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10 September 2017

Switzerland: Life Under High Voltage

Concerned:  Hans-Ulrich Jakob is anything but 
enthusiastic about his results in Aspi.
Image:  Nicole Philipp
Life under high voltage
by Nikola Stosic, bernerzeitung.ch
7 September 2017- Google translation

Residential houses in Aspi near Seedorf are directly below the high-voltage line. Swissgrid plans to strengthen this. But how do the residents deal with the permanent influence of electrosmog?

We can neither see nor feel electric and magnetic fields. Nevertheless, they are ubiquitous. For example, when switching on coffee machines, on the train and around our electricity lines. This fact makes many people insecure. But Swiss households need electricity - a lot of electricity. This must be somehow transported.

If there is more electricity, the line capacities must be increased. In order to avoid bottlenecks, the Swiss electricity grid is therefore constantly being modernized and expanded. This includes, for example, the planned expansion of the line between Bassecourt JU and the Bernese Mühlenberg.

In Aspi near Seedorf this line runs directly over the roofs of the village. But what does it mean to live under a high-voltage line?

Potential for conflict

The high-voltage line is to be operated with 380 kilovolts. With this output, about three and a half million light bulbs could be operated at the same time. Despite the electrosmog over their heads, the inhabitants of Aspi seem to be quiet. So at least is Verena Lauper. She lives with her family directly under the power line. "I honestly do not give it too much thought," she says. She has occasional headaches, but she is not afraid of the power line.

However, in the community, voters who oppose an increase in voltage are confirmed by the President of the municipality, Hanspeter Heimberg (SVP): "Certain citizens are, of course, concerned." Heimberg is against the project. However, it is still too early for concrete objections. From 14 September to 13 October the project will be published in the municipalities concerned.

In the near future, Seedorf will organize an internal information event for the community members, to which representatives of Swissgrid, the operator of the Swiss high-voltage network, are also invited. According to Heimberg, "the emotions of the citizens can be perceived there" and accordingly, which legal measures could be used. A date for the event has not yet been announced.

It remains to be seen whether the project Bassecourt-Mühleberg will produce similar strong reactions as the once planned high-voltage line between Mühleberg and Wattenwil. There, the new construction of the line could be prevented after a year of dispute. "I am surprised that there has been no outcry against the power line," says Hans-Ulrich Jakob, President of the Gigaherz Association, which aims to protect the population from the harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation. The development of the power line over Aspi would be "madness," says Jakob. Shocked and skeptical, he walks through the residential area in search of anomalies, equipped with his beeping meter. A non-representative measurement gives a magnetic field strength of one microtesla. "In full operation, it is three times as strong.

Magnetic field

Since the magnetic field strength is independent of the voltage, a high voltage line does not necessarily produce a larger magnetic field than a low voltage line. In areas where people reside, the exposure limit value of a magnetic field in Switzerland is 100 microteslas.

In the case of new installations, however, the limit value of one microtesla has been required since the year 2000. Now, Swissgrid guarantees the compliance of the limit of 100 microteslas with the voltage increase of the line Bassecourt-Mühleberg, which was built in 1978.  This is justified by the fact that the planned increase in voltage does not constitute a change in the installation, which is why the legal value of 100 microteslas is valid, as the Swissgrid media office says. Why construction work on 54 of 141 pylons is not regarded as a change remains unclear.

There is little evidence of the effects of long-term exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields. Nevertheless, the Federal Office for the Environment warns against the possible risks. The rays are suspected of increasing the risk of leukemia in children. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified low-frequency radiation as potentially carcinogenic in humans.

(Bernese newspaper)

Original article in German:

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