Rollout of the next generation of mobile technology, known as 5G, has met with resistance in Switzerland.
Switzerland is one of the first countries to rollout the new technology, which will eventually be used to support a new generation of technology, including driverless cars and virtual reality. In February, the Swiss government raised CHF 380 million by selling 5G frequency to Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise, three Swiss mobile operators that have together installed hundreds of 5G antenna across the country. Swisscom says it will be able to reach 90% of the population with its 5G network by the end of the year.
However, the effects of the radiation emitted by 5G technology are controversial. Several studies are underway, including one by the World Health Organization. The Swiss government appointed a group of experts to look at the risks of 5G and their findings are expected by the end of the year.
Some suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a condition that is not recognized as a medical disorder in most countries. Sufferers experience anything from mild discomfort to an inability to function when exposed to the electromagnetic radiation produced by mobile and wifi technology.
Frequencia is demanding changes to the technology and the way it is installed. It wants to see greater use of fibre optics in buildings so that wireless mobile technology can be reserved for communications made on the move, which it claims make up only 20% of connections. This would reduce the number of antenna and the level of radiation. In addition, it is calling for radiation free zones.
Several Swiss cantons, including Geneva and Vaud have put a freeze on issuing the permits required to erect new antenna, however this does not prevent operators replacing existing 4G equipment with 5G technology on existing masts. In addition, there has been talk of a popular vote on the subject.
A report published by The Lancet questions 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 established in the 1990s. These standards assume that only the acute thermal effects of radio frequency electromagnetic radiation are hazardous.
The report points to research suggesting the damage goes beyond these thermal effects and might alter human brain metabolism, electrical activity in the brain and immune responses. In addition, chronic exposure has been associated with increased oxidative stress and DNA damage and cancer risk.
In addition, there appears to be evidence for an association between neurodevelopmental or behavioural disorders in children and exposure to wireless devices. Prenatal exposure might cause structural and functional changes in the brain associated with ADHD-like behaviour. According to the authors these findings deserve urgent attention.
A database of research on this subject is accessible via the World Health Organisation’s website.