EMF: Health and Safety

INTRODUCTION

“INDIA, like the rest of the world community, has recognized that mobile telecommunications contributes greatly to speedy socio-economic development.

We already have 900 million mobile phone connections and over 80% of the population has access to mobile telecommunication. In 1994, only 8 out of 1,000 people had a telephone. The common man has been empowered! Many have called this the “Telecom Revolution” of India.

But this growth has given rise to concerns regarding public health and Electro-Magnetic Field emissions from cell towers and phones. Many myths without any scientific basis have been floated by mischief mongers with vested business interests that electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation - from telecom towers and mobile phones lead to cancer and skin allergies.

Rajan S Mathews, Director General

In spite of many rigorous, independent scientific studies and research done in many countries, till date, no scientific study globally has found any iota of truth in these allegations.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India, and the cellular industry, being sensitive to the concerns of the citizens, have undertaken a joint exercise to ensure all issues regarding tower installation and functioning are addressed so as to allay the fears about emissions. One such step was the decision by the DoT to reduce the EMF emissions from antenna on towers by 90% from their earlier levels. Indian norms are now one tenth of the international standards. Uniform guidelines for all the state governments and local civic bodied have been formulated for the location and operation of the towers by the DoT.

In view of public concerns, an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) consisting of officers from DoT, Indian Council of Medical Research, Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of Environment and Forest was constituted on August 24, 2010, to examine the effect of EMF radiation from base stations and mobile phones.

The IMC found no direct link between exposure to EMF emissions from antennas on cell towers and mobile phones and health. It examined 90 international and national studies. In spite of this lack of scientific evidence, the IMC recommended lowering the mobile towers’ EMF exposure limits to 1/10th of the existing prescribed safety limit levels (ICNIRP recommended safety limits) as a matter of abundant precaution. This regulation came into effect on September 1, 2012. (DoT link: www.dot.gov.in/access-services/journey-emf

The Telecom Enforcement Resource & Monitoring (TERM), a division of the DoT, carries out regular audits of the towers to ensure that they are in compliance with the safety norms. (TERM details:www.dot.gov.in/term/term-security)

All cellphone operators are now in compliance with the revised set of guidelines. Therefore, any decommissioning/removal of towers due to unfounded concerns on EMF adversely affect the availability of communication services and the quality of services for the customers who bear the inconvenience of poor connectivity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and associated international agencies such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) determine the global guidelines for emissions across the world. India, in fact, had earlier adopted the ICNIRP safety guidelines but reduced them as a result of the IMC recommendations. The new safety norms are now far below those adopted by over 95% of the countries of the world.

The WHO has been spending $300 million per annum on research and monitoring of the EMF emission and its effects on humans. There is a need to create public awareness about the true facts on the issue to counter misinformation which causes anxiety among the people. Such misinformation disparages the credibility of the work that the government and industry are doing to address these concerns.

Recently, the WHO and a French government expert group, ANSES (Agence Nationale De Securite Sanitaire) – the French Organization for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety - have concluded there is no health hazard from mobile phone radiation. It has been seconded by an 11-year long study conducted by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) of the UK. Public health agencies of the government of several countries such as Sweden, Germany and others have come to similar conclusions. These countries have had mobile networks for far longer than India.

The WHO in its advisory on September 20, 2013, said, “Studies to date provide no indication that environmental exposure to RF (radiofrequency) fields, such as from base stations, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease. Scientists have reported other health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. These effects are minor and have no apparent health significance.”

The MTHR of the UK says that “there is no evidence that exposure to base station emissions during pregnancy increases the risk of childhood leukemia.” Professor David Coggon, Chairman of MTHR, said: “We are now much more confident about the safety of modern telecommunications systems.”

Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Siddharth Mukherjee, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Division of Medical Oncology), Columbia University, USA, says: “Many substances of modern life do not — cannot — cause cancer” (said in reference to emissions from telecom towers).

