Microwave - and other forms of electromagnetic - radiation are major (but conveniently disregarded, ignored, and overlooked) factors in many modern unexplained disease states. Insomnia, anxiety, vision problems, swollen lymph, headaches, extreme thirst, night sweats, fatigue, memory and concentration problems, muscle pain, weakened immunity, allergies, heart problems, and intestinal disturbances are all symptoms found in a disease process the Russians described in the 70's as Microwave Sickness.
CHENNAI: The number of cell phone towers in Chennai is going up, and so is public awareness on the debated ill effects of electromagnetic radiation they emit.
Data obtained by TOI from telecom enforcement and resource monitoring (TERM) cell of department of telecommunications (DoT) show the number of complaints for getting radiation checks done at their buildings has increased from one in 2010-11 to 32 in 2013-14 for. However, no cell phone tower was removed, shifted or sealed in Chennai since 2010 for exceeding radiation limits.
Scientific studies on radiation from cell phone masts have given divergent results, and several agree that radiation does affect some physiological functions of the human body. For telecom operators, Chennai appears to be the easiest metro in the country to set up a tower. Many have not taken permission for installation from government agencies despite DoT guidelines.
The number of cell phone towers in city rose from 6,011 in 2010-11 to 6,650 in 2013-14. The actual number of towers could be more as some are not counted. A TERM official said they randomly monitored EMF (electro magnetic field) radiation levels of cell phone towers. "We have only 11 employees to monitor radiation levels of thousands of towers in Chennai. Neither do we have sufficient equipment or money to do regular monitoring. In Chennai, the city corporation is responsible for permissions to set up cell phone towers".
The rule that the company should put up signage and warning at base station antenna sites is often flouted. TERM collected Rs 17.35 lakh in fines in 347 cases since 2010 for non-compliance of signage norms. In an advisory to the state government, DoT said telecom service providers should obtain clearance from local bodies for installation of towers. The department suggested imposition of a one-time administrative fee from the operators and also to constitute committees to monitor cell phone towers. None of this has happened in Chennai.
In 2009, the corporation passed a resolution to tax property owners renting space for towers and counted 1,775 towers in the old city limits. But residents approached the high court saying the civic body had no role in the agreement and thus could not levy tax. In September 2012, the Centre reduced permissible radiation limits from 9.2 watt per square metre to 0.92 watt per square metre.
"This has led to an increase in the number of towers across the city .Many consumers complain about call drops and poor coverage," said Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) director general Rajan S Mathews.
In Mumbai, a cell phone tower should not be erected within 100 metres of human habitation. Girish Kumar, an IIT professor who measured radiation from rooftops in Mumbai, said exposure to radiation at this level 24 hours a day for two to five years can cause severe health problems.
"Chennai does not seem to be worried. There are no government guidelines and people are not aware of the danger," he said.
In 2012, a bio-initiative report brought out by 29 scientists and health experts from 10 countries reported that prolonged exposure to towers leads to several health problems such as headache, difficulty in concentrating, immune system imbalance and DNA damage.