Monday, October 14, 2013

It’s time to stop sweeping the facts under the carpet

Guest Coloumn by Prof. Girish Kumar, IIT Bombay

13 Oct 2013 - Hindustan Times (Mumbai)- Page 4


We need mobile phones. There is no doubt about that. And mobile phones cannot work without mobile phone signal towers.

But that does not mean that we should allow the indiscriminate installation of towers across our residential spaces, without questioning whether their design and distribution has been planned keeping our health and wellbeing in mind — or that of the service providers’ balance sheet.

Why, for instance, have cellphone service providers been allowed to create towers that emit a signal out across larger and larger distances — when this has been found to be more harmful to the health of local residents, and only helps them reduce operating costs?

Why have they not been forced each with a reduced intensity and thereby a reduced impact on the health of local residents?
While this would admittedly cost a lot of money, that surely cannot excuse trapping innocent people within the range of harmful radiation against their will and knowledge.

Around the world, in fact, signal strength is determined not by profit margins but by the effect it has been found to have on the health of local residents. And around the world, the solution has been the same — towers of lower signal strength, distributed over large areas rather than concentrated on a single area, street or building.

Without adequate monitoring, this is a problem that could grow rapidly out of hand.

Already, there are more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers and about 5 lakh mobile phone towers in the country.
What norms we follow when it comes to the installation of these towers are based on the ICNIRP ( International Commission on Non- Ionising Radiation Protection) Guidelines framed been questioned by experts around the world.

Meanwhile, an InterMinisterial Committee (IMC) report released in January 2011 listed several health hazards caused by the radiation emitted by mobile phone towers — included two Bio-Initiative Reports released by teams of scientists gathered from around the world, proposing safe radiation levels for these towers — have been trashed by the industry concerned and ignored by the authorities reports published in prestigious international journals. Why have they not been taken seriously?

Meanwhile, those of us who live near these powerful mobile phone signal towers are increasingly complaining of sleep disorders, headaches, irritability, lack of concentration problems, memory loss, depression, hearing loss and joint problems. More severe reactions include seizures, paralysis, miscarriages, irreversible infertility, and cancer. Children and pre gnant women have been found to be most vulnerable.

Apart from humans, mobile phone tower radiation also and the environment. The yield of fruit-bearing trees near such towers has been found to drop.

And cellphone service providers continue to insist that there is no concrete evidence of health hazards.
It’s the same thing we saw Big Tobacco do for years, and the alcohol lobbies. Lives were lost as governments found themselves torn between the abstract good of health and well-being and the more concrete lure of hard profit.

This time, we must not wait that long. We must not let the facts be mangled and the hard evidence swept under the carpet.
If we all put our foot down and insist that we will allow mobile phone towers on our buildings only if the intensity of the radiation is lowered, then the operators will have to comply.

The time has come for us to choose between health and wealth, and live with the outcome of those choices.

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