to a head
Are we therefore at serious risk of illness? Or are fear mongers, skeptics of progress, and health fetishists merely plowing their next stomping ground?
Jürg Baumann moves almost daily in this area of conflict, where economic interests collide with health concerns with more and more violence. He is head of the non-ionizing radiation section of the Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU-FOEN). Together with Andreas Siegenthaler, an expert on issues in the high frequency range, he now wants to draw a different picture of the electromagnetic problem in the boardroom of the BAFU administration building in Ittigen. And first visits the fundamentals of radiation physics.
Altered brain waves
In contrast to X-rays, the waves from the non-ionizing radiation of cellular technology or Wi-Fi cannot directly change the atoms or molecules of living things. They do, however, generate heat such as is used in concentrated form in the operation of microwave ovens. One is now already leaving the scientifically physical knowledge about the consequences of WLAN and cellular radiation. It is undisputed that electromagnetic radiation has biological effects on the human body - for example, changing brain activity.
But we do not know how this comes about, and also whether it is physically significant. "These uncertainties," says Baumann, "have been included in the determination of radiation exposure limits for federal government regulations."
Roughly speaking, the radiation limits for mobile telephony, radio or radar systems are firmly set to protect the population not only from the unhealthy heating effect of the radiation, but also with a precautionary safety margin for any other biological effects.
In comparison with Europe, Switzerland has, according to Baumann, strict limits – which is becoming increasingly a thorn in the side of the mobile industry, pushing their networks to capacity limits.
Regarding health, Baumann sees no cause for concern at the moment. On average, the exposure of the population is low, and also, the highest exposures would be “reliably limited, thanks to the strict Swiss regulations."
But he does not want to commit long-term, given the duration of exposure over the last few years at home, on the train, on the platform, in the office, in cafés. “Mobile communications are developing extremely dynamically," he says - "not only quantitatively and technologically."
That is very exciting, but the impact of new technical solutions on radiation exposure is hardly predictable. Also, how bio-medical knowledge is changing - for example, when more experiences become available of people moving in dense electromagnetic pollution over a period years.
Sleep disturbances, fatigue, nervousness, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness - diffuse health complaints and more often associated with non-ionizing radiation.
Critical doctors believe that the human body would be broken, like a bioelectrical system, sensitive to the continuous electromagnetic load. Weak radiation, really safe wireless networks, for example, are pulsing with the same vibrations as alpha brain waves.
Hypersensitivity has established itself as a collective term for vague symptoms of possible radiation sensitivity, but it is not as yet an objective medical diagnosis with generally accepted, physically verifiable criteria.
Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is often reduced to psychological problems, but there are research groups in the U.S. who have demonstrated neurological changes in electrohypersentive people. "The picture is too inconsistent for one to draw clear conclusions," says Jürg Baumann. Because of the big knowledge gaps, it is sometimes a bitter struggle for the truth amongst stakeholders. On the one hand, for economic reasons, network operators want to satisfy the growing hunger of users for data at any time, anywhere.
On the other hand, there are advocacy groups which are against the permanent expansion of mobile communications networks, such as "Gigahertz" which includes Bernese activist Hans-Ulrich Jacob, who 15 years ago, fought the shortwave transmitter at Schwarzburg.
Among the critical spokespersons is the California group, Bioinitiative, which in 2012 presented its report on major global scientific knowledge for electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
Their conclusion: electrosmog weakens the immune system, reduces fertility, can cause abnormalities in cells, and promotes diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer's. Even very small doses of chronic radiation exposure are sufficient to cause adverse health effects.
We must keep in mind one thing, says Jürg Baumann. That we are often exposing ourselves to the most electrosmog. Radiation exposure not only increases in public spaces, but is also very strong at home, where at the family table, several smartphones are often transmitting at the same time and in the basement, a wireless base station is flashing.
If one finds oneself in the basement, "One of the most efficient ways to avoid electromagnetic radiation is to keep one’s distance from the radiation sources," says Baumann. Even one meter’s distance reduces the burden significantly.
Data on how much the average population is being exposed today to non-ionizing radiation and exactly how much it is increasing, is not being collected systematically. Based on a postulate by the Thurgau green party National Councillor Yvonne Gilli, the FOEN is now preparing a monitoring program. Financing has yet to be decided by the Bundesrat [Federal Council].
Whether the persistence of electrosmog raises electrohypersensitivity to a disease of civilization, is open. The widespread feeling of taking part in a self-inflicted live experiment on long-term radiation exposure, can be difficult to shake off.
It is clear that the possible permanent accessibility of mobile and wireless technology could promote the diseases of civilization that we know of: stress, exhaustion, burn-out. And mobile phone use while driving is, in contrast to radiation, an unequivocally proven risk for serious accidents.
Original article in German :