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30 May 2019

Switzerland: 19.3113 INTERPELLATION: Who Bears the Health Risk of 5G Technology?

UPDATE : On 22 May 2019, the Federal Council replied to this interpellation:

Opinion of the Federal Council

1. The Federal Council takes the public's concern about the harmful effects of mobile telephony very seriously. With its ordinance on protection against non-ionizng radiation (ORNI; SR 814.710), Switzerland has a legislative framework that restricts the radiation of mobile telephony antennas more than most of its neighboring countries. The limit values are set in the ORNI on the basis of the precautionary principle laid down in the Environmental Protection Act (EPL; SR 814.01), a principle that the Federal Council intends to maintain.

Research has led to more or less well-documented observations showing that mobile telephony radiation can have biological effects that cannot be attributed to the warming of the body's tissues. Scientific studies are currently being carried out to determine whether they are dangerous to health. Based on the findings of surveys on mobile phone use, the World Health Organization has classified high frequency radiation as potentially carcinogenic to humans. At the same time, it notes that research on the population's exposure to fixed transmitter stations, which have much lower radiation levels, does not indicate an increased risk of cancer. However, it acknowledges that there is no relevant long-term study.

The Federal Council has taken these gray areas into account in the ORNI: on the basis of the precautionary principle in the EPA, it has set stricter installation limit values for sensitive areas (homes, schools, hospitals, offices, playgrounds, etc.) in order to maintain low-level exposure in the long term. The current deployment of 5G must take place in the frequency ranges already used today for mobile telephony and wireless networks.

2. There are reports of several decisions rendered abroad related to damage caused by the intensive use of mobile phones in the workplace. However, the Federal Council is not aware of any similar decision in Switzerland. With regard to mobile telephony installations, the Federal Court has confirmed on more than 100 occasions that the provisions of the ORNI are in conformity with the law in force.

3. Compensation for the health damage caused by mobile telephony radiation could be sought on the basis of several legal provisions, provided that the applicant can justify the causal link. Among the various modalities that arise, the liability of the operator under art. 41 of the Federal Act supplementing the Swiss Civil Code (SR 220), the liability of the operator, landowner or owner of the structure under art. 679 of the Swiss Civil Code (SR 210) or art. 58 of the Federal Act supplementing the Swiss Civil Code, the liability of the producer of the equipment under Art. 1 of the Federal Product Liability Act (SR 221.112.944) or that of the authority under the general provisions on state liability are all avenues to be explored. In addition, the operator could be liable for damage under Art. 59a EPA insofar as mobile telephony installations are qualified as installations that present a particular danger to the environment.

4. The provisions of the EPA and ORNI have been defined in such a way as to ensure that the radiation from mobile telephony installations, according to the current state of knowledge, does not harm health in any way (including warming of body tissues) and to reduce the risk of long-term adverse effects that would still be unknown. If a mobile telephony installation is operated in accordance with the provisions in force, it can be assumed that liability for negligence (e. g. Art. 41 of the Federal Act supplementing the Swiss Civil Code) does not apply, even in the case of new knowledge of harmfulness, because the duty of care was fulfilled at the time the damage was caused. While the above-mentioned causal liabilities do not presuppose fault, they generally only cover damage that was foreseeable according to the state of knowledge and technology at the time the installation was commissioned. It is also necessary to establish an adequate correlation and prove that the particular danger within the meaning of Art. 59a EPA has occurred. If the conditions of liability are not met and it is therefore not possible to obtain compensation, it is the responsibility of the person concerned or, as in the case of other health damage, the community, to bear any health costs.

5. If new scientific knowledge requires a further tightening of the emission limit values, installation operators may in principle not appeal to the State's liability. However, when enacting the transitional provisions, it is important to take into account the protection of trust when implementing the new values.

6. The introduction of strict causal liability of mobile telephony operators for health damage caused by radiation and the creation of a mutual fund similar to those provided for in the Nuclear Civil Liability Act (SR 732.44) should be justified accordingly and implemented as part of the formal legislative procedure.

7. Installation operators are required to comply with the provisions of the ORNI, in particular the installation limit values, which are stricter in Switzerland than abroad. These are fully in line with the precautionary principle enshrined in the EPA. The current law does not provide for the creation of a mutual fund financed by mobile telephony operators.

19.3113 INTERPELLATION:  Who bears the health risk of 5G technology? -
(unofficial translation)

Submitted by: MUNZ MARTINA
to the National Council, Swiss Parliament, on 14.03.2019

Status of deliberations:
Not yet dealt with by the Council


The switch to 5G in the mobile telephony sector will expose the population to an additional unknown health risk due to high frequency electromagnetic fields. This risk is of great importance, particularly from an economic point of view.

In this regard, I would ask the Federal Council to answer the following questions:

1. What is its assessment of the health risk posed by radiation generated by mobile telephony? How will this risk evolve with the development of the 5G network? Do we have any expertise, research results or experiments done on this subject from abroad?

2. Are there any medical reports and court decisions that report cases in which the damage is attributable to radiation generated by mobile telephony? Have there also been cases of this type in Switzerland and could they increase due to the development of the 5G network?

3. Who will be responsible for any health costs incurred by mobile telephony? If the Federal Council concludes that the Confederation, which allocates mobile telephony licences, has no responsibility to assume, it will have to indicate not only who should assume the risk in terms of liability, but also how high that risk is.

4. Who will be responsible for health costs if it is later found that the limit values have been set at too high a level?

5. Should financial consequences be expected if new scientific knowledge makes it necessary to tighten the rules governing limit values for mobile telephony installations?

6. What are the possibilities of subjecting mobile telephony operators to a civil liability law, as is the case for operators of nuclear power plants, which are subject to the Civil Nuclear Liability Law?

7. How can mobile telephony operators be encouraged to keep the protection of the population as high as possible as a precautionary measure? Is there any plan to create a fund, funded by mobile telephony operators, to compensate mobile telephony victims?




National Council




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Original interpellation in French:

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