Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

27 December 2016

Should We Be Afraid of Waves? (Article in Swiss Consumers' Magazine)

[Young children - or anyone, for that matter, should NOT
hold a cell phone next to their ear.]
Should we be afraid of waves?
by Sandra Imsand, Fédération romande des consommateurs, 6 December 2016 (translated by the Editor of "Towards Better Health"

Harmful or inoffensive, electromagnetic fields emitted by electronic gadgets continue to divide scientists and the population

High frequency radiation?  The subject has been written about extensively for many years.  While 97% of the population over age 16 uses a mobile phone or a smartphone, the harm caused by waves is disregarded.  It is all the more problematical as inumerous devices are emitting all the time.  From connected watches to eyeglasses to enhanced reality, the number of gadgets carried permanently on oneself or close to the head is alarming.

The Swiss are wary of this technology.  In fact, according to the 2015 Omnibus inquiry undertaken by the Confederation, 50% of the population considers mobile phone antennas as very dangerous or harmful.  Recently, several scientific studies have looked at whether or not waves are harmless.  They have come to different conclusions.  Australian scientists looked for a link between the rise in wireless and the rate of brain tumors.  They compiled figures over the last 30 years and noted that the frequency of brain cancers has remained stable.  The only significant increase was that for persons over 70, a rise that the authors of the study attributed to the evolution of medical diagnostic imaging techniques.

Another study, another result.  Researchers of the National Toxicology Program noted a link between rare cancers in mice and rats and exposure to high frequency signals similar to those of mobile telephony.  The complete conclusions are awaited for the end of 2017 but publication of the initial results this year solicited much concern as well as criticism.

In Switzerland, we are reassured.  The Federal Office for Public Health says on its site that short-term exposure presents no risk.  It explains that the power of transmission of new devices is well below that of smartphones.  Furthermore, the Confederation offers advice on reducing exposure to radiation, such as using earphones or headsets, using a Wi-Fi connection or favoring modern mobile networks at home, recommendations equally prescribed by the World Health Organization.

Protect the brain

Peter Kälin, president of the association, Doctors for the Protection of the Environment, approves this advice.  He is however worried about the speed at which the technology is evolving, a rhythm that science and its lengthy studies cannot keep up with.  Moreover, he notes that the limit value of two watts per kilo fixed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radio Protection (ICNIRP) dates from 1999.  "Yet we know today that health effects are experienced under this limit.  Radiation from mobile telephony influences brain waves.  Swiss studies have shown that exposure to an electromagnetic field from cell phones during the nighttime worsens the nocturnal process and that young persons who are more exposed at the level of the head have a poorer figurative memory."

Moreover, the doctor treats as relative the notion of low risk in the case of prolonged exposure.  He emphasizes that prolonged exposure has been defined as a use of more than 30 minutes a day over 10 years.  "It suffices to observe the habits of people around us to note that we are all big users.  In addition, even a low risk is worrying since it is a technology used by a huge majority of the population."

For Peter Kälin, there is no doubt:  the electromagnetic field of the devices surrounding us has an impact.  The question is what and at what level.  "Exposure to high frequency waves affects everyone, and from a very young age.  It is really up to governments to look into the issue.  And especially to act according to the precautionary principle."

[See original article for a table of the specific absorption rate of devices.]


Appropriate gestures:

- Abstain from calling when the network is poor, favor 3G or 4G technology
- Use hands-free kits or earphones to make or receive a call
- Favor fixed phones if available or use the Wi-Fi network
- Favor texting to calling if the message allows it
- Avoid calling in a car or train.

Sandra Imsand

Original article in French:

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