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EMF Studies

03 April 2015

Switzerland: Federal Office of Public Health: Health Effects of Mobile Phones and WLAN

 UPDATE : This information was updated on 11 October 2016 but a text in English is not available.

The Editor of this blog has placed in italics the most interesting information.  The  Federal Office of Public Health seems to ignore most of the many hundreds of studies undertaken outside Switzerland on the health effects of electromagnetic fields.

Mobile Phones
Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, latest update 24 February 2015

3. Health effects
Verified effects

Low-frequency magnetic fields
Low-frequency magnetic fields penetrate into the human body, where they induce electrical fields and currents. In the presence of very strong magnetic fields, these currents can give rise to acute nerve stimulation [1]. In order to rule out such effects, the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has set its recommended exposure limits for magnetic fields at a level that is lower by a factor of 50 than the threshold value for the stimulation of the central nervous system by induced currents. Under certain circumstances, the low-frequency magnetic fields generated by the electronics and the battery currents of mobile phones can exceed these recommended exposure limits [6].

High-frequency electromagnetic fields
High-frequency fields can cause the body to absorb radiant energy and thus lead to an increase in body temperature [1]. Based on current exposure limits, however, the radiation from mobile phones is too weak to cause harmful levels of tissue heating.

Other effects investigated
Several expert groups have evaluated the possible health effects of longer-term or less high-frequency radiation [15, 16]. In May 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use in epidemiological studies. This classification means that there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.

In particular, many studies have investigated the biological and health effects of GSM radiation. Owing to inconsistent results or uncertainty over their relevance to health, it is not currently possible to make a conclusive health assessment in the case of the results listed below:

Effects on the hormonal and immune systems
Hormones are messenger substances which influence the metabolism even in small concentrations. Although researchers have in some cases identified effects on individual hormones as a result of radiation from mobile phones, the inconsistency of the data prevents an assessment of the overall impact on hormonal equilibrium. Nor is it possible to evaluate effects on the immune system owing to a lack of data.

Effects on brain activity
The electrical activity of the brain can be modelled using electroencephalograms (EEGs). The radiation from mobile phones can influence both waking and sleeping brain activity. However, the effects on health of this modified brain activity are unclear.

Perception and processing of stimuli
Whereas older studies have produced evidence to suggest that radiation from mobile telephony might reduce reaction times, this effect only occurs sporadically in more recent studies.

"Microwave hearing"
There is no evidence that radiation from mobile telephony causes people to hear non-existent noises.

Effects on the cardiovascular system
The impact of mobile phone radiation on blood pressure, pulse, heart rate variability and blood supply to the skin was only investigated in a very small number of studies, which failed to produce consistent results.

Effects on well-being
Interviewees ascribed unspecific symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, headaches to mobile phone radiation. A consistent relation between unspecific symptoms and mobile phone radiation could not be established in good epidemiological studies [31-34]. However, up to now the long term effects have not been adequately investigated and consequently a definitive assessment of the effects of mobile phone radiation on general well-being cannot be given [35].

Effects on sleep
Several studies investigated the association between mobile phone radiation and sleeping patterns. In laboratory studies, persons were exposed to radiation from mobile phones before going to sleep. In some studies, a relation was found between the exposure prior to sleep and a shorter time to fall sleep [36], as well as a change in the electrical activity of the brain during sleep [37]. However in many studies, no relation could be established between the acute effect of mobile phone radiation on sleep. In epidemiological studies, a consistent relation between the self-reported quality of sleep and the exposure to high frequency radiation was not found [31,33].

Brain tumours in adults
As there is evidence to suggest that high-frequency radiation may have genotoxic and carcinogenic effects, current research efforts are focusing on the question of whether the radiation from mobile phones increases the risk of brain cancer. The majority of the studies conducted to date have failed to identify any such correlations for the first 10 years of mobile phone usage. However, interpretation of the individual studies is hampered by the small study sizes and the long latency period of brain tumours. In a recently published study about brain tumor and mobile phone use (Interphone) [40], an increased risk to suffer from a brain tumor for heavy mobile phone users (30 minutes/day over 10 years) was observed. No increased risk was observed for regular mobile phone users and mobile phone users for more than 10 years. Due to the different uncertainties in data collection and study design, no firm conclusion can be drawn and these possible errors prevent a causal interpretation.

