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19 June 2022

Switzerland: First non-ionizing radiation monitoring report: exposure is below the limit value

First non-ionizing radiation monitoring report: exposure is below the limit value
Federal Office of the Environment, Press Release, 15 June 2022 - unofficial translation

Bern, 15.06.2022 - The first monitoring report on non-ionizing radiation (NIR) in Switzerland is now available. The results indicate that the population's exposure to radiation is moderate overall. The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) had been mandated by the Federal Council in 2019 to set up NIR monitoring in Switzerland.

Fixed and cell phone antennas, radio transmitters, wireless computer networks (WLAN) and other radio applications, but also power lines, contact lines and household appliances generate non-ionizing radiation. For the first time in 2021, measurements were carried out throughout Switzerland to determine the level of exposure of the population. The FOEN commissioned the project consortium SwissNIS to carry out the measurements (see Box 1).

The preliminary results of the monitoring report show that health protection is guaranteed. In places regularly frequented by people, the field strengths are clearly below the emission limit value. The highest values were measured at streetcar stations, in industrial areas and in the center of large cities, while the lowest values were recorded in agricultural and natural areas. Measurements in homes are still in their infancy. The measurements carried out so far show low exposure values, but are nevertheless few in number. Therefore, it is not yet possible to draw general conclusions.

Different sources of radiation

In outdoor public places, cell phone antennas contribute the most to electromagnetic radiation. In the train, it is mainly the passengers' phones, as shown in the first monitoring report. However, these data are only valid for people who do not use their cell phone. This is because, compared to other sources of radiation, exposure is highest when using one's own phone, as other studies have shown.

Compared to a measurement campaign conducted in 2014, the NIR emissions appear to have trended downward. However, this comparison must be put into perspective because the frequency bands are no longer the same and other measuring methods and devices are used in carrying out the monitoring today. The regular measurements carried out by the SwissNIS consortium should in future enable a comparison of the data.

Implementation of the measures decided by the Parliament

As part of the revision of the Ordinance on Protection against Non-Ionizing Radiation (NIR) in 2019, the Federal Council instructed the FOEN to set up a monitoring system for radiation exposure by means of periodic measurements, in order to obtain an overview at national level. This action also responds to the recommendations made by the working group on mobile telephony and radiation.

Another recommendation of this working group, which the Federal Council decided to implement in 2020, was to increase information and awareness among the population. The FOEN, the Federal Office of Communications and the Federal Office of Public Health have therefore developed a new website on this subject. Answers to the most important questions on the subject of mobile telephony and 5G can be found at 5g-info.ch.

Innovative measuring system

For the monitoring of the NIR, the SwissNIS project consortium relied on an innovative measurement system based on three different methods. Mobile measuring devices, integrated in special backpacks, allow so-called "roaming measurements" to be carried out. These include public places and public transport. Devices are used to measure high-frequency radiation (e.g. from cell phones, WLANs) and low-frequency fields (e.g. from power lines). Measurements in private indoor areas, so-called "spot measurements", include mobile measurements throughout the home and 24-hour measurements in the bedroom. Finally, permanent stationary measurements are carried out from measuring stations in fixed locations. With this system, radiation is measured in about 70 communities all over Switzerland.

Address for sending questions
Section Médias de l’OFEV, medien@bafu.admin.ch

Publication : (in French, German, Italian)
« Mesures d’exposition aux rayonnements non ionisants : Rapport annuel 2021 - Consortium de projet SwissNIS » (PDF, 6 MB)

Communiqué in French :

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