Prof. Michael Repacholi, who was the Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) project coordinator for the WHO, stated, during a recent tour of India that high quality studies have not established that use of mobile phones or EMF emissions from antenna on mobile towers causes any health risks.

Therefore, in view of the vast scientific research data available to show that EMF emissions from antenna on mobile towers do not cause any health hazard, consumers should be able to enjoy the benefits of mobile telephony without any fear. Government agencies in India should not become a victim of fear psychosis and half-truths and myths floated by vested interests that gloss over the vast array of scientific data and research to the contrary.

 

Mobile Networks and Public Health

Mobility and Health (EMF) in Media

  • Radiation from cell towers in India not harmful: Panel Click here
  • IIT-B distances itself from professor’s view on cell tower radiation, says his opinion personal Click here
  • IIT prof ‘hyped’ cell radiation, daughter sold protective shields Click here
  • Tower Troubles Click here

Experts Speak

  Prof. Michael Repacholi | Visiting Professor, University of Rome “La Sapienza” Chairman Emeritus, ICNIRP
Prof. Michael Repacholi
From all the high quality studies that have been published and the reviews of all the studies by international and national public health authorities, it can be safely concluded that it has not been established that mobile phone use causes or is associated with any cancer of the head. WHO has recommended more research related to the possible effects of RF fields on children and some studies have already been completed showing no effect of mobile phone use on any childhood cancer.
 
  Prof. Repacholi |Chairman Emeritus, ICNIRP After a visit to India
Prof. Repacholi
Over 60 countries have accepted international limits for RF emitted by telecommunications devices. Some countries have chosen to use lower limits for base stations because of public pressure, in the hope that this would lower public concern. However lowering the limits has the opposite effect and increases concern because the public wonders whether the limits were lowered enough and want even lower limits. The major problem with adopting limits that are lower than those based on established science is that there is no basis for the new limits and they provide no additional protection for the public.
 
  Prof. Vasant Natarajan | Department of Physics Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Vasant-Natarajan
Cancer, of the kind mediated by radiation, is known to be caused by mutations in the cell-division machinery—a clear bond-breaking process— which results in uncontrolled multiplication of the cells. X-rays are well known to cause such mutations… …UV rays from the sun, those which are not stopped by the ozone layer, can cause skin cancers in people… ...visible light cannot cause such mutations. It is sub-threshold. And so is any EM wave whose frequency is smaller—such as infrared, microwave, radio waves, and the typical waves (900 MHz) used for cell phones. This means that the cell-phone photons do not have enough energy to cause a mutation in your DNA. Period. No matter what their power is…
 
  Dr. K S Parthasarathy | Former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Govt. of India
Dr. K S Parthasarathy
'Cell tower radiation has a million times lower energy than x-rays and gamma rays which can make structural changes in cells in the human body'. “Stories on cancer clusters and other diseases near cell phone towers are spread by vested interests selling screens, shields etc. against cell tower radiation.”
 
  Dr. Jack Rowley | Senior Director - Research & Sustainability GSMA
Jack Rowley
“Mobile networks are an essential element of government strategies to increase access to telecommunication services and the Internet. As mobile networks rely on antenna sites it is critically important that governments adopt policies that both protect the public and support deployment. In regard to health protection the WHO recommends adoption of the ICNIRP limits and many governments have accepted this recommendation”
 
  Dr. Bhavin Jankharia | President elect, Indian Radiology and Imaging association Former Trustee of Radiology Education Foundation
 Dr. Bhavin Jankharia
“A search through Pubmed [2,3], the main repository of peer reviewed, medical and scientific articles, throws up studies that show that many people living near mobile phone base stations (MPBS) have an increased incidence of headache, nausea, sleeplessness, etc. The logical conclusion would be to believe that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from MPBS is the cause of their problems. But the search also reveals a sham study [4] where the participants were not told whether the MPBS were active (real) or inactive (sham). These studies found that there was an equal incidence of subjective psychosomatic symptoms irrespective of whether the MPBS were active or not thus suggesting that those who believe they will be affected by MPBS get affected irrespective of whether there is EMR or not.”
  Prof. Sushanta Sen | Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics University of Calcutta
Prof Sen
“We have to bear in mind that communication is the backbone of modern society and wireless happens to be one of the most efficient means. So, it is virtually impossible to completely remove the cell phone system from our society, not to mention about the possible impact of such a step on the business and livelihood of the large number of individuals associated with the industry. However, the society must be careful about any adverse effect and the industry must also pay attention to the concerns of the citizens”
 
