Health concerns bring #5G to a standstill in #Switzerland

| February 14, 2020

As the realization that the marketing has jumped ahead of the technology sets in, and following an international protest day against 5G in January from South Africa to Sweden, and from Australia to America, Swiss concerns about possible health risks of this largely untested technology have brought it close to a standstill, writes Dr. Devra Davis.

The Financial Times just ran an article with the headline ‘Switzerland halts rollout of 5G over health concerns’. Silicon Republic quoted Switzerland’s environmental agency, Das Bundesamt für Umwelt (Bafu), the health agency focused on the issue said: “It would not be willing to allow the use of 5G without further testing for the potential impact of radiation.”

Posed as critical to the Internet of Things, 5G has many kinks that remain unresolved. In the US, the view of the federal government has been ‘let’s get this thing built and then we will figure out how to make it work’. Tom Wheeler, the enthusiastic former-telecom industry leader who led the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama and Ajit Pai, his similarly credentialed counterpart who is the current chair, share a naïve enthusiasm for 5G that bespeaks the success of the ad men in this business.

The US declared it will not be bothered with testing or performance standards. Wheeler assured enthusiasts of the technology: “We won’t wait for the standards to be first developed in the sometimes arduous standards-setting process or in a government-led activity. Instead, we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on a private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases.”

Since 1996, public health concerns around wireless radiation have been denied legal consideration when it comes to the spread of wireless systems. FCC Chair Ajit Pai led a bi-partisan effort to streamline and speed up 5G, expressly ignoring requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and other relevant government laws, arguing that the matter was too important to take the time to consider impacts on the environment.

Now Pai is one of the stars of a new paid ad campaign pushing the FCC to free spectrum for 5G ASAP. The Swiss nation is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. The Institute for Technology and Society (IT’IS), located in Zurich, Switzerland, has for years set the standards for wireless testing technology, devised innovations in applying technology to medicine and engineering, and evaluated impacts at levels from the whole body to nanometer-sized interactions at the cellular membrane.

Recent reports from IT’IS technology on honeybees and monitoring of hives close to 3G and 4G systems have expressed serious concerns about how 5G exposures could impair the ability of these critically important pollinators to function. Without bees, there can be no agriculture, Einstein is reputed to have noted.

Concerns about 5G are being led within the Swiss government by its Environment Agency, Bafu, which is calling for a time-out regarding all-new 5G antennas. European Parliament reports have explained that there are simply no accepted technical criteria for testing, monitoring or studying 5G. The industry has yet to agree on precisely what 5G entails. One thing is clear: in order for 5G to work at all in the foreseeable future, it will also need to rely on 3G and 4G signals to connect existing devices.

Moreover, there can be no 5G for voice. So-called 5G phones will download movies, games, and porn in seconds, but will still have to use 4G LTE for voice calls. And autonomous vehicle cars cannot work with 5G for movement–that already works with 4G LTE– but only for such intricacies as allowing tires to talk to steering wheels regarding air pressure. The kicker is that because the Swiss have among the most stringent requirements to reduce wireless radiation in the world, 5G systems cannot meet those existing criteria.

5G requires beam-forming technology, where a focused radiation is directed to and from a device. This has never been evaluated in the real world. Supporting this moratorium are the voices of more than 250 medical experts and the Swiss Medical Association who have called for more research to be carried out on the potential impacts of the technology on human health. In the states, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Health Trust successfully argued in federal court that before 5G can be deployed, its impact on the environment must be fully assessed.

Adding further support to these concerns, no major secondary insurer will cover health damages from 5G, classified as “high risk” a technology which insurance authority Swiss Re has depicted as “off the leash,” comparable to those of asbestos. Recently courts have held governments and telecom companies liable for health damages in Italy. Over 150 cities in Italy have passed resolutions to halt 5G until safety is assured, joining an ever-growing number of cities and towns across Europe where thousands are protesting. Cities in the US have passed ordinances to restrict antenna installations near homes in neighborhoods.

Cities such as Kalamata Greece are reversing course and terminating relationships with telecommunications companies, no longer interested in being a 5G pilot city. Efforts are also underway in U.S. and European courts to force companies to produce safer phones. The Swiss are also considering strict liability standards for all manufacturers and providers of the technology. However the United States is full steam ahead. Switzerland is the clear model for the rest of the world and this reminds us of what Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Dr. Devra Davis is the founder of EHTrust.org who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Switzerland, a nation of four official languages, watchmakers, mountain guides, and soaring vistas, and which was among the first out of the block to embrace the promise of 5G.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Internet, Switzerland, Technology, Telecoms

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