EMF: Health and Safety

“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.

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 (radio frequency) 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.

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Prof. Michael Repacholi | Visiting Professor, University of Rome “La Sapienza” Chairman Emeritus, ICNIRP

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

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,

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

'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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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.”

Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Former Telecom Minister views about Cell Tower Radiation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfDYUZgvWbo

Shri RS Sharma, TRAI Chairman dispel myths around EMF, mobile tower emission and talk about the importance of mobile telephony in our lives today https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSVKTh_xVm8

Shri J.S. Deepak, Former Secretary, DOT on mobile tower radiation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZ4o6a2CFn4

Prof Michael Repacholi, radiation expert & the first coordinator of WHO’s Radiation and Environmental Health Unit, to Bangalore, India. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGbibsFL1dA

Dr. P. K. Julka, Padmashree Awardee, Medical Oncologist, Max Super Speciality Hospital views on Mobile Tower Cause No Harms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV5_Xqy_5Y

For high resolution copy, please contact Ms. Neeti Mathur at nmathur@coai.in

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Are mobile phone signals linked to decline in birds?

No, there is no link between decline in bee numbers and mobile phones. Researchers in Germany suggested bees were being "confused" by mobile phone signals causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and bee deaths. But researchers from US universities have identified a virus causing the deaths. US Department of Agriculture says there is no link between mobile phones and CCD.

Are mobile phone signals linked to decline in bee numbers?

No, sparrow decline levels are linked to urban noise levels, not to mobile phones. A University of Sheffield study found that industrial and traffic noise in urban environments can make it difficult for adult sparrows to hear their young, impairing the chicks’ growth as they are less likely to be fed.

Should a pregnant woman be worried about mobile phone use?

The pregnant women should not worry about the EMF radiation from mobile towers. According to Dr. Paolo Vecchia, Chairman of ICNIRP “The protection system using basic restrictions and reference levels makes the ICNIRP guidelines flexible and applicable to virtually any exposure condition, and any group of population.”

Should children be worried about mobile phone use?

According to U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2008) “The scientific evidence does not show a danger to any users of cell phones from RF exposure, including children and teenagers.” Also as per a study done by French National Cancer Institute (2010) “French health authorities indicate there is no evidence to demonstrate that the use of mobile phones presents a risk to health, both for adults and for children”. A UK Independent Advisory Group on Non-Ionizing Radiation (AGNIR) (2012) also said that “In summary, although a substantial amount of research has been conducted in this area, there is no convincing evidence that RF field exposure below guideline levels causes health effects in adults or children.”

Do towers cause increased incidence of cancer in their vicinity?

According to WHO Fact sheet N°304 dated May 2006 “It should be noted that geographically, cancers are unevenly distributed among any population. Given the widespread presence of base stations in the environment, it is expected that possible cancer clusters will occur near base stations merely by chance. Moreover, the reported cancers in these clusters are often a collection of different types of cancer with no common characteristics and hence unlikely to have a common cause.”