Swiss Government’s advice about Mobile Phone Use

January 27, 2011.  What does Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)  have to say about mobile phone use?

Their advice is:

1. NEVER use a phone while you are a driving a vehicle, not even with a hands-free kit!

2. Use a wireless hands-free system (headphone, headset) with a low power Bluetooth emitter to reduce radiation to the head.

3. When buying a mobile phone, make sure it has a low SAR.

4. Either keep your calls short or send a text message (SMS) instead. This advice applies especially to children and adolescents.

5. Whenever possible, only use your phone when the signal quality is good.

6. Be wary of radiation shields and other such protective devices that are claimed to limit exposure to radiation. They may reduce the connection quality and therefore force the phone to transmit at a higher output power.

7. People with active medical implants should keep their mobile phone at least 30 cm away from the implant at all times.

Click here to visit this website on mobile phones.

Overall this is very good advice, although with some Bluetooth emitters, exposure can still be high.

Unlike most government health boards from around the world,  The Federal Office of Public Health provides detailed technical data on mobile phone communication methods, exposure measurements, health effects, legal regulations and the literature they reference.

In addition to the microwave radiation that is used to carry the data, surprisingly, they also provide some interesting information about the magnetic field at the surface of different models of mobile phones.  Of the five models they tested the magnetic field at the surface of the phone ranges from 83 mG to 193 mG.  Values at the back of the phone are even higher and go to a maximum of 758 mG.

ICNIRP is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and their members set the world standards for safe radiation guidelines. The suggested standards for magnetic fields are frequency specific. Surprisingly, their government funded study showed  that the GSM mobile phone that they tested exceeded the ICNIRP guideless at intermediate frequencies (see figure below).  To convert from micro Tesla (uT) to milli Gauss 9mG) multiply by 10 such that 6 uT equals 60 mG.

Figure.  Magnetic field of a GSM mobile phone as a function of frequency and the frequency-dependent ICNIRP exposure limit.  Evidence of values many times higher than 217 Hz.  Source: [6] on FOPH website.

The ICNIRP guideline at 217 Hz is 230 mG (23 uT on graph above).

What are the harmful effects from cell phone use/abuse?

While their recommendations for safe use of cell phones are admirable – (especially never using a cell phone in a moving vehicle), I feel there is room for improvement about their comments in health effects. FOPB provides a several paragraphs on effects on the hormonal and immune systems, brain activity, perception and processing of stimuli, microwave hearing, cardiovascular system, well-being, sleep, brain tumours in adults and children, other tumors in adults, attention deficit disorders, spermatozoa, interference with implants and car accidents.

As I read the information provided, I feel there is a disconnect between the good recommendations on the use of mobile phones and the guarded assessment of the possible harmful effects. Most of the negative effects of cell phone use are mentioned as being inconclusive, sporadic or inconsistent.  If that’s the case, why so strongly advise their public (in bold letters) to minimize their exposure to this radiation?  Some of the “no problem” comments I feel are factually incorrect as with “microwave hearing”.  One can only assume that this health department is testing the international “ICNIRP” waters to see how far “out on a limb” they can go…

So, while this health website site is not perfect in my opinion, I commend the Swiss government for funding much needed EMF research and recommending “safer” use of mobile phones.

Click here to visit their website.