There is danger and death lurking in Indian metros! If recent reports of the Tehelka magazine are to be believed almost four- fifth of Delhi's population is living amidst the dangerously potent electromagnetic radiations (EMR) emitted from cell phone towers placed carelessly across residential areas of the city.
The Delhi Disaster
AdvertisementA public interest survey on radiation was initiated by Tehelka for the first time in India's capital of Delhi, to investigate how telecom towers were jeopardizing citizens' lives by violating health norms. The study was commissioned by the 'Tehelka' newspaper and was executed by Cogent, a Delhi-based company that works on radiation safety solutions.
100 spots from across Delhi were selected for the study in the first half of May 2010.The results were very disturbing, the highlights of which are listed below -
• About four-fifths of Delhi's population lives in unsafe radiation zones, with the radiation levels ranging from "borderline" to "unsafe" and "extreme anomaly.
• Forty of the 100 spots surveyed have 'extreme anomaly' levels of radiation. In these high- risk zones, the EMR is seven times the safe limit. They include Connaught Place, Khan Market, Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi Police headquarters, ISKCON temple and Modern School in Vasant Vihar.
• Thirty-one spots were found to be 'unsafe' zones while nine were 'borderline'. The latter includes AIIMS and PM's residence.
• Merely 20 spots were considered safe and these zones included the residences of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit.
• Only a fifth of Delhi lives and works in a safe or non-hazardous zone and that happens to be the VVIP zone.
• The October Commonwealth Games, which will last well over 12 days, could be the most 'risky' in terms of radiation exposure.
Mayhem in Mumbai
The telecom disaster seems to have struck Mumbai too.
In 2004, a Reliance cell tower was constructed on the terrace of the Panchratna Apartments, Ulhasnagar in Mumbai. Since 2005 there have been four cases of cancer in the apartment complex with several other residents complaining of fatigue, migraine and sleeplessness. The apartment society is paid Rs.30,000 per month and for this reason they do not want to remove the cell tower despite complaints from the residents.
Another example is the presence of a huge telecom tower near Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia. There are several such cell towers, which spew EMR, strewn carelessly across many residential areas in Mumbai --without a thought for the health hazard that they could be causing!!
A Delhi -model study conducted in Mumbai reveals that the majority of Mumbai is living in unsafe zones and there are likely to be several 'cancer clusters' around the city similar to that seen at the Pancharatna apartments, thanks to EMR- emitting cell towers.
Death Knell- What went wrong?
According to the Tehelka report, the levels of the non-nuclear kind of radiation in Delhi is likely to have gone beyond safe parameters and this has happened because the authorities allowed illegal cell towers to sprout all over the metro without any regularization.
Indians have started using cell phones with a vengeance only since the past decade. And the general public are largely ignorant of, or indifferent to, telecom hazards mainly because radiation cannot be seen or felt, unlike other types of pollution such as those of the air, water and sound.
Pilot studies indicate that the radiations emanating from telecom towers have a deleterious effect on people living within 300 meter radius of the towers. If reports are further proven with irrefutable evidences, EMR will replace lifestyle diseases as the number one killer.
Cell Phone Hazards
In India, the mobile phone is a devise used ubiquitously among people of all class and ranks. It is being used by the fish- monger and the intellectual, the very young and also by the very old.
We have already seen that the mobile phone towers are a health hazard. But we may be overlooking the fact that the mobile phones that we use could be a cause of cancer. There has been some research that has been done on this subject which has already revealed enough to warrant user- concern.
Dr Ronald Herberman, Director of the University of Pittsburg Cancer Institute, USA, has recently cautioned against the excessive use of mobile phones, by children in particular.
Mobile phones (and personal items of communications, such as laptops) are low-power radio devices that transmit and receive signals, through base station networks, in the radio frequency (RF) range of 900 and/or 1800 Megahertz.
Mobile phones have a radio transmitter which generates an RF energy of one to two watts which is radiated through the antenna inside the phone. Now if the phone is held too close to the head while talking a considerable amount of this energy is absorbed by the brain.
Effects of RF & EM Radiation
According to the International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) the sole established effect of RF radiation (which is a kind of electromagnetic radiation) exposure is a rise in tissue temperature but if the measure of this is small, it can be regulated by the inherent thermoregulatory mechanisms in humans.
If the temperature rise is high the following has been observed in rat models and in human subjects -
• Tissue damage
• Penetration of blood-brain barrier
• Erratic neuro-muscular functions
• Low power of concentration
• Lens opacity /cataract
• Low sperm count
Doctors are increasingly suggesting that constant exposure to high frequency EMFs can cause fatigue, hypertension, headaches, irritability, insomnia, digestive disorders, low blood pressure, muscle twitching, neurological and cardiovascular problems, male infertility and cancer.
•A study conducted by doctors in Southern German city of Naila to evaluate the health hazards of mobile phone radiation has revealed that people living in proximity to transmitter antennas had an increased risk of cancer
• A comprehensive Swedish study established 240 % risk of brain tumour in case of intense mobile phone use, which is 2000 hours of use or 1 hr. per day for about a decade or more.
• A study by another group of Swedish researchers has established a link between long-term use of mobile phone in children and childhood leukemia
• A recent pilot study on 20 rats by researchers in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, has found that mobile phone radiation is damaging to the DNA and causes low sperm count.
• An epidemiology study conducted by the Tel Aviv Univ. showed 50% increased risk for parotid gland tumors.
• The American Society of Reproductive Medicine found that the quality of semen was compromised significantly. Research has also revealed decrease in sperm count, motility, viability and semen volume among perpetual mobile phone users.
• Studies reveal that pregnant women are at an increased risk from EMFs.
