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09 June 2019

Switzerland: Interpellation 19.3120 Submitted by Alice Glauser-Zufferey: "Non-ionizing Radiation, Health and Responsibility"

UPDATE with Opinion of Federal Council of 29.05.19
(unofficial translation)

Ad 1

The Swiss Insurance Association (SIA) classifies non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, and therefore mobile telephony radiation, as an emerging risk (currently twelve in number). These are new types of risks that may have an impact in the future. Unlike traditional risks, they are difficult to identify and therefore difficult to assess financially. A common feature of emerging risks is that the causality between risk and damage cannot (yet) be proven. Since the generally accepted criteria for providing insurance against hazards cannot be applied to emerging risks without further action, liability insurers are faced with the fundamental question of whether such risks can actually be covered by insurance. In the absence of this causality and because it is almost impossible to financially assess possible risks, insurers are reluctant to cover the risks for the population that could result from the antennas.

Ad 2

An action for damages for damage to health caused by mobile telephony radiation could be allowed on the basis of several legal provisions, provided that the causality between the radiation and the damage can be proven. The various conditions of liability include in particular the liability of the operator under Art. 41 of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO; SR 220), the liability of the landowner under Art. 679 of the Swiss Civil Code (CC; SR 210) or the liability of the owner of a structure under Art. 58 CO. In addition, an operator could also be held liable on the basis of the provisions of Art. 59a of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA; SR 814.01) if mobile telephone installations are classified as installations posing a particular danger to the environment.

The requirements of the EPA and the Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionizing Radiation (ORNI; SR 814.710) have been laid down in such a way that, according to the state of science and experience, the radiation from mobile telephone installations does not harm health as a result of warming of body tissues and the risk of uncertain negative long-term effects is reduced to a minimum. If an installation is operated in accordance with the regulations in force, it is to be expected that the provisions on liability for fault, such as Art. 41 CO, will not apply in the future either, even if there are new facts concerning harmfulness, because the duty of care was not breached at the time the damage was caused.

The above-mentioned causal liabilities are not linked to prior fault and only cover damage that could have been expected according to the state of scientific and technical knowledge at the time of commissioning of the installation. In addition, it must be proven that there is a real causal link, i.e. that the particular danger referred to in Art. 59a EPA, which gives rise to liability, has become a reality.

Ad 3

Internet providers can configure a second publicly accessible WIFI signal on a WIFI router made available for private use. This case is not provided for by public law, but is a matter of private law. The Federal Council assumes that suppliers request the agreement of their customers by contract, within the framework of the general conditions, before activating such a function. Customers who object to the configuration on their router of a WIFI network accessible to third parties can usually disable this function. If their supplier does not provide such a solution, they will have no choice but to change service providers.

Ad 4

The Federal Council sets emission limit values in the ORNI similar to those applied at international level in order to protect the health of the population against the effects of scientifically recognized non-ionizing radiation. In addition, limit values based on the precautionary principle of the EPA and applicable to mobile telephony installations reduce long-term exposure in places where people stay for long periods of time, such as homes, schools, hospitals, offices or children's playgrounds. The objective is to ensure that the entire population is exposed for as short a time as possible and thus to reduce to a strict minimum the risk of possible health consequences that are not yet clearly identified.

Ad 5

In response to postulate 09.3488, submitted by National Councilor Yvonne Gilli, the Federal Council decided on 18 December 2015 to develop an electromagnetic field monitoring system that provides information on the exposure of the Swiss population to non-ionizing radiation. This monitoring also includes the calculation of emissions related to mobile telephony and broadcasting installations. With the financing of such a system clarified, the objective is now to explicitly mandate the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) in the context of the current revision of the ORNI to set up this monitoring system.

Ad 6

As the federal authority responsible for the environment, the FOEN is responsible for monitoring research on the effects of non-ionizing radiation on humans. In 2014, it created a support structure by appointing an advisory group of experts on non-ionizing radiation (BERENIS, an acronym for designation in German). It examines new scientific work on this topic and selects studies that it considers worthy of a detailed assessment from the point of view of the protection of individuals. The results of this evaluation are published in the form of a quarterly newsletter on the FOEN website.

19.3120 INTERPELLATION : "Non-ionizing Radiation, Health and Responsibility" -
(unofficial translation)


Date: 14.03.2019
Introduced to the National Council

Status of deliberations: Not yet dealt with by the Council


4G technology has developed strongly in recent years and the signals for the next step, 5G, are set to green. This is not without causing health concerns for some citizens who are more or less electrosensitive. It seems that the operators concerned cannot find an insurer to insure the health risk caused to citizens exposed to their antennas. For owners with one or more antennas on their land or building, will they have to bear risks? I would therefore like to thank the Federal Council for answering the following questions:

1. Does the Federal Council confirm that insurers are reluctant to insure the risks caused to citizens by the antennas.  If so, what does it recommend in these cases?

2. Following the establishment of a base station, who is responsible - the owner of the plot, the operator, the legislator - for any damage caused to the health of exposed living beings?

3. On what legal basis can a private customer request from his operator a guarantee that no public wifi will be activated in his home against his will?

4. What is the government planning to do to ensure decent living conditions for people intolerant to electromagnetic fields?

5. Is there a plan to map the Swiss territory according to the average of the different non-ionizing radiation emissions on the same model as noise or light maps?

6. On what scientific basis does the Federal Council base its deliberations on the subject.





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