While European countries race to ensure their wireless networks are upgraded to 5G standards, Switzerland has put a halt on the rollout of 5G due to unsubstantiated evidence about the health risks associated with 5G electromagnetic exposure. The decision to place a moratorium on its new technology is a sudden change of direction, particularly at this stage of development, since the country built more than 2,000 antenna sites over the past year alone to upgrade its network.
According to the Financial Times, some Swiss cantons, the equivalent of states within the U.S., have suspended the use of 5G antennas while they wait for further guidance from the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) on adaptive antennas.
While Swiss law is generally aligned with its European peers on the effects of cell site radiation, their regulations are perceived as being many times stricter than those dictated by the World Health Organization (WHO). A letter by the Swiss environmental agency, Bafu, regarded the lack of worldwide standards that could be used as a benchmark. “Bafu will examine exposure through adaptive [5G] antennas in depth, if possible in real-world operational conditions. This work will take some time,” it said.
Swiss telecoms reportedly understand the fear over new technologies, yet disagree about the concerns over adverse effects. Swisscom, the country’s largest mobile operator, stated, “There is no evidence that antenna radiation within the limit values adversely affects human health,” pointing out that 5G is run on frequencies similar to the current 4G standard, which has been subject to “several thousand studies.”
Switzerland, however, is known to be a vocal community of anti-5G campaigners and several initiatives for referendums on 5G use have the potential to amend the country’s constitution if the requisite 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a nationwide vote are obtained.
One initiative will make telecoms ‘legally responsible for claims of bodily damage caused by radiation from masts unless they can prove otherwise.’ The other gives residents the veto power over all new site construction and proposes strict limits on RF emissions.
Also arguing for stricter guidelines, the Swiss Medical Association voiced its concern about 5G safety. According to the Financial Times, the Association said a more stringent legal structure should be applied because of unanswered questions about the technology’s potential to cause damage to the nervous system, or even cancers.
While waiting for a conclusion by Bafu, Swisscom stated that the assessment process would not halt its ongoing work to build out 5G infrastructure, even if it meant that it would not be able to be used at full capacity.
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