Is mobile phone tower radiation a health hazard? 1
DELHI / MUMBAI / JAIPUR:
Does radiation from cellphone towers cause cancer?
Yes, said the Kasliwals, two of who have been diagnosed with brain cancer after three towers were installed next to their upscale C-scheme neighbourhood in Jaipur.
Since then, illnesses, both minor and major, have become a part of their lives and the lives of the 50 other families in their neighbourhood.
“Last year, both my younger brother Pramod and I were diagnosed with brain cancer. Pramod is critical,” said Sanjay Kasliwal, who belongs to a family of prominent jewellers in Jaipur. The Kasliwals have no family history of cancer.
Experts agreed. “Being exposed to a mobile tower located within 50m of your home or workplace is like being in a microwave oven for 24 hours,” said Prof Girish Kumar, department of electrical engineering, IIT Bombay, who submitted a report on cell tower radiation to the department of telecommunications in December 2010.
“Following that, in January 2011, a report by an interministerial committee made recommendations to reduce the exposure to 450 mw/m sq. It has not been implemented yet,” said Kumar.
Cancer happens in extreme cases, with almost everyone living close to mobile towers reporting disorders such as sleep disturbances, headaches, fatigue, joint pains, among others.
“Even with cellphone use, benign swelling in the brain and head, hearing disorders, headaches and anxiety neurosis are well established,” said Dr Sameer Kaul, cancer surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi. The impact is higher in children, who have smaller and thinner skulls.
The industry, predictably, is in denial. "We have extensive factual, scientific research and papers to show that there is no conclusive evidence that EMF, at the levels prescribed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (an international commission for radiation protection) causes any risk to the health and well -being of individuals," said Rajan S. Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India, an apex body of telecom operators.
People who have developed health problems are not buying that. "If towers are so safe, why bother to have laws and limits at all," said AK Anand, who is unsuccessfully trying to get cellphone towers moved from his Vikas Puri H block neighbourhood for five years.
‘Reduce the power or remove the tower’
Disrupted sleep, headaches, dizziness, altered reflexes, depression, fatigue, joint pains, heart disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, DNA damage and cancers are just some of the health hazards of exposure to cell tower radiation, says Professor Girish Kumar, professor, department of electrical engineering, IIT Bombay, who submitted a report on Cell Tower Radiation to the Department of Telecommunications, in December 2010.
Are towers destroying our health, with or without phone usage?
Yes, of course. After 20 minutes of using cell phones, you feel a warm sensation near the ear. This is because the temperature of the earlobes increases by one degree Celsius. A maximum of 6 minutes of cell phone usage is recommended during the day since a cell phone transmits 1 to 2 watts of power, which are very high and dangerous.
In the US, users are told this, but in India, there are no such warnings despite the fact that we adopted radiation norms specified by ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) guidelines of 1998.
Do studies prove that exposure to EMF has a direct health impact?
The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s INTERPHONE study in 2000 done over 10 years in 13 countries showed that heavy cellphone users (1 to 2 hours a day) have a risk of glioma (brain or spine tumour). This risk is 55% for those using it over 10 years. They found 5,117 brain tumour cases in the study.
Several studies done in various countries — such as Germany, Austria, Brazil, Israel, etc — have reported increase in cancer cases in 5 to 10 years, where radiation level was more than 1 mW/m2.
Cancer is the last stage and before that, people living close to mobile phone towers have reported sleep disturbances, headaches, memory loss, lack of concentration, fatigue, joint pains, vision distortion, miscarriage, heart problems, etc.
In India too, there are many complaints of such health problems among people who are heavy cell phone users and stay near cell towers. Cell phone users start with feeling dizzy and even develop ear problems. This was acknowledged by the Government of India in its Jan 2011
Inter-Ministerial Committee report.
What are the norms for cellphone radiation in India and what is the ideal level of exposure?
Till 2009, India had no standards. India adopted the radiation norms specified by ICNIRP in 2009, which are now outdated as they were only intended to protect people against short-term gross heating effects and not ‘biological’ effects such as cancers and genetic damage from longterm exposure.
Also, these safety standards are based on 6 minutes per day exposure, without accounting for people who live close to cell towers 24/7. The norms allow EMF of 4,500 mw/m2.
In 2010, I submitted a report to the government on the health hazards from cell towers and how to curb them. In January 2011, the report by Inter-ministerial Committee mentioned several health hazards at levels thousand to ten thousand times below the ICNIRP standards and made recommendations to reduce exposure to 1/10th to 450 mw/m2. Even that has not been implemented yet.
How can exposure be reduced?
At first, I would recommend that the amplification of power in the cell towers be reduced by removing the power amplifier or by reducing the gain of the antenna. By reducing the power, coverage area will be reduced, which can be taken care of by using more cell towers or repeaters or in-building solutions. The height of towers should be increased. All towers in close proximity to schools and hospitals should be checked and removed, if too close.
Where do towers shifted from celebrity neighbourhoods — as in Juhi Chawla’s case — go?
They may have shifted these towers to nearby place for cell phone connectivity, so the radiation from these high-power transmitting towers will now be affecting other people. That is why I have always recommended that instead of removing towers and passing on the problem, the transmitted power must be reduced. Reduce the power or remove the tower.