There is no cause of alarm with regard to possible ill-effects on human health by electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from cellphone towers and cellphones because the limits adopted in India account for all biological effects of radiation. In fact, the limits set by India are much lower than the internationally adopted recommendations of the International Commission on Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which account for thermal and non-thermal effects, said a report submitted by a 13-member committee constituted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) based on an Allahabad High Court order dated January 10, 2012.
“So far, no conclusive evidence has been found on adverse health effects by EMF radiation from mobile handset by the World Health Organisation (WHO)…(and) so long as EMF radiation power levels in the vicinity of base stations of cellphone towers are below the prescribed limits, there should not be any cause of concern for adverse thermal health affects on human beings living close them,” the committee said in its report.
The panel included IIT Bombay Prof Girish Kumar, who has claimed that people living within 50-300 m radius of cellphone towers are more prone to the ill-effects of EMF radiation.
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“The committee has noted that Kumar’s claims on health effects of EMF radiation are not supported by any scientific evidence… So far as the non-thermal effects of EMF radiation are concerned, a lot of research is going around globally, but currently there is no conclusive scientific evidence which establishes that EMF has harmful non-thermal effects. However, some countries are taking a precautionary approach by reducing EMF levels below those specified by ICNIRP and India is one of them that has reduced prescribed EMF radiation levels by a factor of 10,” says the report.
Rubbishing the report, Kumar said his recommendations have been totally ignored and he has signed each page, stating that he does not agree to the report.
While Kumar said EMF radiation causes biological effects like cancer, brain tumour and dizziness among others, the committee said while WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm existence of any health consequences, some gaps in knowledge about biological effects exist and need further research.
It says Kumar’s observation that ICNIRP guidelines would result in absorption of microwave energy of 583.2 kw-sec in human body and would amount to keeping human body in a microwave oven for 19 minutes daily, is “incorrect, highly misplaced and misleading”.
In response to Kumar’s assertion that if one stands a metre away from cellphone tower antenna, the body temperature would rise by 2° Fahrenheit in an hour and by 8° F in four hours, the report concludes that “such unfounded and hypothetical analysis is ill-conceived”. “This is complete misrepresentation of actual position and shall only create confusion, mis-perception and unfounded fear in the minds of the general public, which should be avoided,” it says.
The panel says while Kumar has cited case study of Usha Kiran building, Worli, where six cases of cancer were reported and that faced the antenna on the opposite side of another building, such examples, without conclusive evidence, could be a matter of further analysis rather than saying that EMF radiation was an environmental factor for causing cancer. “The ICNIRP/WHO studies show there is no established relationship between cellphone tower radiation and cancer or tumour,” it added.
* The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) should continue the extensive audit of the self-certificates being submitted by telecom service providers to ensure compliance to prescribed stricter norms of EMF radiation from BTS towers
* The Department of Science and Technology and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) should conduct extensive India-specific scientific studies on prolonged use of mobile phones to conclusively determine possible health hazard of EMF radiation
* DoT should create national EMF web portal to provide public access to the status of compliance to prescribed EMF norms
* There is a need to step up efforts to spread awareness on EMF and precautions to allay undue apprehensions regarding the possible health effects of radiation, largely caused due to misinformation being peddled by certain sections of the public