Monday, March 26, 2012

Fearing tower radiation, people knock at IIT door

The Indian Express - Mar 24 2012, Page 4

Growing apprehension of any harm from cellphone tower radiations has led to a spurt in people looking for solutions. In the past one year, 350-400 people have approached the electrical engineering department of IIT-Bombay with requests to measure possible radiation levels in their houses from nearby towers and many houses have already placed radiation shields as a precaution.
“Earlier, we never got requests from individuals to conduct radiation measurements in homes. But with an increase in cellphone towers across the country over the last few years, awareness of how they may affect health has also grown. In the last one year, we have done radiation measurement for over 150 homes,” said Prof Girish Kumar.

Besides Mumbai, radiation measurements have been done in Pune, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaipur and Chennai. In the last 3 months, radiation protection shields have been placed in approximately 50 houses, mostly in Mumbai.

Cell towers have been a bone of contention and the debate rages on despite numerous studies for and against its harmful effects. In 2010, over 1,500 residents of South Mumbai’s Carmichael Road had demanded removal of cellphone towers from roofs. The effort was initiated by residents of Usha Kiran Building, who cited three cases of brain tumour and an alleged case of bone cancer as “strong evidence” of dangerous radiation from towers atop the adjacent building, Vijay Apartments.

Last year, residents of Malabar Hill, fearing that towers atop the state guest house, Sahyadri, were emitting harmful radiations, registered complaints and subsequently, the state ordered removal of 13 out of the 14 towers in the area.

In 2010, Kumar had submitted a report on “cell tower radiation” to the Department of Telecommunications (DOT), which listed sleep disruption, dizziness, altered reflexes, depression, cardiovascular problems, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, DNA damage and prostrate cancer as possible impacts of cell tower radiation.

All such claims have been repeatedly denied by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), who said studies confirm that radiation from mobile phones/base stations, which are within permitted exposure limits, does not affect health. Further, a report on electromagnetic radiation from cell towers, commissioned by COAI and Association of Unified Telecom Providers of India (AUSPI), to carry out measurement of emissions from 300 locations in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune, had concluded that radiation from cellular base stations was much below “compliance limit of International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) standards”.

In Mumbai, the study was conducted at 96 locations and results showed emissions levels were much lower than permissible limit, ranging from 2 times lower (Baba Ambedkar Park) to over 11,000 times lower (Hyderabad Estate).

Kumar said protection solutions include thin and transparent shielding films with matched loads for windows, shielding curtains and wallpapers and other radiation shields. The technologies are developed at IIT Bombay and new ones are in the pipeline.

In 2010, worried about possible harmful effects of radiation from a television tower in Worli, a city developer had asked Kumar to install radiation shields in a 300-metre-high building in the area.

The work on installing the shields in the building, Palais Royale, 800 m south of the TV tower, is in progress. Such an effort has also been initiated for a building in Pune.

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