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03 March 2018

Switzerland: "Do Not Prematurely Increase Limit Values": Commentary by "Beobachter" Editor-in-Chief, Andres Büchi

"Switzerland has often distinguished itself by being a
little more cautious and thoughtful than other countries." -
Observer editor-in-chief Andres Büchi. 
Photo: Paul Seewer
"Do not prematurely increase limit values"
BY ANDRES BÜCHI, beobachter.ch
Updated 1st March 2018 (translation)

On March 5, the Council of States decides on a requested increase in precautionary limits for mobile communications.  It should set a clear signal against these plans. A commentary by Andres Büchi.

In Switzerland, strict precautionary limits for mobile phone radiation apply today to places with particularly sensitive use (OMEN) in international comparison. The economy, telecom companies and the Federal Council now recommend easing these so-called investment limits in order to create more capacity and to enable the 5G mobile communications standard for the "Internet of Things".

This is easily possible without endangering the population, it is argued. Finally, the significantly higher WHO emission limit values, which must be adhered to absolutely and everywhere for health reasons, still apply.

But despite the lament of the economy, Switzerland otherwise loses the connection in digital development, with all understanding of the hoped for super fast surfing pleasure and the dreams of a world in which soon every thing should be linked to the Internet and control itself: The applicable limit values ​​should not be prematurely relaxed.

The development is much too fast

The possible, even longer-term effects of electromagnetic fields and radiation even below the WHO emission limits on humans, animals and plants are still too unclear. There are many serious indications that microwave exposure is not quite as harmless as we like to think.

To be sure, according to the criteria of science, no direct causal relationship between high-frequency radio signals and damage to health has been proven as long as the WHO limit values ​​are met. But there are undoubtedly effects and impairments that have been noted even with lower radiation doses. Studies on students are, for example, have shown lack of concentration , sleep disorders , loss of performance, changes in brain waves.

But even with the optimistic assumption that as long as only the WHO recommendations are met, we are on the safe side, there are good reasons to slow down the stormy development of mobile technology. Should the capacity of the information superhighway reach its limits as a result of the current limit values, this price is therefore justifiable.

What is technically feasible is not always desirable

The desired profit through even faster data transfers in the omnipresent Internet has long since been countered on the liabilities side, which is hardly desirable from an economic point of view. This is exemplified in the case of the youngest generation, which grew up with the mobile phone - or rather, grew up with it - and whose digital expansion is intended for the future.

The digital helpers in the schools and homes condition the behavior of adolescents in an increasingly disturbing way. For example, the US psychologist and generation researcher Jean Twenge in her new book "iGen" shows that many young people have developed a veritable mobile phone addiction.

Teenagers are becoming increasingly depressed

What's more, the long-term comparison with allegedly more successful, beautiful or fitter youth worldwide, the permanent headlines of disasters and tragedies from around the world and the constant noise of the Internet are making children increasingly depressed. The main driver for this is the constant fear of missing something. For this "Fear of Missing Out" already the short term Fomo has been coined, it leaves more and more teenagers with feelings of uselessness and uncertainty.

An OECD report ( "Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection" ) concluded in 2015: "There is an increased risk of delays in speech and movement development, obesity , sleep disorders, empathy loss and school failure." Conclusion: "We have to take it as a reality that technology is doing more harm than good in our schools." (OECD Pisa chief Andreas Schleicher).

Caution prevailed in the GM debate

Of course, these questions concern the use of digital media and not the health precautions. But if we are constantly anticipating what is technically possible, we need not be surprised about later, possibly negative, consequences.

There has been a comparable discussion for years about the possibilities of genetic engineering in agriculture. Unlike other countries, Switzerland has always pursued a cautious policy on this issue.

For example, the cultivation of genetically modified plants in Switzerland is still prohibited. Last December, Parliament extended the current moratorium until 2021. In contrast, the Federal Council had proposed creating a legal basis for a later coexistence of GM-free and genetically modified plants. Parliament opted for a slower, more cautious course.

The Swiss moratorium approach, criticized environment minister Doris Leuthard at that time, according to NZZ , will not be able to stop the worldwide development. That's right. But Switzerland has often distinguished itself by being a little slower and a little more cautious and thoughtful than other countries. That is exactly what is recommended in mobile communications. There is no reason to abandon the rigorous Swiss limits prematurely.

Original article in German:

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