Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Indian Government decides against stricter mobile radiation norms

Government decides against stricter mobile radiation norms

NEW DELHI: The government has decided against tightening radiation emission norms for cellular towers and mobile phones despite growing concerns over their ill-effects on human health.

An official committee has found the Indian standards to be adequate for now and has thus decided against making any immediate changes to the norms, a top source in the Department of Telecom (DoT) told TOI.

"The committee was of the view that the existing prescribed precautionary electro-magnetic field (EMF) safe exposure limits in India are adequate and need no further change at this stage. This has been accepted by the DoT," the source said on the sidelines of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference at Kochi. Standards in India are already stricter than those prevailing in most of the other countries, including many countries in the West, the source added.

The committee was chaired by SS Sirohi, senior DDG and head of Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cell of the DoT. Its members included five professors from IIT, senior doctors from AIIMS, representative from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), senior members from Indian Institute of Toxicology and Department of Science & Technology.

The committee was formed last year on the instructions of the Allahabad High Court, which was hearing a petition over setting up of mobile towers. It was formed to evaluate the various concerns in public regarding the ill-effects of EMF radiation from cellular towers and mobile phones such as headache, cancer, changes in brain activity, sleep disorders and depression.

"The committee observed that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to establish any adverse health effect from exposure to EMF radiation from mobile towers if the radiation is within the prescribed limits. Also, it found no direct relation between mobile phone use and increased health risks," the source said.

However, the committee sought certain precautions over the use of mobile phones amongst Indians as its heavy usage can lead to possible health dangers. "The precautions recommended include holding the mobile device away from the body; avoiding long duration calls; use of hands-free and wired headsets; and avoiding conversations when mobile signal or phone battery is weak," the source said.

When it comes to EMF standards for radiation from mobile towers, India has already reduced the safe limit by one-tenth of the international standards. For mobile phones, the specific absorption rate (SAR) safe limit has been reduced from 2 watt per kilogram averaged over 10 gms of human tissue to 1.6 watt per kg averaged over 1 gm of human tissue.

"The higher safety levels were mandated purely as a precautionary measure in response to public concern and to further increase the margin of safety," the source said.

The committee was of the view that in addition to the ongoing studies and research over the impact of EMF radiations on human health, more intensive research needs to be carried out by all the countries, particularly India, to fully assess the potential long-term effects of mobile phone usage. "This was felt because Indians use mobile phones very heavily and for longer periods," the source said.

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