  Dr. Purvish M. Parikh | MD, DNB, FICP, PHD, ECMO, CPI, MBA currently Managing Director of AmeriCares
Purvish
“There is so much misrepresentation about incidence of brain tumors and use of cell phone. The incidence of brain tumors in India is unchanged over last 10 years. Hence, introduction of cellular phones and mobile services does not seem to have increased the risk of brain tumors and cancer.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96ONQ4GV6v4
 
  Dr. Vijayalaxmi |Department of Radiation Oncology University of Texas Health Science Center
Vijayalaxmi
“The results from several of my acute and chronic exposure studies have revealed that RF radiation emitted from mobile phones does not have sufficient energy to cause ‘breakage’ in the genetic material in human and animal cells. Researchers in other parts of the world have also reported similar observations.”

 

EMF Advocacy Events

Testing of emission levels

Testing of emission levels from mobile towers in progress in an up-market colony Delhi | Feb 2014

Advocacy van meeting

RWA testing: Advocacy van meeting with an eminent Radiologist Dr. Mehool Mehta Mumbai | March 2014

Radiologist Dr. Mehool Mehta

RWA testing: Advocacy van meeting with an eminent Radiologist Dr. Mehool Mehta Mumbai | March 2014

Mobility and Health (EMF): Research reports and updates

Mobility and Health (EMF): Research reports and updates

 

Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme
Arbitrary Radio Frequency exposure limits: Impact on 4G networks deployment

Frequently asked questions on mobile emissions in India

What do reputed national/international agencies say on mobile emissions and public health?

It should be clearly noted that most governments of the world look to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and associated international agencies such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) to determine the guidelines and safety norms for emissions across the world. Most of the countries and governments implement their country specific emission norms based on these guidelines or set them at levels lower than these recommended norms.

In its latest advisory on health risks associated with mobile phones and their base stations, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and a French government expert group  ANSES (Agence Nationale De Securite Sanitaire - French Organization for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) have said that there is  no health hazard from mobile phone emissions. This has been seconded by a decade long study conducted by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) of UK.

The WHO in its advisory dated 20th Sept 2013 has said, “Studies to date provide no indication that environmental exposure to RF (radiofrequency) fields, such as from base stations, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease. Scientists have reported other health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. These effects are minor and have no apparent health significance.” The advisory further added that, “Because exposure to the radiofrequency (RF) fields emitted by mobile phones is generally higher than from base stations, and the greater likelihood of any adverse effect being due to handsets, research has almost exclusively been conducted on possible effects of mobile phone exposure…. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group and is currently assessing the health impact of RF fields on all studied endpoints.”

In another related development, the French government agency ANSES ,in its recommendation said that; “Biological effects corresponding to generally reversible changes in the inner functioning of the body can thus be observed, as is also found in the case of exposure to different stimuli of everyday life. However, the Agency’s experts were unable to establish any causal link between the biological effects described in cell models, animals or humans, and any possible resulting health effects. Given this evidence, proposing new exposure limits for the general population on health grounds does not seem justified.”

Further, UK’s Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) very recently completed an 11 years long study and despite exhaustive research, they found no evidence of risks to health from the radio waves produced by mobile phones or their base stations. “There is no link between mobile phones and any health problems” the decade-long report has concluded. The study also found no evidence that exposure to base station emissions during pregnancy increases the risk of childhood leukaemia. The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme was the UK’s largest research programme to look at the possible health risks associated with mobile phone technology. Professor David Coggon, Chairman of MTHR, said: ‘This independent programme is now complete, and despite exhaustive research, we have found no evidence of risks to health from the radio waves produced by mobile phones or their base stations… Thanks to the research conducted within the programme, we can now be much more confident about the safety of modern telecommunications systems.’

