Discussion Papers

Franz Büllingen, Annette Hillebrand

Gesundheitliche und ökologische Aspekte mobiler Telekommunikation – Wissenschaftlicher Diskurs, Regulierung und öffentliche Debatte
Nr. 246 / Juli 2003


The construction of mobile communications network infrastructures at the beginning of the nineties has led to a strong public debate about the impacts of high frequency electromagnetic fields on human health. Since the frequency spectrum of the third generation mobile communications system (UMTS) has been licensed or auctioned a few years ago this debate has still intensified. Network providers and political institutions therefore urgently aim at calming down (local) protest movements putting more information into the public debate. Because system-innovations like mobile communication services have deep impacts on societal and cultural values, political institutions like the national legislators are concerned and feel more and more urged to define their role in this innovation process.

The “Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag” has issued this status report in order to provide more detailed knowledge for general public and the German parliament. Keeping this in mind this report focuses on the regulatory framework of the EU, Germany and selected European countries with high mobile phone penetration. Furthermore the risk assessment of the involved actors, their strategies and their behaviour as well as their demand for political action are examined.

To institutionalise a basic consensus on risk assessment and risk management, the European Commission has adopted a Communication on the use of the Precautionary Principle. Despite these guidelines for application the member countries are not obliged to adopt their limits. As a consequence some countries like Switzerland have set limits, which are much lower than related ICNIRP-recommendations. This undoubtedly has gained force in the public debate on “electro-smog” to become a burning issue.

In Germany network providers, organisations of local authorities and the German government have taken broad measures helping to objectify the discussion. The so called „Selbstverpflichtung der Anbieter“ (self-obligation of telecommunication service providers) as well as the governmental „Action Programme“ based on voluntarism and selfregulation principles seam to be efficient and have reached international reputation meanwhile. The focus of this measures aim at the participation of local authorities in identifying places for base-stations, further scientific research on health impacts, information campaigns and additional measures to prevent from health hazards carried out by the German Regulatory Authority. So it should be an aim of a parliamentarian monitoring process to evaluate the sustainability of this action plan.

A comparison of the countries analysed makes obvious, that broad information campaigns, participation and collaboration in planning the network topology contributes enormously to a non-conflicting roll-out of the mobile communi-cations network infrastructures as it can be observed in Sweden and Denmark. In Switzerland though the arbitrary downsizing of exposure limits implied negative influence on public debate, amplified given uncertainty and finally led to further demand to lower prevailing limits. [full version only available in German]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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