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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 25, Dated June 26, 2010
CURRENT AFFAIRS  
radiation city - responses

Industry

‘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.”

image
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.

Tehelka

‘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.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 25, Dated June 26, 2010

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