Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Does mobile tower radiation endanger your life?

Does mobile tower radiation endanger your life?
January 23, 2012 05:19 PM 
Alekh Angre

Experts from the industry remain divided on the issue of health hazards caused due to radiation from mobile towers 

With the increase in mobile phone usage throughout the world, the effect ofradiation from mobile phones and towers on human health is the subject of recent interest and study. While industry players continue to assure us that these towers do not pose any risk to human lives, academicians and scientists have a different opinion on the subject.

“Neither I am against mobile phone towers nor am I against the serviceproviders. I am also not saying the norms (for mobile tower radiation) have been flouted. All I am asking is to reduce the electromagnetic radiation(EMR) level of these towers. I have problem with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) for adopting the worst radiation norms in India,” said Prof Girish Kumar. He was speaking at a meeting organised by Bombay Telephone Users’ Association (BTUA) on mobile tower radiation and green telecom, in Mumbai.

While Prof Kumar cited studies explaining various health hazards due to mobile tower radiation on human and wildlife, another panellist Rajan Mathews, director-general Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), also citing numerous research and studies, counter argued saying that theradiation norms are within safety limit. “There is no conclusive evidence to show that mobile tower radiation is carcinogenic. The International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (INCRP) guidelines are within safety limit and there is no ill-effect on biological health,” Mr Matthews said.

In India, the radiation norms have been adopted according to the INCRP for base station emission with 9.2 watt per square meter (W/sqm). Across the globe, several countries have adopted their own standards as nobody really knows what level of mobile tower radiation is safe and what is dangerous. Countries like Austria have a strictest norm of 0.001W/sqm and China has 0.4W/sqm.

However experts say that these guidelines are questionable. Prof Kumar said, “The guidelines clearly say that it is to protect against the short-term gross heating with average of over six minute per day. But here in India, it is adopted for 24 hours. We are just making mockery of the INCRP guidelines. A simple calculation shows that the practice followed in Indiaunder the INCRP guidelines is more or equal to putting someone in a microwave for 19 minutes.”

Explaining the biological hazards of these radiations, Prof Kumar said that there have been cases of people from one particular apartment, continuously exposed to radiation due to tower installed opposite to them, developing cancer. “This is not a coincidence. In fact the cancer is in the last stage. There are short-term hazards like memory loss, irritation, drying of fluids around the eyes, brain joints, heart and abdomen, cardiovascular diseases, sleep disruption, if exposed to these radiations for long-term.”

According to Prof Kumar, there are studies providing the ill-effects of EMR on wildlife and bees. He also cited an example of a tree near Delhi-Gurgaon toll naka, which saw steady decline in lime production due to its constant exposure to the cell phone tower. However, Mr Matthews, citing various reports such as Interphone study conducted in May 2010, refuted studies stating that these are health hazards.

“Many years back I was personally invited to set up wireless communication in one of the hospitals of California. For the record, California has strictest rules and it is impossible for them to allow it if there is any health hazards. Since then, the  usage in that hospital has increased and not otherwise,” he said.

According to Prof Kumar, many studies on the ill effects of mobile towerradiation concludes that further research is required, but there is enough evidence to prove. “Interphone study concluded that there is no overallincrease in risk but it suggested increase in glioma for heavy users. Blackberry gives a warning message that says use the mobile phonekeeping 25mm away from the body, don’t keep it next to the abdomen of pregnant women, and reduce the amount spent on calls. Why could amobile phone company ask to reduce the time on calls? Because they know that there is a problem.”

Following the public outcry against the ill-effects of radiation emission, the Indian government had set up an inter-ministerial group in August 2010 to evaluate the evidence, revisit radiation guidelines for mobile towers and adopt guidelines for radiation emission by cell phones.

The committee submitted its recommendations in January last year. It suggested that EMR from the cell phones should be brought down by one-tenth of the existing levels and also said that there should be provisions for continuous online monitoring and display of radiation levels.

“In fact the inter-ministerial committee reviewed 919 studies of which 539 said that there is an impact of the EMR,” Prof Kumar said.

“On immediate basis the emission should be reduced to 0.01W/sqm. This might result in high call drop out rates. Then in one to two years’ time, it should be further brought down to 0.001W/sqm. This will requireinvestment and as per my analysis on the return on investment for the operators, they can increase the cost per minute by 0.10 per minute. The government should also be proactive in giving subsidies and reducing the license fees for the service providers,” the professor added.


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