• Research conducted in the Human Genetic Department of Guru Nanak Univ has revealed that there is an increase in DNA and Chromosomal damage on exposure to Radio Frequency (RF) signals generated by cell phone leading to physiological, neurological, cognitive and behavioral changes. They are even implicated in carcinogenesis.
• Some studies have also pointed out a risk of acoustic neuroma and mouth cancer among habitual mobile phone users.
• Several Cardiologists are of the opinion that patients with Pace-makers, Implantable Cardiovestor Defibrillators (ICDs) and Impulse Generators are adversely affected.
• Despite all these pointers no study has conclusively established the deleterious effect of cell phones on the human body. We still have a long way to go!
A high-level panel comprising of technical and medical experts, cellular associations, NGOs and public- spirited individuals has been constituted by the Delhi municipal corporation, based on a directive from the Delhi High Court, to evaluate the situation and to determine if the cell towers are indeed a cause of health hazard.
The committee is expected to submit its report within three months time.
Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has begun to carry out its own research on this topic.
Majority of the countries have regulations is place with regard to public exposure to RF radiation. These regulations are based on the recommendations of International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The Indian government's Telecom Department is also planning to adopt these guidelines to contain exposure to electromagnetic radiations emitted from mobile towers and handsets.
Experts have welcomed the Government's proposal to make it mandatory for mobile phone manufacturers to specifically indicate the radiation levels (SAR) emitted by mobile phones.
Be safe - Follow Our Recommendations
Today we know that all is not well! Many of us are now suspicious of the cell towers and mobile phones for their hazard potential.
It has also been reported that certain agencies, funded by the telecom giants, are conducting research only to establish that the telecom towers are not a health hazard. The fact that the telecom giants in India are a pampered lot and the fact that even cabinet ministers were seen coveting control over the telecom department, speaks volumes for its prominence.
It is vital for the general public to demand protection for their lives. The time is ripe to build public opinion against these harbingers of death (!) and force the government to order the removal of cell towers from residential areas. Besides, scientific studies must be initiated on a large scale across the nation.
India is laden with a history of carelessness in areas of public interest - 'spurious' coke, endo-sulphan spray, DDT and the Union Carbide tragedy were all waiting to happen, largely due to the apathy of the government, inefficient regulatory mechanism and to some extent the indifference of the public.
This time, however, there should be adequate interest and a collective effort to ensure that history does not repeat itself!
Until the government comes up with proper guidelines for cell towers; protect yourself as much as possible from EMR when using cell phones. We make the following twelve recommendations from our own research about cell phones -
1. Do not buy a cell phone for your child - Malignant brain tumors are the second leading cause of death in children [under age 15] and young adults. (NeurologyChannel.com)
2. Keep cell phones well away from newborns
Children's skulls are thinner and their brains contain more fluid than adults'. Radio frequencies travel through children's brains much more easily and therefore increase the risk of cancer. (Professor Om Ghandi, University of Utah 1996)
3. If pregnant avoid using cell phones.
The developing organs of the fetus or child are the most sensitive to any possible effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure.- R. B. Herberman, MD, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (2008)
4. Keep the handset if possible at least 2 to 7 inches away from your head or use loudspeaker mode. It decreases the EMR to the brain significantly.
You cut your EMR exposure to less than 1% by keeping the cell phone over 18 cm (approximately 7 inches) away from any part of your body. (R. B. Herberman, MD, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute- 2008)
5. Do not keep cell phones in your breast pocket if wearing a pace- maker- it can interfere with the transmission of signals of the pacemaker
(Dr. David L. Hayes tested 980 patients with heart pacemakers using five different types of cellular phones and found that cellular phones can interfere with the function of heart pacemakers.- New England Journal of Medicine 1997;336:1473-9)
6. Avoid using cell phones in your pant pocket - as radiation can affect your fertility.
The hip produces 80% of the body's red blood cells and is especially vulnerable to EMR damage. Close proximity may also affect fertility. (Dr. George Carlo, Medical Alert: Aggravated Symptom Relapses- May 2008)
7. Keep you conversations to the minimum.
If you need to use the phone for long use your landline phone Just a two-minute call on a cell phone can alter the natural electrical activity of the brain for up to an hour. (Spanish Neuro Diagnostic Research Institute)
8. Do not keep the cell phones close to your head when sleeping. Switch it off in the night.
(The Safe Wireless Initiative suggests even moving your electric alarm clock or clock radio and any other electronic or electrical appliances at least 1.80 meters or 6 feet away from your head, or simply using a batterypowered alarm clock. - www.NaturalHealthStrategies.com)
9. When keeping cell phones in pocket keep the keypad towards you so that antenna faces away from you. Position the cell phone with the keypad facing towards you when you put it in a pouch or hand bag. This way the antenna is facing away from you. (www.NaturalHealthStrategies.com).
10. Avoid using the wired headsets If you do use headsets use an air tube headset with ferrite beads. Blue tooths are better as they emit 1/100th the EMR of a normal cell phone.
With regular headsets you get 3 times more EMR than if you hold the cell phone against your ear. When buying a headset ask for air tube headset with ferrite that doesn't act as an antenna.(Dr. Mercola, blue-tube-headset).
11. Avoid cell phones usage in 'metal containers' like Vehicles, Elevators, Airplanes, Trains and any other type of metal container as it increases the EMR
(Dr. George Carlo, Medical Alert: Aggravated - Symptom Relapses- May 2008)
12. When buying a cell phone - look for one with a low SAR or Specific Absorption Rate.
The lower the SAR number,the better it is for example the popular Motorola Razr V3x has a SAR of 0.14 - which is amongst the lowest seen recenltly. ( R. B. Herberman, MD, University of University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute 2008).
1. Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 23, Dated June 12, 2010