• 04 DEC 12
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    Swiss shortwave transmitter study and its relevance to smart meter exposure levels

    During my recent series of talks in Melbourne on smart meter health effects I made mention of the Swiss Study on Health Effects of the Shortwave Transmitter Station of Schwarzenburg, Berne. In my opinion this is directly relevant to the radiofrequency (RF) exposures of people who have a wireless smart meter externally on a bedroom wall. Measurements taken in Melbourne on smart meters on bedroom walls have indicated that in this situation, nighttime smart meter exposure levels can exceed those levels associated with sleep disruption in the Swiss study. The following is from my old Electromagnetics Forum magazine from 1997.

    I do have the full report for photocopying.


    Swiss shortwave transmitter study sounds warning
    Review by Dr. Neil Cherry

    Study on Health Effects of the Shortwave Transmitter Station of Schwarzenburg, Berne, Switzerland (Major Report)


    A short wave transmitter was installed at Schwarzenburg, near Berne, Switzerland, in 1939. An star antenna was added in 1954 with three 150 kW outputs (6.1-21.8Mhz). and a 250 kW LOG PER antenna was added in 1971. The final transmitter is only used occasionally.

    Since the Seventies, health complaints have been reported by the population in the surroundings of the transmitter, and associated with its activity. On the 2nd March 1990, a petition seeking a scientific evaluation of the health damage allegedly cause by the transmitter was handed by a group of inhabitants to the Swiss Federal Department of Traffic and Energy (SFDTE). In October 1990, the Head of SFDTE commissioned a study. It was carried out by 15 doctors and scientists, primarily from the University of Berne, but also from 4 other agencies. Their report, Altpeter et al. (1995), was published in August 1995.
    Altpeter et al. (1995) carried out an extensive evaluation of health affects, using a carefully crafted health diary survey. They found significant changes is various indicators which increased with proximity to the mast and were significantly worse in elderly people. They included nervosity (restlessness), difficulty in falling asleep, difficulty in maintaining sleep, general weakness and joint pains, Figure 1.
    Sleep difficulty was especially disturbing. This leads on to increasing fatigue and reduced feelings of well-being. Observed nocturnal sleep changes occurred in association with the nocturnal exposure levels in Table 1. Hence the sleep disturbance is associated with a maximum exposure of 1.85uW/cm2 and a mean nocturnal Zone A exposure of less than 0.7 uW/cm2.

    People living in a mean RF exposure of 3.8 uW/cm2, which is about 100 times higher than an unexposed group, have a significantly elevated level of restlessness, sleep disruption, aches and pains and phlegm problems, all problems which were significantly worse for those aged over 45 years.
    The following table lists the complaints which were significant with a probability of being random at less than the p=0.05 level between the three zones.
    There is a clear trend for those over 45 years to show more significant reactions in association with increased shortwave RF exposure from the Schwarzenburg mast. The later six symptoms are added to those which already show a significant Odds Ratio.

    The variables “Nervosity and inner restlessness”, “General weakness and tiredness” and “Difficulties in falling asleep” are strongly related and therefore collapse into one variable, which could be termed “Chronic fatigue syndrome”.

    This study reveals statistically significant association between an extremely low intensity RF field (Zone A (High intensity) average = 0.236 uW/cm2) and a wide range of health and well- being variables. While this does not constitute “proof” of effects, in public health epidemiology, a statistically significant association which is not weakened by confounders, is sufficient avoidance action to be taken to reduce or eliminate the risk.

    Hypochondria (the nocebo effect) was tested for and was not found.

    Interim Conclusion:

    “Insomnias and joint pains, especially in the elderly, were more frequently reported in Zone A than in Zones B and C. They showed a dose-response relationship with the logistic regression and they were not related to a health-worry personality. Further studies are of need to establish a biophysical mechanism.

    The Schwarzenburg Study was extended because of the significance of the initial findings. Melatonin secretion in people and cows was studied in relation to the sleep disorders identified, blood pressure was studied in relation to the health issues raised and the performance of school children was assessed in relation to brain disturbance indication such as difficulty in concentrating.

