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Home > News > Report

Cell phone towers are bad for you. Here's why?

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore | November 07, 2007 19:10 IST

Do you know that the cell phone towers coming up in your area could cause a health hazard? Well there are many who do not about this and in fact take pride out of the fact that technology has landed near their door step.

While all of us have had our share of fun with mobile technology, it is now time to introspect and study the problems that one could face because of cell phone towers being installed close to where people reside.

This subject is slowly gaining prominence across the country and there seems to be a gradual awakening to this problem.

Recently, a petition was filed in the Kerala [Images] High Court by a doctor seeking a direction to a cell phone company preventing them from installing a telecommunication tower near his house. He stated in his petition that the telecommunication company had not bothered to inform the people about the ill-effects of putting up such a tower and hence the project be stalled.

Available materials show that the radiation emitted from these towers could cause health hazards.  

Points out Raman K R, a scientist who has done research on the subject, "There are two effects in such cases-thermal and non-thermal. A person will fall prey to a thermal effect due to radiation only if he is close to the tower."

Being exposed to the thermal effect could cause fatigue, cataracts and reduced mental concentration. This largely occurs to the amount of heat that is generated due to radiation.

Then there is the non-thermal effect, which affects people who are at a distance from the tower. The ill-effects of a non-thermal effect are cell membrane permeability. This, according to experts, is also caused due to the heat generated through radiation.

Of late there is this talk about how, radiation through mobile towers are causing cancer. Although many maintain that such radiations could cause cancer, cell phone companies maintain that there is nothing conclusive on this subject.

A senior official in a telecommunication company who did not want to be named for this report said that there have been very few cases of people being affected with cancer due to radiation through mobile towers. Although many more towers have come up and the radiation increased two fold, there only been stray cases in which persons have been affected with cancer.

The official, however, added that in the coming years, they will put up towers where there would be very little radiation exposure.

What is ironical is that telecom companies continue to install towers, which have a radiation power level of 7620 microwatt/m2 despite the specified level being just 600 microwatt/m2. This standard fixed by the International Commission of Non-Iodised Radiation is not being followed thanks to the competition in the market.

There is too much competition in the market and today's consumer only asks for better network coverage. Cell phone companies contend that if they put up towers at the specified limit, then they would need at least four towers in place of one, which does not gel too well with their business.

The most common problems that one experiences due to radiation are uneasiness and headaches. However, doctors say that this could be purely psychological. Dr Sharada Bhat, a general practitioner, says that she has come across many cases where people have complained of uneasiness after talking for long hours on a mobile phone.

"I have found that in many cases it is purely physiological," she says.

However, there are an equal number of cases in which such occurrences have happened due to the generation of heat while talking on the mobile.

The petitioners before the Kerala High Court, however, sing a different tune. They say that exposure to telecommunication towers could cause fatal diseases such as cancer and embryo disruption. It was also pointed out that there are several case studies to show people living near telecommunication towers were more prone to diseases.

Senior advocate, P N Rao says that cell phone companies will be failing in their duty if they do not tell the general public about the ill-effects of setting up towers. Every citizen under the Constitution of India has the right to life and hence he ought to know what is right and what is wrong for him.

Rao says that if any citizen has apprehensions, he should seek an explanation from the company putting up the tower and if that remedy fails then he has a right to approach the court of law.

The Central government too is looking into the matter and has constituted a panel to study the problem and report to it. The panel is expected to brief the government on the ill-effects of setting up towers and also make recommendations on how to ensure that the health of the people is safe and secure.