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EMF Study
(Database last updated on Feb 18, 2020)

ID Number 1073
Study Type Social Sciences
Model 900, 1800 MHz, 2 GHz (GSM, W-CDMA) mobile phone use in Switzerland and analysis of public perception of risk

Human volunteers (n = 1,313) in a German speaking part of Switzerland were surveyed for their perception of the relative risk of adverse human health effects due to RF exposure from mobile phone base stations. There was a slight but significant majority perception (51%) that such adverse health effects might be correlated with basestation RF exposure. High-voltage power lines were perceived to have more risk, and mobile phones less risk, than that of exposure from base stations. People who reported frequent use of mobile phones perceived lower risks and greater benefits than did those who used mobile phones infrequently. Interestingly, a significant number of respondents (32%) did not know if they lived close to a mobile phone base station, leading the authors to conclude that a significant percentage of the population was not overly concerned with the issue. There was significant mistrust of regulatory authorities and base station exposure limits, although those that were aware of current limits had significantly less percieved risk. A majority believed children should have restricted use due to possible health risks. Women percieved higher risk than men. Higher risk was percieved by people that are self claimed hypersensitive or that believed in paranormal phenomena (the authors suggest that scientific facts with this group may not be relevant). Also of interest was a substantial percentage of people that believed "man-made substances cause harm". The authors conclude that the study confirms the importance of confidence and trust [in this case, for mobile phone manufacturer and carrier companies] in risk management before any crisis or significant issues arise. A subsequent paper used implicit association testing (IAT) and reported similar level of apprehension with nuclear power, mobile phones, and base stations. A recent project involves assessment of laymans' vs experts' interpretations of the percieved risk and benefit of mobile phones. The major difference was in the percieved risk of potential health effects was much higher than that of experts. Authors' abstract: Cousin and Siegrist (2010): The article explores how voluntary precautionary recommendations for cell phone usage influence people's health concerns and behavior. An experimental study using a sample of Swiss citizens (N= 408) was conducted. Three different versions of a newly developed booklet, which focused on common misconceptions in regard to mobile communication, and an existing booklet were tested. The experimental design addressed questions of the potential effects of knowledge, precautionary recommendations, and sender identity on health concerns and transfer of the proposed recommendations. Participants' perceptions were measured three times: immediately before and after reading the booklet, and two weeks later. The reading of the booklets increased participants' knowledge considerably and led to perceptual changes. In regard to cell phones, health concerns increased after the reading and stayed at a higher level even after two weeks. The negative perception of base stations, in contrast, tended to decrease. Neither the identity of the sender nor the omission of precautionary recommendations had significant effects on health concerns. Provision of specific recommendations enhanced readers' behavioral changes. Confrontation with information per se, and not precautionary recommendations, influenced the public's health concerns. These changes should not prevent the provision of precautionary recommendations because, in the face of scientific uncertainty, these are the only means through which to enable users to make informed decisions.

Findings Not Applicable to Bioeffects
Status Completed With Publication
Principal Investigator University of Zurich, Switzerland -
Funding Agency Nat'l Res Prog, Switzerland (SNSF, NRP57)
  • Cousin, ME et al. Risk Anal., (2011) 31:301-311
  • Siegrist, M et al. Risk Anal, (2006) 26:1021-1029
  • Siegrist, M et al. Risk Analysis, (2006) 25:1253-1264
  • Siegrist , M et al. Risk Anal, (2003) 23:705-716
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