Other tumours in adults
Eyes are also exposed to radiation from mobile phones. Although studies conducted to date on ophthalmic tumours have not produced consistent results, a potential risk cannot be ruled out. A large study was carried out in Denmark in 2006 [38]. The risk of developing cancer (15 different types of tumour were investigated) was calculated for ca. 400 000 persons, who had concluded a contract with a mobile phone operator between 1982 - 1995. No relation between the use of mobile phones and cancer could be established (neither for short-term nor long-term use). Due to the lack of adequate studies, a reliable assessment on long-term effects is not possible.

Brain tumours in children
Little data is available about the possible risk of brain tumours among children and adolescents, a rapidly growing mobile-phone user group. The FOPH therefore endorsed the International Case-Control Study on Brain Tumours in Children and Adolescents. The results were published in 2011 [41]. There was no exposure-response relationship observed. This study remains the only one investigating this subject. There is also some uncertainty over the extent to which children's heads absorb radiation and about the effect on the development of nerve tissue and the brain. These uncertainties and the fact that mobile phone usage is beginning at an increasingly young age justify the use of low-emission mobile phones, especially in children and adolescents.
Children and attention deficit disorders
Studies on the attention deficit disorder in children in relation to mobile phones have been published [39]. Indications for an influence of exposure to high frequency radiation and behavioural disorders were indeed found for children and adolescents, although still further studies are needed in order to substantiate this relation and to ensure that other factors are not responsible for these behavioural disorders.

It is not possible to make a conclusive assessment of the extent to which fertility is influenced by mobile phone radiation owing to the paucity of studies. The majority of studies investigated the effects of mobile phone radiation on the mobility of spermatozoa. In these studies however, the estimation of exposure to the mobile phone radiation is unsatisfactory. As a precaution, mobile phones should not be positioned close to the genitals when making calls with hands-free devices.

The radiation reduction measures outlined in the introduction are designed to take account of the current gaps in our knowledge of the health effects of mobile phone radiation.

Interference with implants
Mobile phones can interfere with pacemakers (inhibition, stimulation with a false signal, asynchronous pacing) [17, 18, 19]. More recent pacemakers [20, 21], implanted defibrillators [17] and brain stimulators [22] are less susceptible to interference. It is nevertheless advisable to keep the phone at least 30 cm away from the implant, i.e. do not carry the phone in the breast pocket and hold the phone on the side opposite the implant when making calls [17].

Car accidents
There is evidence that it is dangerous to use a mobile phone while driving a car. Making phone calls while driving significantly increases the risk of a fatal or non-fatal accident [23, 24, 25]. The adverse impact of mobile-phone use on driving behaviour can be likened to driving with too much alcohol (0.8‰) in the blood [26]. The risk does not only increase during the call but also for some time afterwards. The use of a hands-free kit does not reduce this risk.

Do not use a phone while driving a car (either with or without a hands-free kit).


It is currently not known whether the electromagnetic fields created by WLANs pose a risk to health. WLAN devices generally emit a low level of radiation, and caution should be exercised primarily when using devices held close to the body, such as laptops, PDAs and Internet telephones.
We would offer the following advice to people who prefer to minimise their personal exposure by keeping the electromagnetic fields in their home or office as small as possible:

- Only switch your WLAN on when you need it. With laptops, in particular, it is a good idea to switch the WLAN off as otherwise the device will repeatedly try to connect to a network, leading to unnecessary radiation and a shorter battery life.

- Don’t hold your laptop close to your body while it is connected to a WLAN.

- Wherever possible, install the access point one metre away from places where you work, sit or rest for long periods of time....

Specialist staff: emf@bag.admin.ch
Last updated on: 24.02.2015


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