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23 December 2018

Switzerland: "Radiation-Emitting Devices Close to the Head and Body" - Interpellation Introduced at the National Council in June 2018

We only just discovered the text of the interpellation introduced by National Councilor Mrs. Silva Semadeni in June 2018 which mentions the Phonegate scandal and the importance of notifying users of the risks of exposure to the electromagnetic fields from mobile devices.  A Postulate "Declaration of Non-Ionizing Radiation" was introduced to the National Council on 27 September by Mrs. Semadeni, and discussed on 21 November, when the Federal Council proposed to reject the postulate.  We hope that the newly-appointed Federal Councilor in charge of communications will be more favorable to the postulate. 

18.3622 INTERPELLATION - "Radiation-Emitting Devices Close to the Head and Body" 

Unofficial translation

Introduced by: SEMADENI SILVA on 14 June 2018 to the National Council

Electronic devices that can be worn in contact with or close to the body and produce a permanent electromagnetic field are increasingly available on the market: computers, laptops, tablets, headphones, watches or various devices that measure physical activity (pulse, step, etc.). And the phenomenon will continue to intensify (clothing, glasses, virtual reality equipment, etc.). However, users are not always aware of the long-term health risks of these electromagnetic fields (radio waves, magnetic fields, etc.).

A French study (Phonegate scandal) revealed that the specific absorption rate (SAR) values of most mobile phones were respected in optimized laboratory measurements, but not during daily use near the body. The different proceedings won by people with brain tumors related to the professional use of cell phones should invite caution. Insurance companies exclude risks related to electromagnetic fields from their policies, among other things because they have been on the World Health Organization's list of carcinogens for years.

The Federal Council is asked to answer the following questions:

1. What measures has it taken to address the long-term health risks posed by radiation-emitting devices worn on or near the body?

2. Since long-term health risks are no longer excluded, what does it intend to do in the area of precaution in the face of the fact that the population will increasingly wear such devices?

3. Does it share the view that it should actively and regularly inform consumers of these risks, so that they can choose for themselves if they want to be exposed to them?

4. What are the possibilities, at the level of legislation or technical requirements, to oblige manufacturers, importers or retailers to ensure that the devices concerned are easily recognizable to consumers (stickers, indications on packaging, details in instructions for use or in advertising, etc.)?


1. To date, the Federal Council has not taken any particular measures regarding possible long-term risks caused by radiation-emitting products worn close to the body. Such risks are not proven on the basis of current knowledge. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization considers that a carcinogenic effect is only proven to be limited, for methodological reasons, and therefore qualifies electromagnetic radiation as "possibly" carcinogenic. However, the Federal Council takes the issue seriously because these technologies are already widespread and will continue to increase. A study commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) shows that these products comply with limit values designed to avoid short-term risks. However, when directly connected to the mobile network, radiation comparable to that of mobile phones may occur. It is therefore essential that manufacturers themselves limit this radiation as much as possible with appropriate measures.

2. Current products, depending on the state of science and technology, do not present any (or only minimal) health risks. Health protection is the responsibility of the manufacturer. The Federal Council considers that the existing legal bases are sufficient and that it is not necessary to apply preventive measures concerning electronic products worn close to the body. The federal offices involved also monitor international research on the long-term effects of electromagnetic radiation and ensure that these health aspects are integrated into standardization bodies.

3. The Federal Council does not consider it necessary to oblige manufacturers to inform consumers of any unproven risks.

However, it is primarily the responsibility of manufacturers and distributors to clarify the issue of risks.

In addition, the FOPH has already published various information sheets to meet the expectations of the population who wish to obtain in-depth and independent health information on these products. These fact sheets present current knowledge on possible long-term effects and explain how to resolve uncertainties. They do not form part of the product information published by manufacturers but complement it for an interested public.

4. Warnings allow preventive action to be taken by drawing consumers' attention to the proven risks associated with certain products. In the cases before us, this information is not appropriate because the long-term risks have not yet been confirmed. In addition, there is no legal basis for providing preventive information on possible risks. However, the Federal Council would appreciate it if the industry could voluntarily indicate the radiation (SAR values) emitted by products worn close to the body, as was the case for mobile phones. This would give consumers the opportunity to purchase low radiation-emitting equipment.

National Council

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