MUMBAI: Nearly 200 scientists from across the world, including 12 from India, have petitioned the United Nations (UN) and World Health (WHO) to reduce cell tower emission levels fearing health hazards to those living in the vicinity of mobile towers.
At present, the WHO has classified radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. The scientists now demand that this be replaced by the words “probably carcinogenic”.
“We are more concerned about the adverse health effects resulting from exposure to high EMF levels and have therefore requested the UN and WHO to reduce the present-day emission levels. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is a global body which usually fixes the norms which are then accepted by various countries. We want the ICNIRP to revise its global norms and reduce the radiation levels furthermore,” Prof Girish Kumar from IIT Bombay told TOI: Kumar is a signatory to the petition.
Sources in the cellular industry countered this, saying that India had already reduced its emission levels to one-tenth of the global norms. “If we reduce it furthermore, it will result in low power output from the existing cell tower antenna and this may lead to call drops or weak signals.” asked an operator, requesting anonymity. “To cater to the mobile population, we may have to increase the number of cell towers. Will this be accepted by the public?” he asked.
Anti-radiation activist Prakash Munshi, who has also filed a PIL in court, welcomed the move by scientists. “It indicates that the radiation risks from cell towers is a global issue. Why should we have cell towers in gardens and facing our apartments? I am not against cell phones or towers, but there should be improved technology to reduce health hazards. Our court petition is also filed by victims of cell tower radiation and deals with concerns about health,” he said.
Scientists pointed out that present-day EMF was affecting living organisims. “Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. We want the UN and WHO to exert strong leadership in fostering the development of more protective EMF guidelines, encouraging precautionary measures, and educating the public about health risks,” their petition states.