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Radiation fears persist over mobile phone antennae

Acceptable levels of electrosmog from mobile telephone antennae are still hotly debated

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss authorities have brushed aside calls from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to cut the levels of electrosmog from mobile telephone antennae.

At a press conference on Tuesday, experts from the Swiss Environment Agency said there was no conclusive proof that high frequency electromagnetic fields had negative effects on health.

Instead, they issued recommendations for how the measurement of radiation levels from mobile telephone antennae should be calculated.

"There has not been much change since the actual limit values were fixed one and a half years ago," Jürg Baumann from the environment agency told swissinfo. "In the meantime, there are certain indications but no proof of any real health concerns below the limit values which are in force now."

NGOs say radiation levels from antennae should be reduced to a tenth of the current permitted level of six volts per metre.

The president of the Swiss Association of Doctors for the Environment, Dr Bernhard Aufdereggen, said electrosensitivity was a real concern.

"We should have lower radiation values because a lot of people around antennaes say they don't feel well and that they have health problems."

In response, the authorities said they would act immediately if there was any evidence that electrosmog posed a health threat.

"If it was proven that there is a health concern then we would have to examine the limit values and probably ask the government to change the limits," said Baumann.

Meanwhile, Aufderregen called for preventative measures. "We're always late in reacting just as we have been with air pollution and smoking.

"As doctors, we have to take precautions and make sure that nobody is damaged and not try to change the situation, years afterwards."

In the next ten years, the number of telephone antennae in Switzerland is expected to double from its current level of 4,000 as telephone operators put up mobile phone antennae across the country.

NGOs have raised other concerns. They say that the real levels of radiation can only be known after the antennae are operational yet telecommunication companies are expected to calculate the levels before they're even built.

Baumann told swissinfo that the new model for calculating emissions took into account 95 per cent of all known uncertainties.

Another non-environmental concern is that telecommunication companies may join forces to build the mobile phone antennae - raising the spectre of a cartel just years after the Swiss telecommunications market was liberalised.

Markus Riederer from the Federal Office for Communications admitted this was a possibility: "The idea is not to have a monopoly again but, of course, if a common infrastructure is discussed by the operators, that's another question."

by Vincent Landon


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