Does radiation from cell phone towers cause cancer?
Yes, said the Jain’s & Gombhar’s, two of who have been diagnosed with brain Headche after two network booster were installed next to their home in society neighborhood in East Delhi C Block.
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.
Experts agreed. “Being exposed to a mobile tower and Network Booster 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 inter-ministerial committee made recommendations to reduce the exposure to 450 mw/sq m. 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.
Are the radio-frequency waves emitted from cellphone towers killing us slowly? Being exposed to a mobile tower located within 50-metres is like being in a microwave oven for 24 hours, say experts, and carries the same cancer risk as living surrounded by lead, DDT, chloroform and petrol exhaust.
The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says radiation from cellphone handsets and towers is “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and may cause glioma, a type of brain cancer. Towers are more dangerous than handsets because they emit greater-intensity radiation 24X7.
“The area of concern is base-stations and their antennas, which provide the link to and from cellphones. This is because, in contrast to handsets, it (RF) is emitted continuously and is more powerful at close quarters…,” said an inter-ministerial committee of experts on electromagnetic radiation exposure from cellphone towers in 2009.
Despite that, the response from government is predictable. “There is no scientific study to prove that anyone has got any health problem due to telecom towers in India. The WHO has prescribed norms on emission of radiation by Telecom Towers. Our norms are much below the WHO norms,” said R Chandrasekhar, secretary, department of telecommunications (DoT). “The government has set up a committee under the department of science and technology to look into the issues. The matter is continuously under review.”
But the norms adopted in India in 2009 are already outdated, say experts. “In 2009, India adopted the radiation norms specified by ICNIRP, which are now outdated as they were only intended to protect people against short-term gross heating effects and not against ‘biological’ effects such as cancers and genetic damage from long-term exposure,” says Dr Girish Kumar, professor, department of electrical engineering, IIT Bombay, who submitted a report on Cell Tower Radiation to the secretary, DoT, in December 2010.
“Also, these safety standards are based on 6 minutes/day exposure, without accounting for people who live close to cell towers 24×7. The norms allow EMF of 4,500 mw/sq2,” he adds.
Following the Girish Kumar report, the Inter-Ministerial Committee January 2011 report made recommendations to reduce the exposure to 450 mw/m2. “However, even that hasn’t been implemented yet,” laments Kumar.
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 long-term 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.