    Sleep disturbance and melatonin:

    Sleep difficulty was especially disturbing. Significance was added to the association when the transmitter was turned off unexpectedly and unknown to the residents, in the middle of the study. Affected sleep patterns recovered until the transmitter was turned on again, when they deteriorated again.
    Melatonin, a neurohormone produced by the pineal gland to regulate the daily sleep/wake pattern was studied in a sample of people, without finding significant changes, However, saliva melatonin concentrations from exposed cows showed a strong higher nightly peak level compared to the average when nightly peak which the transmissions were on. The overall median melatonin levels for the five tested exposed cows was 17.7 pg/ml (sd=1.25) while it was 19.0 pg/ml (sd=1.32) for the non-exposed ones. This exposed cows had lower melatonin levels but not necessarily significantly lower.
    Lower levels of melatonin with exposure to RF radiation would be consistent with depressed nocturnal melatonin observed with ELF exposure, Reiter (1992). In other studies reduced melatonin has also been related to elevated incidence of breast cancer, Demers et al. l (1991).

    Blood Pressure Reporting:

    A small number of inhabitants reported noticeable changes in heart beat (irregular, palpitations, pounding with effort). Individually these factors were not significant but they indicate a possible, more serious, health issue to do with stresses on the heart. The researchers therefore surveyed for blood pressure differences. When asked about their blood pressure only 55% in Zone Z and 56% in Zone B said they had normal blood pressure compared to 74% in Zone Z. The differences are significant at the p=0.01 level. In addition, arterial hypertension was reported more frequently in Zone A (14%) than in Zones B (8.4%) and C (7.9%).

    School children’s performance:

    Rates of promotion of children in a school near the transmitter were compared with unexposed schools nearby. The number of school children at the highly exposed school is too small for conclusive studies of a probable effect of electromagnetic fields. However, the accumulated promotion from primary to secondary school since the 1950s, is lower in the exposed school than a control school. They conclude: “An effect of the transmitter is a possible explanation, but other influences including socio-economic differences cannot be excluded”. Hence a potential effect on children’s performance does exist in association with the RF transmissions from the tower. This is consistent with human brain EEG disruption found by Von Klitzing (1995) and the reported symptom of “difficulty in concentration”. “restlessness” and “difficulty of falling asleep” and “maintaining sleep”, as reported by significantly more of the adults in Zone A compared to Zones B and C.


    This is a very significant study which records statistically significant associations, with dose- response relationships for many of the factors, factors which are fundamental to human health and well-being, which have adverse effects in association with increased RF shortwave radiation at mean and median exposure levels about 1000 times lower than the so-called “public safety standard”. This proves the total inadequacy of the standard for protecting the pubic from the significant disruption to their health and well-being identified in this study. The authors of the Schwarzenburg Study conclude:
    “Our results indicate a higher frequency of disorders of a neurovegetative nature among residents up to about 1000 m from the transmitter, and are highly suggestive of a direct effect of the radio shortwave transmitter on sleep quality”.

    More on the Swiss Shortwave Transmitter study.

    In a letter to the New York based publication Microwave News, Dr. Josef Mayr, a Swiss consultant in electromagnetic compatibility, points out that that the actual risks may have been understated in this study. His letter is partly reproduced as follows:
    “The objective of the study was to find possible relationships between RF/MW exposures and health problems – not between living in certain zones and health problems. Why then did the researchers present nearly all the results in terms of the geographic zones?
    Given such misclassification of exposures, much stronger correlations between RF/MW radiation and health problems – for example, irritability, headaches, tiredness and sleep problems – would have to be expected, if the study population had been classified according to field strengths rather than geographic zones. In the meantime, it has been announced that researchers will take a new look at the data and the conclusions.
    Nevertheless, the results of the study are sensational. In a May 29, 1996, letter, an expert group at the Swiss Federal Office for Environment, Forests and Landscape (known by its German acronym, (BUWAL) admitted that severe sleep disorders were correlated with RF/MW exposures, even though the IRPA limits were never exceeded.

    Sleep disorders and the other complaints reported in the study may seem innocuous compared to the cancers reported in other epidemiological studies. But if such disorders remain for years their long-term effects could be quite serious, particularly among children and the infirm.
    The lesson of this study is that the safe level of RF/MW radiation exposure should be lowered to those found between zones B and C. This implies a reduction from IRPA’s 0.2mW/cm2 (200uW/cm2) to approximately 0.002uW/cm2 – a reduction by a factor of 100,000.

    Another important conclusion is that the grounds on which the IRPA recommendations are based (i.e., neglecting non-thermal effects) are entirely wrong. Exposure limits for low-and high- frequency electromagnetic fields and radiation (0Hz – 300GHz) should be revised.” (Microwave News, Sept/Oct 1996, page 14)

    Source: https://www.emfacts.com/download/Forum_2.pdf pages 23-26

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