Carrying forward the 2010 TEHELKA exposé on radiation caused by cell phone towers, the DoT has issued guidelines that binds telecom operators to follow norms or face penalty
IN THE interest of public health, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has enforced stricter Electro Magnetic Frequency (EMF) Radiation Standards for cell phone towers and mobile handsets with effect from 1 September. The new guidelines are expected to reduce radiation emission from telecom towers to about 1/10th of the present levels, with non-compliance or violation of these standards attracting a penalty of Rs 5 lakh per tower.
TEHELKA was the first to highlight the adverse health effects caused by radiation more than two years ago in a three-part cover story, Radiation City, Radiation City2 by Rishi Majumder and Radiation City 3 by Samrat Chakrabarti, in June 2010.
In the first half of May 2010, TEHELKA conducted a survey of radiation levels at 100 spots across Delhi with Cogent EMR Solution Limited, a Delhi-based company, which tracks the increase in Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) levels across India and does radiation audits for telecom operators.
In India, Cogent classifies EMR levels up to 600MW/Msq (milliwatt/ metre square) as safe. The survey showed that as many as 40 spots had “extreme anomaly” with radiation levels close to seven times the safe limit. The readings were so high at times that the High Frequency Analyser, the device used to measure radiation, could not record the radiation. Thirty-one spots had unsafe-radiation levels (two to six times the safe limit), nine spots were border-line ( just above the safe limit) and only 20 spots were deemed to have safe-radiation levels.
In the second part of the survey, 115 spots in Mumbai were surveyed followed by another 50 spots each in Chennai and Bengaluru. Seventy of the 115 spots surveyed in Mumbai showed “extreme anomaly”. Levels of over 4000+ were found throughout most of north and south Bengaluru and though Chennai EMR unsafe levels were less consistent, it had enough of its own 4000+ levels of “extreme anomaly”.
Following TEHELKA’s report, the Delhi High Court ordered the setting up of a high-level committee to look at the health hazards of cell phone tower violations. The industry managed to get a stay on the order then but the recently issued guidelines bind all telecom operators to follow the norms or face a Rs 5 lakh penalty.
The new guidelines are expected to reduce radiation emission from telecom towers to about 1/10th of the present levels
On mobile handsets, the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) value has now been changed to an average of 1.6 W/kg (watt per kilogram) over one gram of human tissue, whereas the earlier limit was 2 Watts/kg measured over 10 grams of human tissue. Though existing designs of mobile handsets, which are currently compliant with 2.0 W/kg averaged over 10 gram of human tissue, will continue to exist up to 31 August 2013, only those mobile handsets with a revised SAR value of 1.6W/kg would be permitted to be manufactured or imported in India from 1 September 2013. All new designs of mobile handsets, however, have to comply with SAR values of 1.6 W/kg averaged over 1 gram of human tissue with effect from 1 September 2012.
Telecom Enforcement Research & Monitoring (TERM) cells will have to conduct audits on the self-certification, which are currently furnished by service providers. On a random basis, it will test audit 10 percent of the Base Transceiver Station and will test all cases where a public complaint is filed.