Prof. Michael Repacholi, who was the Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) project coordinator for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and has been the Chairman of ICNIRP, stated during a recent tour of India that high quality studies have not established that use of mobile phones or mobile towers causes any health risks.

“From all the high quality studies that have been published and the reviews of all the studies by international and national public health authorities, it can be safely concluded that it has not been established that mobile phone use causes or is associated with any health risks,” he said.

“WHO has recommended more research related to the possible effects of RF (Radio Frequency) fields on people and some studies have already been completed showing no effect of mobile phone use on human health,” he added.

 

How are mobile emission norms set in India? And how is it regulated?

The government of India adopted WHO approved guidelines for mobile emissions for limiting EMF exposure from BTS towers & SAR level of Mobile Handsets in 2008. WHO administrates the emissions norms through ICNIRP and its guidelines are considered the most credible in the world with over 95% of the countries following them. (#List of countries and EMF standards enclosed in Fact Sheet)

However, following a direction from Mumbai High Court and public concerns, an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) consisting of officers from Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Indian Council of Medical Research (Ministry of Health), Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of Environment and Forest was constituted in August 2010, to examine the effect of mobile emissions from base stations and mobile phones on humans and the environment, including birds, insects, fauna and flora.

The Inter-ministerial committee (IMC) in its report examined the environmental and health related concerns and indicated that most of the laboratory studies were unable to find a direct link between exposure to radio frequency radiation and health; and the scientific studies as yet have not been able to confirm a cause and effect relationship between radio frequency radiation and health. The effect of emission from cell phone towers is not known yet with certainty. Inter-ministerial committee (IMC) has examined 90 international and national studies/reference papers, related with the mobile emissions, before finalizing the report. IMC recommended lowering the mobile towers’ EMF exposure limits to 1/10th of the existing prescribed limit as a matter of abundant precaution. This regulation came into effect on 1st September 2012 as DoT implemented the IMC’s recommendation. It should be noted that the DoT set the safety level at norms sufficient to protect all segments of the population (children, pregnant women, sick persons, students in schools, etc.) instead of adopting different safety levels for different segments. This would have been extremely difficult to implement and enforce and hence the decision to adopt a single, standard safety norm to cover everyone. (DoT link: http://www.dot.gov.in/access-services/journey-emf

Today, India’s mobile industry complies and conforms to norms mandated by the (DoT) which is 1/10th of the norms mandated by international regulatory bodies such as the WHO and ICNIRP. It should also be acknowledged that the DoT took the step entirely as a measure of abundant precaution as there is no conclusive evidence till date which links emissions from mobile towers to health hazards. The DoT guidelines have been developed after close scrutinisation of all parameters and with a detailed consultation of all the stakeholders involved. Hence they would be adequate to address all issues related to installation of mobile towers across India.

The Telecom Enforcement Resource & Monitoring (TERM) Cells, an extended arm of the DoT, conduct random audits to ensure that the emission norms are being complied with. In cases of non-compliance to the norms, a massive fine of INR 10 lakhs per antennae is applicable.

 

What is the mobile tower emissions issue in India?

India has today almost 900 million mobile phone connections and over 80% of the population in the country has access to mobile telecommunication. In 1994, only 8 out of 1,000 people had a telephone. The “aam admi” has been empowered! Many have called this the “Telecom Revolution” of India.

But this growth has given rise to concerns regarding public health and Electro-Magnetic Field emissions from the antenna on cell towers and phones. Many myths without any scientific basis have been floated by mischief mongers with vested business interests that electromagnetic field (EMF) – radiation - from telecom towers and mobile phones lead to cancer, skin allergies and other health effects. In spite of many rigorous, independent scientific studies and research done in many countries, till date, no scientific study globally has found any iota of truth in these allegations.

 

COAI contact on Mobility and Health