Telecommunications companies will not be rolling out 5G towers in several Swiss cantons or regions after the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment or Das Bundesamt für Umwelt (Bafu) placed an indefinite moratorium on the network’s use over potential health concerns.
In its moratorium, Bafu said it cannot yet provide universal criteria without further testing of the impact of 5G radiation on human health.
According to the agency, the moratorium will stay in place as they examine and monitor extensively the effects of 5G exposure through adaptive antennas in “real-world operational conditions,” adding that “this work will take some time”.
International newspaper The Financial Times first broke the story.
However, according to a statement sent by a representative to Mobile World Live, Bafu said that these letters did not contain any recommendation to stop the permitting of 5G base stations, but rather, only sets out how the country’s cantons can proceed with the permitting of 5G and adaptive antennas until enforcement aid on the structures is available.
In the same statement, the Bafu representative noted that several cantons and municipalities had already imposed moratoria on 5G, but added that these do “not affect Switzerland in general”.
Among the cantons that voluntarily imposed moratoria on 5G towers because of uncertainty over health risks are Geneva, Vaud, Jura and Neuchâtel.
The apprehension regarding the new 5G communication technology — which proponents say will eventually be used to support everything from driverless cars to even virtual reality — stems from the fact that individuals will be exposed to more concentrated radiation beams.
Swisscom, the country’s largest mobile operator, maintains that while it understands “the fears often expressed about new technologies,” there is no evidence that 5G radiation affects human health.
Despite Swisscom’s statement, however, the Swiss Medical Association still advised caution on 5G, noting that there are still unanswered questions regarding the technology’s potential to cause damage.
Medical journal The Lancet has published a report questioning the validity of current safety standards, which are based on the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers first established in the 1990s. As noted in the Lancet report, these standards assume that only the acute thermal effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation are hazardous.
In her report, however, author Priyanka Bandara points to research suggesting the damage goes beyond these thermal effects, noting that radiation might alter human brain metabolism, electrical activity in the brain and immune responses. Bandara, in the Lancet report, also added that chronic exposure has been associated with increased oxidative stress and DNA damage and cancer risk.
Additionally, Bandara said, there appears to be evidence for an association between neurodevelopmental or behavioral disorders in children and exposure to wireless devices. Prenatal exposure might cause structural and functional changes in the brain associated with ADHD-like behavior.
Similarly, a group of scientists and researchers has also aired concern over the impending global rollout of 5G, noting that electromagnetic fields or EMF have well-documented negative effects on the not just on the human body, but also the environment. (Related: 5G Danger: Hundreds of respected scientists sound the alarm about health effects as 5G networks go up nationwide)
“Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines. Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life,” the group, led by Elizabeth Kelley of Electromagnetic Safety Alliance Inc., said.
Aside from the recently imposed moratorium, there are currently five proposals for legally binding referendums on 5G use that are in motion in Switzerland. Two of these have already been formalized and now only need to collect 100,000 signatures in order to get onto the official ballot.
The first of the two proposals aims to make telecommunications companies legally liable for any subsequent claims of damage caused by radiation, while the second one proposes strict and stringent limits on radiation emissions, as well as gives local residents the power to veto new antenna and mast constructions in their respective areas.