Italy subjected to pressure to raise limits for radiation exposure

Published 17 August 2023
- By Radiation Protection
A photo from Rome.

Despite strong pressure from the mobile phone industry to raise the limits, Italy so far maintains its lower limits than those recommended by the EU Commission and the mobile phone industry. There is strong opposition from scientists and environmental organizations across the country against the proposed changes.

Article updated September 1, 2023.

The deployment of 5G will lead to such an increase in radiation exposure of the public that mobile phone companies will have problems rolling out 5G if they must to respect Italy’s limits. For several years now, a proposal has been made in Italy that Italy should adopt the 100 times higher ICNIRP limits recommended by the European Commission since 1999. Such a move would give Italians even less protection against harmful effects on health from exposure to radiation from mobile phone masts and base stations. The proposal to adopt the ICNIRP limits was however postponed by the Italian Council of Ministers on August 7th 2023,

Italy and Switzerland and also Russia are amongt the countries that have 100 times lower limit values than the limits developed by ICNIRP which protect industry needs rather than peoples health. Just like Italy, Switzerland has been subjected to pressure from the mobile industry to raise the limits.

In the spring of 2020, the Swiss government also decided to maintain its lower values.

Minister of State, former director of Vodafone and Verizon

The proposal to raise the limit value in Italy has been on the table for several years but has been met with strong public opinion from environmental organizations and scientists. Protests have even included hunger strikes. The Italian Stop 5G Alliance has coordinated several of the protests. The more dangerous 100 times higher ICNIRP limits were supposed to be adopted in 2021, but the decision was postponed.

One Italian minister, Vittorio Coalo. has been most active in Italy in pushing for the higher limits and proposed them as part of a post-pandemic recovery plan (Next Generation Italia or PNRR). Coalo has been a former director of Vodafone and Verizon (until 2018/2019). It can thus be concluded that the telecom companies had a former employee who pushed their objective of the adoption of the ICNIRP limits inside the Italian government.

The proposal to increase the limit value has continued to be presented since 2021, but it has once again met with strong opposition.

Adapted to the needs of industry

For more than 20 years, Italy and Switzerland have adopted limit values that are 100 times lower (6 V/m or about 95,000 microW/m2) than those applicable in most other European countries, which are the ICNIRP limits. The ICNIRP limits has for over 20 years been recommended by the European Commission and the WHO. ICNIRP has had a huge influence over the WHO’s work on radiation health risks since the ICNIRP chairman became responsible in 1995 for the WHO EMF Project. At the same time, the mobile phone industry largely funded the WHO EMF Project for ten years through the GSM Association, GSMA and the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF).

The ICNIRP values, which are considerably higher than the levels shown to cause adverse health effects (61 V/m or 10 000 000 microW/m2 averaged over 6 minutes), have been heavily criticized for being seriously inadequate. They are clearly tailored to the needs of telecom companies and the military industry rather than protecting people and the environment from harm. An example among many that indicates that ICNIRP limits are developed in response to industry needs is a brochure from the telecom operators joint organization, GSM Association, praising the “independent” ICNIRP 2020 guidelines.

Ericsson: “major problem or impossible” to deploy 5G

It is in the light of the fact that 5G increases radiation so much that telecom operators find it difficult to fully deploy 5G if they must respect the lower values in Italy, that the proposals to lower the limits in Italy should be understood. This confirms once again that ICNIRP’s values are adapted to the needs of the industry.

Ericsson is the company that has the greatest interest in the deployment of 5G, as it is the world leader in 5G infrastructure equipment (antennas, base stations). Over the past 10 years, Ericsson has been known to engage in extensive corruption to promote its business interests. The company even bribed the terrorist organisation ISIS.

In 2018, Christer Törnevik from Ericsson described that it will be “a major problem or impossible” to roll out 5G if 100 times lower limit values than ICNIRP’s must be respected, such as in Italy and Switzerland.

Independent scientists recommend much lower limits

These limits, developed by ICNIRP (guidelines) only protect against immediate heating effects. They do not protect against a wide range of well-documented adverse health effects of microwave radiation at lower non-heating levels, such as central nervous system effects, microwave syndrome and increased risk of cancer.

Independent scientists recommend much lower maximum values to protect against known health risks.

Below is a table of the values in microW/m2 recommended by ICNIRP compared to the Italian and Swiss values and the values recommended by experts with no ties to the telecom or military industry:

Year                 microW/m2                   Organization/country

1998              10 000 000                             ICNIRP (EU, WHO, Sweden etc)

2000                    95 000                               Switzerland

2001                    95 000                                Italy

2012                         3- 6                                 Bioinitiative Group

2016                    0,1-100                               EuropaEM EMF Guidelines

Appeal from scientists

An appeal signed by 52 scientists was sent to the Italian government in early August. The appeal was initiated by Dr. Fiorenzo Marinelli and Dr. Livio Giuliani. The appeal states that the ICNIRP values do not protect against the many health risks demonstrated by research over the last decades:

“The ICNIRP guidelines, therefore, are not suitable for protecting human health and they should be updated according to the latest scientific publications. Fortunately, the Italian legislation (Law 36/2001) provides for more precautionary limits because the decision-makers of the late ‘90s took into consideration two fundamental and indispensable principles:

– the Precautionary Principle, originally enshrined in international law of the environment within the Rio de Janeiro Declaration of 1992;

– the ALARA Minimization Principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable), or the lowest level reasonably achievable without compromising development technological.

For the above reasons, the undersigned ask you:

  1. to maintain the attention value of 6 V/m envisaged by the current Italian legislation (DPCM 8.07.2003);
  2. to measure the aforementioned value on an average of 6-minutes which has a precise biological reason (it is the time necessary to the cells to dissipate the heat produced by the electromagnetic field) as required by the D.P.C.M. of 8.07.2003, and we required to repeal the article 14, paragraph 8 lett. d) of the Legislative Decree 179/2012, which established the measurement in the interval of 24 hours, which is a completely arbitrary time, whose aim is just to dilute the measured values;
  3. to bring the quality objective value to 0.6 V/m as requested by the Council of Europe Recommendation n° 1815 of 2011;
  4. to approve a law on conflict of interest, in order to oblige the experts engaged in providing scientific opinions in public institutional to declare publicly the funding sources of their research, their equity ownership and consulting contracts with companies of the industry sector in conflict with the public interest.”


Article updated August 31, 2023