MONEYLIFE DIGITAL TEAM, 11 March 2016
Citizens must demand that the standard for radiation through mobile towers should be similar to the practice across the world and not 100 times higher leading to health disasters among residents, advocates Prakash Munshi
Indian government and the authorities are silently killing gullible citizens with huge dose of radiations from mobile towers. Instead of patting themselves for using norms lower than what is prescribed by an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), they should cut down the power of radiation from such towers to save Indian citizens, say Prakash Munshi. He was speaking at Moneylife Foundation on the ill-effects of mobile tower radiation. Mr Munshi has been creating awareness on health hazards from electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) radiation emanating from mobile towers antennae and advising precautionary measures to protect citizens.
"In September 2012, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) came out with revised guidelines adopting one tenth of the norms set by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an NGO. However, even these lower norms are far higher than norms followed by other countries, like Australia, France and UK. Revision in norms should have been done to reduce health hazards to citizens by reducing actual radiation levels and not norms. This could have been easily achieved by reducing the permitted power from the antennae to 10% or reducing the maximum power transmitted per antenna/site to 2watts instead of 20watts per antenna," says Mr Munshi, who prefers to be called as a concerned citizen and not an activist.
Mr Munshi is on a mission to educate users on the perils of mobile phone radiation, along with Bollywood actor Juhi Chawla. With 4G technology making an entry on to mobile space, Mr Munshi feels there is an urgent need to have transparency and public knowledge of radiation emitted by mobile towers. He said, one can reduce exposure to EMF radiation by avoiding using mobile phone or cordless phones for long. If there is a mobile tower near your home or office, first convince the operators to reduce transmitted power. If this is not possible, then go for removal of the tower from that location. If both fail, then install shields on all your windows. The shields or mesh should be made from steel or copper, Mr Munshi added.
He said, "What the Indian government is saying is they cut the standard to 450 milliwatts (mW) per sq metre for a frequency of 900Mhz (for 1,800Mhz and 2,100 Mhz and above, it is 9000 mW and 10,000 mW, respectively) and hence there is no violation from the cellular operators. But we want that standard to be reduced to match with what is followed in other countries. This is not happening. And at some places like the infamous Haji Ali Juice Centre, we found radiation levels above 100mW, when checked randomly, and without informing the operators."
"What is more shocking is there are simply no norms for clusters of antennae installed in India. Such clusters are not seen anywhere in the world, except India," he added.
Mr Munshi pointed out to a report from a magazine that has quoted, Michael Repacholi, Founder Chairman of ICNIRP. In the report, Mr Repacholi, stated that India has made a political decision and not health-based decision to adopt one tenth of ICNIRP norms. "Base stations RF (radio frequency) signals are normally extremely low, some 100s to 1000s of times below ICNIRP limits. However, if base stations are removed then coverage is lost and people will not be able to make calls. Alternatively, if base stations and the mobile phone try to increase their signal strength so the person using the phone is subjected to much higher RF levels. In addition, people living near base stations that have to increase their signal to communicate with the mobile will also receive higher RF exposures," Mr Repacholi said in an interview to Infrastructure Today.
Even the 53rd Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, in its report had stated, "The Committee strongly deprecates the lackadaisical approach of the Department of Telecommunications which is the nodal department for expansion and modernization of mobile telephony.”
Mr Munshi says, "Although France and Australia follow the extremely high norms their actual levels of radiation are much lower than the Italy, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and Lithuania, cited by the DoT before the Committee. The actual radiation level in France is at 20mW sq metre for 97% of mobile tower antennae there. According to Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), the country has actual radiation levels ranging from 0.904mW/m2 to 150.99 mW/m2 for the combined radiation from individual base stations." In India, the radiation levels are hundreds of times more.
Mr Munshi then explained health hazards due to EMF radiation, caused by mobile towers and precautions to take to protect people living near such locations. He said even the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its press release in 31 May 2011, stated that WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields at possible carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.
Participating in a debate, Rajan S Mathews, Director General of Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), told Mr Munshi that EMF radiation from mobile tower antennae is classified under group 2B “possibly carcinogenic” just like pickles and coffee. To this, Mr Munshi replied saying, "But I do have a choice whether to eat pickle or coffee. Citizens don’t have any choice on the radiation penetrating their residences 24x7. Health is our fundamental right and cannot be sacrificed for wealth of a few individuals and corporates.”
Talking about the latest blame game for call drops, the COAI is saying that this is happening because of lower signal levels as we have adopted a standard that is one tenth of the international standard of radiation. Mr Munshi, says, "It is incorrect to say that call drops are due to reduction in norms. Norms are only on paper. The actual radiation levels at the ground level did not change with the change in norms on 1 September 2012. Mr R Chandrashekhar, former Secretary of DoT has mentioned on a TV debate that 95% of the mobile tower antennae in India were below the reduced norms as on September 2012."
Even TRAI Chairman RS Sharma has blamed telecom companies for call drops. “The problem has increased in the past 5-6 months. In this time the spectrum has not shrunk suddenly. In fact, if at all, more spectrum has been made available. At the same time the customer base is growing at a steady rate,” Mr Sharma was quoted in a news report.
Mr Munshi says the government, authorities and mobile operators say there is no conclusive evidence of the ill-effects of mobile tower radiations. Citing the precautionary principle from laws of the European Union, he said, "If an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. Why the Indian government follow the same principle and ask mobile companies to reduce power of transmission similar to global practice, he questions.