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EMF Studies

03 July 2014

Switzerland: Bern Is Evaluating a New System to Measure Electrosmog

Canton Vaud has just ordered two devices
(one of this type) in order to undertake a
dosimetry over 24 hours in the homes of
persons living near an antenna.
Personally, we are disappointed in this article: one official responsible for non-ionizing radiation states, "[Exposure] levels remain low and harm from waves seems especially to be tied to the fear they provoke."  The text also suggests that most exposure is coming from our own personal devices such as cell phones, and does not incriminate emissions from mobile phone antennas. What is left unsaid is that financial stakes are very high, with the Government holding shares in telecom companies and its selling off in 2012 of frequency bands to the three major operators for one billion Swiss francs on the understanding, "hands off" regulating for the next 16 years during which time the operators will erect more and more antennas.  We believe advocacy groups should have a say on how electrosmog will be measured by this new system.

The Confederation wants to measure electrosmog
by Caroline Zuercher, Tribune de Genève, 30 June 2014 (translated from French by the Editor of this blog)

What radiation are the Swiss exposed to ? Berne is evaluating a new measuring system

Cell phones, micro-wave ovens, tablets, game consoles, ultraviolet lamps… Besides antennas and high-voltage power lines, all these devices produce non-ionizing radiation. These electromagnetic waves are creating suspicion and the fear: what are the long-term health effects?

From the scientific viewpoint, the question is giving rise to debate. From the political side, the Federal Office of the Environment (OFEV) is now evaluating the setting up of a national program to measure actual exposure of the population, the NZZ am Sonntag has revealed.

Towards regular monitoring
Today, emissions from high-voltage power lines and those from mobile phone antennas are monitored. The limit values are fixed by an ordinance. However, total exposure to electrosmog is not just limited to these installations. It also depends on the use of other devices, in particular, cell phones. And then, it does not occur at any one time but is spread over a period of time. For this, no limit value has been set. The Confederation moreover does not have any precise figures. « We cannot for example say what is the average exposure to this radiation in Switzerland, » admits Frank Brügger, scientific collaborator at OFEV.

Following a postulate by National Councillor Yvonne Gilli (Green Party, St. Gallen), a study has confirmed that such measurements would be possible. Now, the federal administration is working to set this up. Two systems can be used, specifies Frank Brügger. Model calculations would allow estimation of the immissions of existing installations. In order to better know the actual exposure, it will be necessary to go out into the streets and into buildings with measuring instruments.

The objective, he says, is to regularly monitor the radiation which surrounds us, as is being done with air quality and noise. The study would encourage reflection on eventual long-term effects of this radiation and should allow, as needed, protection of the population. Certain cantons and cities, adds the official, have taken the lead and are already carrying out analyses. These will be integrated as far as possible into the federal plan.

Especially fear
Such systems do not exist in cantons Vaud and Geneva where measuring is related to radiation from antennas and other installations located in public areas. Canton Vaud has, however, just ordered two devices to carry out dosimetry over 24 hours for individuals living near an antenna.

« Studies done in Switzerland have shown that the principal exposure of citizens to non-ionizing radiation is not linked to such installations, but to the use of their own cell phones, » explains Dominique Luy, Chief of the noise and non-ionizing section of the Directorate-General of the Environment of Canton Vaud. « But this should be placed in perspective: levels remain low and harm from waves seems especially to be tied to the fear that they provoke. »

Interest to Geneva :
In Geneva, such measuring has also been done near fixed installations. Philippe Royer, Director of the Air, Noise and Non-ionizing Radiation Service, praises the Berne project:  « This issue is complex because there are many sources of radiation. Studies are now leaning more and more towards the idea that, if there are eventual harmful effects, they would probably be coming from these domestic devices. It is thus interesting to think in terms of overall exposure. But this reflection is way ahead of the legal framework set solely by the limit values for fixed installations. »

See next post for a critique of the NZZ article and the proposed measuring system by the Umbrella Association « Electrosmog Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The original version of this article in French can be found on our "Mieux Prévenir" blog.  It is not available on-line.

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