Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 25, Dated June 26, 2010
radiation city - responses
‘The Radiation Levels Are Within Limits.
We Would Like To Do Another Survey...’
RAJAN S MATHEWS, Director General of the
Cellular Operators Association of India
(COAI), has responded to Rishi Majumder’s
recent cover story, Radiation City, June 5, on
cell radiation. He says, “The article draws attention
towards the purportedly high levels of emissions
from cellular base stations at some places in Delhi, where
the tests for such emission levels were carried out for
TEHELKA by Cogent EMR Solutions. The article says the
EMR from various base stations in Delhi is highly unsafe.
It further cautions readers about possible health-related
problems and medical consequences from cell tower
emissions. These concerns have no basis in fact or finding,
whether international or in India. We would like to
address the points in the article with the following facts.”
|Rising Panic Cell towers like these dot the skyline in every metro and, now, even smaller towns are becoming victims of dangerous EMR
Photo: DEEPAK SALVI
The issues with the story
1 MOBILE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS LIE in the nonionising
part of the EMR spectrum (see figure above) and
do not cause genetic damage. Emissions from cell
phones and base stations are 50,000 times lower than the
levels at which health effects begin to be established.
2 THERE IS NO CONCLUSIVE evidence of health-related
problems due to EMR from cell phones and telecom
towers. For several decades, extensive research has
been undertaken at the World Health Organisation, British
Medical Association, Royal Society of Canada, International
Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, Swedish
Radiation Protection Institute, Food and Drug Administration,
USA, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear
Safety Agency, Indian Council for Medical Research, etc. The
consensus of these studies does not show a conclusive link
between human health risks and the use of cell phones or
living near a base station.
3 RADIATION LEVELS ARE WITHIN permissible limits. The
article states that as per the ICNIRP, the safe limit of radiation
for general public is 600 mW/MSQ. This is incorrect. The safe limit for public exposure is dependent on operational
frequency. Mobile services are operational in the 900
MHz and 1800 MHz bands. The ICNIRP guidelines say that for
900 MHz, the limit is 4500 mW/MSQ, and for 1800 MHz, the
limit is 9000 mW/MSQ for the general public.
4 COGENT EMR SOLUTIONS HAVE a vested commercial
interest; it is in the business of selling so-called RF
Shields and protective chips. We fear that Cogent has
carried out the testing with commercial interests, and without
the involvement of the DoT or a standardisation body.
This has led to avoidable spread of myths and misconception,
creating panic and alarm in the public. Tests carried out
by Cogent must be verified with the help of another agency,
by taking the ICNIRP limits as the reference.
5 OVER THE PAST FEW months, all operators have carried
out testing of radiation levels at select sites with
the equipment of various vendors as per the test procedures
laid down by the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC),
which is an arm of the DoT. The results obtained indicate the
levels are well within the ICNIRP limits. Also, the equipment
used by Cogent may not be a standard meter. Hence, we propose
to conduct another set of testing by independent and
credible agencies to measure the radiation levels at various
locations being mentioned in the TEHELKA article. We propose
to use standard test equipment as notified by the TEC.
6 THE ARTICLE SAYS RADIATION from cell towers is
monitored according to guidelines, not laws and that a
guideline has no penalty if violated. On November 4,
2008, the DoT amended the license terms on implementation
of ICNIRP guidelines regarding the emission by Base Transceiver
Stations (BTSs). The amendments says that a licensee
has to conduct audits and provide self certificates annually
to confirm that emission levels are within ICNIRP limits. Noncompliance
attracts punitive action.
7 We believe medical consequences of EMR, as mentioned
in the article, are extremely unlikely. We’d like to study
the source of this information and provide our views.
‘Other Countries Have Far Stricter Limits.
The Operators Are Wary Of EMR Audits’
THIS IS Rishi Majumder’s response to the industry’s
stand on EMR. “The recent cover
story of TEHELKA, Radiation City, June 5,
2010, raises concerns drawn from fact and
finding, international and in India. Court
cases on this issue started in 2004, reaching High Courts
and even the Supreme Court. Many cell towers have
been removed by operators, either under court orders or
on their own succumbing to local demands. A Supreme
Court case is pending since February 2006, where the
court, on request from the telecom ministry, ordered the
ministry to reply to their notice within four weeks. The
ministry has not prepared a reply, on the issue of health
hazards of mobile tower radiation, in five years. These
are the point-wise replies to the claims of the COAI.
The untruths of the industry
1 THE ARTICLE STATES THAT EMR is non-ionising radiation.
So, the COAI has merely re-stated what the article
pointed out. While talking about health effects, what
period of exposure is the COAI allowing for? The effects arise
after chronic exposure. The article mentioned periods of
three to 10 years. Suppose the period of exposure the COAI is
allowing for is a minute. Its effect will be multiplied by
15,76,800 for three years. For 10 years, it will be multiplied
by 52,56,000. So the standard figure of “50,000 times lower
than emissions from base stations” does not mean much.
2 WHAT IS THE METHODOLOGY of the research the COAI
says has been conducted for several years in highprofile
institutions? Studies on humans would have to
be based on past medical records vis-a-vis cell phone usage and proximity to a cell tower. These studies have to take into
account the proximity to base stations, and the power at
which these base stations emit EMR. They also have to account
for the chronic effects of EMR. So, though radiation research
has been undertaken for decades, case studies to fit
the research have only begun to emerge in the past 20 years.
To determine health effects for these cases will take time.
3 COGENT SAYS THE 600mW/MSQ radiation limit stated
in the article is correct, and is taken from an ICNIRP
health assessment statement, Health Issues Related to
the Use of Hand-held Radiotelephones and Base Transmitters.
Also, if on a single pole or in a single area of 100 MSQ, there
are antennae operating at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, what will
be the safe limit for people living in proximity to that tower?
4,500 mW or 9,000 mW? Here are some reference levels of
other countries at 1800 MHz. Belgium and Luxembourg, 240
mW/MSQ; Poland, 100 mW/MSQ; Russia, 20 mW/MSQ; Austria
Salzburg City, 1mW/MSQ.
4 COGENT EMR SOLUTIONS Ltd. has done over 30,000 radiation
checks across India since 2005, for telecom operators,
and reputed private individuals and companies. For
some of these surveys, they have received letters of appreciation
from former President APJ Abdul Kalam and various central
and state ministers. Also, scientists such as VP Sandlas,
former chief controller of the DRDO, and J Behari of the School
Of Environmental Sciences, JNU, who were on a committee consulted
by the DoT before it adopted ICNIRP guidelines, affirmed
Cogent’s credibility. Cogent are an ISO-certified company.
5 WHICH SELECT SITES IS the COAI conducting radiation
tests at? We believe they are 0.1 percent of the total
towers. And, Cogent used an HF Analyser to measure the
cumulative EMR at a spot, and a Spectrum Analyser to double
check this and measure the EMR at each frequency. The TEC
has recommended this equipment.
6 IF THE OPERATORS ARE so conscious of their obligations,
then why have the radiation audits still not been
completed? We have a copy of a letter from Rajan S
Mathewsto the DoT Secretary, where he said the operators
will not pay for the audits. The letter also says the COAI will
not build networks in rural areas if they were asked to pay
for the radiation audits.
7 THE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES mentioned are ‘risks’,
which is why the word ‘could’ has been used to elaborate
them. Not even smoking or X-ray machines can
assure you of cancer. The risk is relative, especially to the
time and extent of exposure.