Mumbai: India has the worst cellular tower radiation norms in the world. But from Saturday new guidelines are being implemented. Cellular towers will have to reduce the amount of radiation they emit to 1/10th of the current level. But is the new limit sufficient to reduce serious health risks, given that most countries in the world have radiation levels 1000 to 10,000 times lesser than India?
29-year-old Karmel Nair, a tarot reader in Mumbai, lives within 10 meters of cell phone towers. Her doctors have told her that radiation levels in her house are so high, that it is equivalent to living inside an x-ray machine. Karmel is seven months pregnant.
Karmel's fears are not unfounded but given the strong lobbying of the cellular giants, no study has yet been able to provide a direct link between cell phone tower radiation and health impact. But independent experts say that, within 50 meters of these towers, the amount of radiation emitted in a day, is equivalent to putting one's body in an oven for 19 minutes.
Radiation from mobile phones can cause cancer, said World Health Organisation. In Jaipur, a family is living in what's being called a "cancer cluster". And with three cases of brain and breast cancer in the family, it's hard to pin the cause to chance.
Pramod Kasliwal, suffering from brain cancer, said, "Nine years ago, a cluster of towers was installed five meters away from my house, 10 yards away from my bedroom and as all scientists have been saying that its exposure to radiation which we have been going through.. that we have three cases of tumours in the family. You know... to call it coincidence, I think it will be stupid."
An IIT Bombay study done two years ago found that people living within 10 meters of cell phone towers receive 10,000 to 1 crore times more radiation than required for mobile signal strength.
With the government ordering radiation from cell phone towers to be cut down to 1/10th of the existing level, will this be sufficient to prevent health hazards?
HOD Electrical Engineering, IIT Bombay, Professor Girish Kumar said, "It should have been reduced 1 by 1000 to even 1 by 10,000 because the health problems happen at even 1 by 10,000 level. Health problems do happen in 5 to 7 years, at 1 by 1000. So we have to take a strict health based guidelines not convenience based guidelines."
Current radiation limit in India is so high that within two years, the health of one crore Indians could be affected, IIT Bombay research found.
Clearly even with these new guidelines, the Indians are not in the safe zone. Most countries in world have 1/100th to 1/1000th permissible levels of mobile tower radiation.