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10 March 2018

Switzerland: How the Daughter of National Councilor Maximilian Reimann is Fighting against Swisscom for Her Survival

Copper cables radiate in the garden.  Evelyn Reimann can
hardly bear her father's house in Gipf-Oberfrick, Aargau
(7 February 2018).  Photo: Kilian J. Kessler
How the Daughter of Maximilian Reimann, National Councilor UDC , is Fighting against Swisscom for Her Survival
by Marco Metzler, nzz.ch, 4 March 2018 (translation)

Evelyn Reimann has been suffering from the radiation of copper cables since Swisscom is has been using them for high debit Internet transmission.  Today, the family is defending themselves legally and is ready to resort to litigation proceedings.

"I am being tortured," says Evelyn Reimann at the kitchen table of the one-family home of her father, National Councilor Maximilian Reimann.  This 38-year-old woman is in bad shape.  According to the family doctor, she is suffering from electrosensitivity.  Since November 2015, she is hardly able to stay in Gipf-Oberfrick, Aargau.  Swisscom is responsible for this.

Before the meeting, she asks us to only make calls in the case of an emergency.  There, we place all devices in airplane mode.  In the corridor, there is an unplugged cross-trainer.  After a short stay at home, her condition worsened.  "I have headaches, tachycardia and difficulties breathing.  After two nights, I was exhausted," she said.  "It was severe on the fixed phone.  Then, I realized for the first time that something else wasn't right."

Before, she always felt comfortable here:  she slept in the office in the basement and was sheltered from cell phone radiation.  Already in 2000, during the first mobile phone call, strong pain was going through her head,  She has been in treatment for years.  The doctors are perplexed.  Over time, a diagnosis emerged:  sensitivity to electric radiation.

Evelyn Reimann has had to give up her studies twice because she could not bear the radiation at the university.  As a "literary philosopher", she has written and published two novels.  In mid-2015, she went to live in Lucerne where she also suffered from radiation.  She thus decided to return to the country.  "I foresaw returning to my parents' home."  Then, the symptoms appeared.

Radiating copper cables

Swisscom is responsible for this.  In October 2015, it finished introduction of the vectorization at Gipf-Oberfrick.  This technology allows more rapid access to the Internet by means of copper cables and is principally used in rural areas.  Now, 10 meters behind the house, a bundle of cables traverses the Reimann's garden, transmitting signals to the neighbors.  While the antiquated urban cables are being replaced by new fiber optic non-radiating cables, they have to transmit higher band widths in rural areas.

Reimann requested the help of a biologist-electrician Josef Peter.  He electrically grounded the house and protected it against the cell phone antennas 500 meters from the village.  But as Ms. Reimann continued to suffer, Peter identified the copper cables as being the cause.  "Swisscom uses them as antennas transmitting short waves".  Contrary to mobile radio, the waves go through the ground and cement.  You cannot protect yourself from that."

Swisscom sent an expert.  His conclusion:  the radiation was well below the limit values fixed by the regulations relating to protection against non-ionizing radiation.  The maximum limit value is not generated anywhere by the copper Internet.  Peter proposed a solution:  Swisscom has to install fiber optics in dwellings in the neighborhood within three months.  But Swisscom refused.

Evelyn Reimann felt obliged to stay in Lucerne where she sleeps less and less.  She could no longer work, remained isolated professionally and socially, and lived with the support of her parents.  "I am merely a survivor.  It is hell."

"My father is suffering and makes an effort," she says.  At the end of 2017, he became co-president of the parliamentary group on non-ionizing radiation and wants to raise awareness of the negative consequences of the copper Internet.  He said that he was clearly in favor of rapid Internet but via modern fiber optics.  "We need a fair balance between technological progress and respect for human and animal health," he said.

The fight for fiber optics

In the fall of 2017, the chief Swisscom lobbyist invited National Councilor Reimann and the biologist-electrician Peter to a meeting with Gregor Dürrenberger, director of the research foundation for electricity and mobile communication, to fix the problem.  Two worlds collided:  Peter, who has helped 12,000 persons affected by electrosmog as a contractor, and Dürrenberger, whose foundation is co-financed by Swisscom.  Reimann did not understand very much at the technical meeting - so many politicians say, "It's a question of belief".  Dürrenberger talked about the nocebo effect - when people react psychosomatically to an apparently negative cause.  One cannot exclude, however, that there could be a very small minority of hypersensitive people.  "You don't really know.  People do not want to investigate this," said Peter.

The Reimanns' fight against Swisscom  now rests on legal grounds.  In December 2017, their lawyers presented several briefs to the Office for the Environment of canton Aargau, the Federal Office of Communication and the commission for competition and price control.  The Office of the Environment of canton Aargau immediately asked Swisscom to eliminate the radiation emitted by the copper cables within and around Gipf-Oberfrick.

The main argument of their legal representatives:  Up until now, the Federal Tribunal has always supported mobile phone antennas because there is no technological alternative.  For the Internet, however, copper can be replaced by fiber optics.  Under the law on the protection of the environment, parasitic emissions that are not useful must be avoided, even if they are not harmful to health.

But how does Ms.Reimann know if her symptoms are not due to psychological suffering?  "I have never heard of vectorization before when I realized that something was wrong", she said.  "I am sure that there are people who are mentally ill for ideological reasons.  But I would like to use a cell phone."

Swisscom affirmed that it is not interested in technologies which present a risk to health and defends itself against unfounded claims of an established causal link.  However, it cannot guarantee that the vectorization is harmless.  "Research can never methodically prove the safety of a technology," says the spokesperson.

Nevertheless, there is no scientific evidence that weak levels of emissions of cables cause health problems.

According to Swisscom, one must wait until 2040 before all municipalities could access the Internet through fiber optics.  But can Reimann continue to live like this until 2040 when all surrounding habitations will be equipped with fiber optics?  The family wants to undertake all possible proceedings.  The suffering of Evelyn Reimann could then cease - if the copper cables were the cause of it.  The agency for the protection of the environment of canton Aargau have asked Swisscom to share its observations with them.

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